Face your fears!

Like the majority of gamers, I grew up happily suckling on the comforting teat of gaming consoles. I fondly remember my first console, the Sega Megadrive. The humble cartridge system, simplistic controller, the plug in and play -set up; perfect for a very young, heavy handed child who naturally couldn’t fathom how a technical piece of hardware operates.

Consoles were essentially toys back then, sturdily built, available, accessible fun at your fingertips. If I wanted to see a really fast blue hedgehog I could. I demanded nothing more, nothing less, and if the Megadrive said ‘no’, my developing mind managed to figure out that a simple blow of the cartridge would instantly fix the problem.

This was a golden age for the consoles, an age before the Internet was accessible to the masses, an age where PCs were luxury items in people’s homes. Fast forward 15 years or so and things have inevitably changed. PCs are in practically every home, even your mobile phone is virtually a fully-fledged PC. Children are more technically gifted than older generations; expectations of what a piece of technology can do has changed.

CTRL+ALT+DEL

After purchasing every console to date in my life span, bar the SNES (yes I know, but Sega did what Nintendon’t…) I have adapted to the constant evolutions of the home console. From the cartridge to the DVD; most changes are important and welcomed additions. However, unlike a lot of pro-console gamers, I also dabbled in the labyrinth of terror that was PC gaming. I came away relatively unscathed, but the mind boggling intricacies of PC gaming back then eventually became too much for me. I missed the ease of the consoles. So I returned, waiting to be embraced by the portly arms of Mario and co.

All was well in my gaming world. The GameCube, PS2 and Xbox were fantastic machines. I had access to fantastic exclusives, brilliant offline multiplayer titles and eye popping graphics. Things couldn’t be better. However, my perspective was soon to be changed upon the arrival of the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Teh Blu-Ray, RROD, Wee

Enter the ‘nex-gen’ systems and, as is customary, things were very different. Online gaming, fully fledged operating systems, HD resolutions, wireless controllers and eye melting graphics were the norm. The messiahs had surely arrived. Well, to be honest, as the console cycle continued, and promise after promise failed to arrive (1080p native gaming on the PS3 anyone?), this gamer, who was now a hairy, yet well groomed man, was starting to feel rather disillusioned.

I was becoming increasingly concerned when supposedly high-definition games were being released at below the standard 720p resolutions. Games were struggling to reach their ‘frames per second’ targets, the gameplay was becoming shallow, and not to mention the countless games that were released broken, only to be patched at a later date. Things were very disheartening. The accessibility, reliability (I’m looking at you early Xbox 360’s), even relatively low-entry costs were also gone (how much did you pay for your PS3 at launch?).

Undoubtedly, the current generation of consoles have become very similar to their estranged birth mother, the PC.

Undoubtedly, the current generation of consoles have become very similar to their estranged birth mother, the PC. Game installations, patches, hard drives, reliance on an operating system, lack of offline multiplayer; the only thing left that truly feels like a console of old is the fact they use a controller! Isn’t the reason that we love consoles the fact that they avoided all of these annoying pitfalls associated with PC gaming? Why do people still (as did I) constantly claim that PC gaming is this big, scary monster that is a million miles apart from consoles? I decided to take the plunge and invested in a gaming PC, for better, for worse.

I’m a PC

Now please, do not jump to the irrational conclusion that I hate consoles. I don’t. I merely want to highlight and debunk the cloud of negativity that surrounds PC gaming from my own personal experience.

The transitional period was definitely difficult; mainly due to the fact I’ve been a sworn Mac user the last 4 years and had barely touched the self-proclaimed ‘virus riddled, slow and unstable Windows operating system’. Colour me surprised. Windows 7 was a fast, well protected (with the right software) and visually appealing operating system. Once I realised that everything I touched wouldn’t cause the PC to explode, I began to settle down. The PC was off to a good start.

The next area under scrutiny was Steam, the digital distribution platform which was rightly regarded as the saviour of PCs. I downloaded Steam and immediately knew I’d found the right home for my gaming obsession to reside. Batman: Arkham Asylum ‘Game of the Year Edition’ was £3.75! PC games are notoriously good value; you can forget your £35-55 price tags here.

After picking my jaw off the floor I decided to play some games, modern and old.

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After picking my jaw off the floor I decided to play some games, modern and old. With all the craze of HD remakes on the consoles (a shameless cash cow due to the lack of backwards compatibility), I thought it fair to test some older titles first. No need to worry about backwards compatibility here, the PC booted up the old games with no problems, only to leave me completely stunned.

They looked fantastic, supporting resolutions which weren’t even available on their console counterparts. Released in 2005, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory had 1920 x 1080p resolution option, 60+ fps, 8x anti-aliasing, 16x antistrophic filtering; the whole caboodle for £8. Now, if you don’t know what all this technical jargon means, then the best way to explain it is ZOMG AMAZING GRAPHIXXS.

To put this into  greater perspective, the very best console exclusives run at 720p, a capped 30 fps and have 4x anti-aliasing, but hey I hear you cry, that games ancient, what about new games? Well, they look even better. They can achieve everything above and more. It may sound cliché but you have to see it to believe it. Uncharted 2 and Killzone 3 are fantastic technical achievements, but in all honesty they don’t hold a candle to the vast majority of the PC’s library especially exclusives like Crysis.

Endless Freedom

Countless genres, indie titles, free-to-play games, MMORPGs, online-only titles, RTS, whatever your tastes; the PC has it covered. Sick of being killed online when you know you were behind cover, or missing that perfect headshot? Well that’s because of the delay caused by peer-to-peer hosting, dedicated servers on PC remove this annoying occurrence. Worried you’ll miss the controller? No problem, the PC can support Xbox 360 controllers, PS3 controllers, wheels, arcade sticks, flight simulators, even motion control. It’s your PC, you can make it as powerful as you want, you can choose higher graphics or higher frame rates, choose your input device, upgrade the system when you want, change the game with a mod; it truly is an open platform.

But Dah Consoles Is Cheep

That may have once been the case but when you truly factor in the high cost of games, online subscriptions, controllers, HDTVs, overpriced downloadable content and console revisions, the cost of the modern day console can be as much if not more than a top-spec gaming PC. Bear in mind that you do not receive all the benefits that a PC alone provides plus the high graphical fidelity.

Face Your Fears

I think the biggest hurdle to overcome with PC gaming is your own trepidations. The link between the modern day consoles is more similar than maybe people think, and the once cold, cruel domain of PC gaming has come a long way. Yes, there will be things to learn, but it’s exciting and, if gaming truly is your passion then you should embrace the fact that you get to expand your knowledge and understanding of your favourite hobby.

I hope this article will raise awareness so that people won’t be discouraged by the stereotypical anti-PC arguments out there such as ‘you have to upgrade it all the time’ and the classic ‘it’s sooo expensive’. If you love gaming and want the best possible experience out there then PC gaming is waiting for you. Believe me, it’s worth it.