While my first gaming were text Star Trek games on a mainframe (sigh), my gaming roots really begin when my father bought me the original Compaq laptop. Thanks to the inexorable demands of time and technology, I left PC gaming behind many years ago. When I picked back up with wallet-friendly console gaming somewhere around 2002, I still didn’t feel up to getting back into the joy and the pain in the PC sphere.
However, as I’ve accumulated the years, I’ve also picked up a new hobby — digital photography. I had no idea how expensive photography could be, especially because the computing horsepower and graphical demands of processing pictures to make them pretty led me down the primrose path, and only at the end did I realize I’d ended up with a monster gaming PC setup. Last week, all the parts finally arrived and I was ready to reconnect with an old love.
I’ve missed PC gaming!
Trust me, I’m not giving up my consoles any time soon, thanks to my great online friends, Xbox Live, and the unbeatable combination of my big TV and my oh-so-comfy couch. Having said that, I’ve been reminded of four things during my first headfirst dive back into the frightening deep waters of PC gaming:
1. PC gaming is just pretty. Yes, an obvious point, but worth emphasizing. Crank up the slider bars and Crysis (though three years old) is still jaw-dropping. I found myself stopping every few minutes to marvel at the quality of the gently lapping water or at the gently swaying foliage. Thanks to the ubiquity of decent 5.1 speaker setups, console games can easily sound as good as PC games, but PC games are without equal in their ability to astonish and and pull you in with stunning visuals.
2. Steam is Valve’s gift to gaming. With its thriving community and full of gamer-friendly features like Steam achievements and increasing use of the Steam Cloud, Steam has also perfected the art of luring us into spending money on games because they are cheap even as we wonder when we are going to play them. Just as I was about ready to start thumping on some of the quality titles I’d already accumulated in my Steam library, like Alien Swarm, Torchlight and Trine, just to pick three, I made the mistake of checking out the specials right after I’d fired up Steam.
Company of Heroes is 75 percent off you say? For $2.50 you say? And both expansions for $10 more?
Dammit. Now I have to play it! Sometime. Oh, the hell with it, how about now! It is as awesome as I have heard. Either this, or getting the whole Civilization IV pack for $10 has got to be the best value for the dollar that I have ever spent!
3. PC gaming is still not for the faint of heart. Sure, from time to time, I’ve had a 360 game freeze on me, and I’m a four-time winner of the Red Ring of Death, but those are pretty simple issues. On the console, I don’t have to care about the native resolution of my monitor or any of the other dozen or more drop down menus and slider bars to tweak and configure my game, what privileges I’ve set on this profile, whether my drivers and OS are up to date, if I should disable various programs for performance reasons, and so on. At least these days I don’t need to edit a config.sys or an autoexec.bat file!
4. Some games still are best on the PC. Console developers have made great strides in figuring out how to adapt strategy games for the console, and most importantly for the controller, but they still have far to go. Between Civilization IV, Company of Heroes, and that inevitable Napoleon: Total War Gold edition I have my eye on, mouse and keyboard just can’t be beat. So far!
I can tell I’m going to have a tough time allocating my gaming time between my PC and my consoles. I’m already delighted at watching the statistics accumulate on my Steam account and have started keeping an eye on those PC games that might be capturing my soul. Civilization V and Diablo III, I’m looking at you. Let’s also not even bring up the biggest reason I’m tickled to get a gaming PC: Star Wars: the Old Republic. Never heard of it, meatbag? I’m also contemplating buying Fable III on 360, and then when the PC version comes out, buying it again — just so I can admire the pretty! (and, I have to admit, get the achievements a second time.)
Ah, PC gaming bliss!