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Feature Article

If You Haven't Tried PC Gaming, Then It's About Time You Did


Power to the people.

Everyone loves to argue whether gaming is better on consoles or PCs, but let's be honest: it really comes down to personal preference. But, if you haven't given PC gaming a chance, you really should. Free from the shackles of brand identity and oversight, the PC, as a platform, creates an ecosystem defined by freedom, first and foremost. It harbors innovation and experimentation, and apart from the associated cost of powerful hardware and the desire for console exclusive games, there's no reason why you shouldn't invest a little cash and take the plunge into the world of PC gaming.

Why, exactly? Allow me to elaborate.

Thousands of Games to Choose From

For starters, there are more games available on PC than there ever will be on a traditional console. PCs are backwards compatible with games that are years, if not decades, old. Granted, it takes know-how to overcome some operating system incompatibility issues, for which the Internet at large is a great resource, but there's nothing stopping you from playing most of the thousands of games released on PCs over the last 30 years or so. You've potentially got a lifetime's supply of games at your fingertips.

At the moment, there are 12,698 PC games available on Steam.
At the moment, there are 12,698 PC games available on Steam.

Open Publishing Format

Sure, there are quality-assurance tests to overcome to get your game onto Steam, Valve's digital game sales and distribution service and the most popular among consumers, but based on the variety of games in that catalog alone, it's a welcoming place for offbeat and unusual games. This leaves developers free to create games as they wish; they don't even have to worry about getting them rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The bottom line: There are few bureaucratic concerns for developers when developing games for PC. If they want, developers can also skip the likes of Steam altogether and publish their games completely independently. They might not want to, but the point is, they can. There's no platform that's more open to technical and artistic experimentation than the PC, and as good as that is for developers, the resulting variety of games to choose from ultimately benefits consumers.

Configurable Hardware That's Not as Expensive as you Think

In terms of hardware, consoles are static products. The hardware inside, apart from maybe the hard drive, will never change simply because you want it to. PCs are great because, ultimately, you're in control of how powerful your machine is. Maxing out a PC can be extremely costly if you need to be on the cutting edge, but it's not an all or nothing game. You can upgrade your PC piece by piece, and since the price/performance ratio scales with time, you won't have to drop a huge sum of money in one fell swoop to keep up with rendering techniques and the capabilities of consoles.

Even if you're building a PC from scratch, you can get started without spending much more money than you would on a new console. In April, we tried to build a gaming PC that's comparable in performance to a next-gen console for the same price as an Xbox One with a Kinect, which was the only option at the time. We built one machine based on AMD parts, and another with Nvidia and Intel hardware. Our tests prove that, at the time, a gaming PC running cross-platform games can outperform consoles in most cases, for about the same cost. Again, after a few years, you can throw a little more cash towards new parts, and theoretically topple the rendering capabilities of consoles. Yes, you may spend $200 to $300 on a single upgrade, but that's cheaper than buying a brand new console if/when the next generation arrives, which probably won't happen for a very long time.

PC upgrades are a simple affair once you know what you're doing.
PC upgrades are a simple affair once you know what you're doing.

The Potential to Play Games Anywhere, Anyway You Like

One of the great things about hardware technology is that as it improves, it also tends to shrink in size. Therefore, we are now able to have thin laptops that are also powerful, and that means gaming on the go has never been easier or more convenient. Massive gaming laptops still exist, but with the likes of Razer's Blade and Blade Pro, we're beginning to see a shift, and it's possible to carry a device that's more powerful than a console, with its own screen, in your backpack.

It's also worth mentioning that, beyond laptops, PC gaming at home is no longer limited to the desktop. Technically, it never was, but it's now easier than ever to send a video signal to your living room. Again, Valve is leading the way with its in-home streaming application, which allows you to send content from your PC to a cheap and small device connected to a TV with little technical expertise required.

As a PC user, you also have a massive selection of accessories and peripherals to choose from. It's a bit of a wild west situation, in that manufacturers from all corners of the globe are experimenting with new hardware, especially now that virtual reality is a hot commodity, but that just means there's a greater chance you can find a mouse, keyboard, or controller that's perfectly suited to your needs. There are also solutions for people with disabilities, including controllers that work with your feet, eye movement, and gestures of all kinds. In terms of accessibility, the PC is second to none when it comes to gaming.

Game Mods are Easy to Create and Share

It's easier than ever for the player to double as a developer if they want get something new out of an existing game. Want to play Grand Theft Auto IV with the powers of Iron Man? No problem! Had enough of Skyrim's dragons? Swap them out with Macho Man Randy Savage! User-generated content continues to grow in popularity, and developers are getting better at giving people the tools they need to create add-ons and mods for their games, but the ubiquity of said tools, and their potential, is greatest on PC. In a lot of cases, PC games are highly flexible, allowing you to use external tools to create new assets, and alter code to change the behavior of in-game elements. Plus, with Valve's Steam Workshop pipeline, accessing and sharing mods is easier than ever. Mods allow players to explore the extent of their imagination and share it with the world, and for better or worse, anything goes on PC when it comes to mods.

Macho Man Randy Dragon.
Macho Man Randy Dragon.

Cheap Software and Services

The Steam summer sale just wrapped, and those who dared to open their eyes and their wallets probably ended up buying a few more games than they reasonably needed. Why? Because so many great games were cheap to the point that it would be silly not to buy them. Maybe game X wasn't attractive at $20 because you weren't sold on its premise or gameplay. But when that same game is $5, the risk of investment wanes, and you're more likely to take a chance. The allure of low-risk purchases can lead to a backlog scenario that many PC gamers are all too familiar with, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Who cares if I have 20, 30, or 100 games in my Steam library that I haven't played yet? At least I have them should the day come that I run out of something to play.

To be fair, there are often sales on console games, but there are barriers to accessing those prices. Most of the time, you have to belong to a premium subscription service like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold to get these discounts, but also, to play games online. Unless you're talking about subscription-based massively multiplayer online games, you're able to play online multiplayer PC games free of charge in nearly every case.

What About Consoles?

I still love console gaming as it exists today, but I appreciate it for different reasons than I do PC gaming. For now, there are reasons to argue for both sides of the PC vs. console debate, but if you've shied away from PCs in the past because they're not immediately user-friendly, consider giving PC gaming a chance for the reasons mentioned above, and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by everything the platform has to offer.

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    Peter Brown

    Peter is a Senior Editor at GameSpot who's passionate about gaming hardware and game preservation.
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