Top 5 Friday: #PCMasterRace Problems

Look, we all know that the PC is the superior platform.  Every console generation that rolls out just further confirms this fact.  While consoles lag behind with chipsets that are outdated before they even launch, the PC continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in gaming technology.  As much as I like to stand on my PC soap box and rant at the plebs (read: Chris), we’re not without our own problems, first world gaming problems, to be sure, but problems nonetheless.

  1. Stuck in the office.

    All my device driver manuals and World of Warcaft combat logs.

For the longest time, PC gaming meant using a mouse and keyboard; it meant sitting at a desk, hunched over in front of a monitor.  Console gaming, on the other hand, was represented by a comfortable couch, controller in hand, enjoying a nice, big 1080p TV.  Things like Steam’s Big Picture mode, and massively increased controller support for PC’s in general help to move PC gaming away from the home office.  We still have a way to go, though.  Unlike our console underlings, it’s not easy for us to just go to Best Buy and buy a PC that we can just plug into a TV and go.  There are media center PCs out there, but typically those aren’t the workhorse gaming PCs that we’re looking for.  If you truly want the best of both worlds (a top end PC that also plays well with your TV) you likely have to build it yourself, or at least upgrade a store bought model.  As Valve pushes it’s Steambox though, and gaming as a service becomes more viable, I think this will become less of an issue…hopefully…probably not though.

  1. Everyday PC problems.

    Hacking the Gibson.

The great thing about consoles was always the idea that you could simply buy a game, put the disc or cart in and play it immediately.  There was no install, there were no “minimum specifications” to worry about.  You bought a PSX game, you played a PSX game.  Consoles have since begun to move away from that, requiring installs of games, firmware updates, etc… but even as consoles become worse in the plug and play department, PCs aren’t getting any better.  PC gamers still deal with all sorts of PC-only problems like viruses, minimum specs, etc…  This especially true if you live in a house that isn’t a dedicated PC gamer household (luckily I do).  What I mean is that if you share your PC with, say, your 14 year old sister, who likes to download whatever new Kardassian game she found on you may end up with all sorts of PC problems that you’re not going to encounter as a console gamer.  That said, the DDOS attacks to PSN and Xbox Live over the holidays were proof that consoles are becoming more vulnerable in their own right, and to be clear, that’s not something I’m happy about.  Bad things happening to gamers, regardless of platform, is bad for all of us.

  1. It’s more expensive.

    The flames represent your money burning up.

There is no doubt about it, PC gaming is more expensive (at least hardware-wise) than console gaming.  The lifespan of a console is typically longer than that of a gaming PC (assuming your console doesn’t die).  Video cards alone can be about the same price as a console, and you’d be hard pressed to find a video card that would last you upwards of 8 years.  In addition, CPUs and their interfaces change all the time, so there’s a good chance that if you want to upgrade your processor, you’re also going to have to upgrade your motherboard.  Those interface changes extend beyond just CPUs too.  Remember when motherboards switched from using AGP slots for video cards to using PCI-E slots?  Often times upgrading a single part of your PC quickly turns into upgrading the entire thing.  It’s not cheap to do that, especially when some of the hardware can feel outdated so quickly.  To be fair, graphics technology has slowed down a lot in the last few years.  Gone are the days of video cards producing double the performance every six months.  My current video card is 3+ years old and still runs pretty much any game I own at 1080p with no slowdown.  It’s still not enough to make us as economical as consoles though.

  1. You have to be a tinkerer.

    Nurse I need those needlenose pliers STAT!

Unless you want to pay the ridiculously over-inflated prices of places like Alienware, you’re going to have to learn a bit about PC hardware and it’s installation.  Truly, installing something like a video card is quite easy, but that doesn’t make it any less intimidating to the uninitiated.  Cracking open that PC case can be daunting.  What’s more, things can quickly get out of control.  As I mentioned above, upgrading a video card or a processor can turn into replacing a whole motherboard.  That is a far more intricate task.  Getting into jumper settings and plug ins for HD light, reset button, etc… is no joke.  What’s more, often times the manuals that come with motherboards are less than helpful.  It all amounts to avid PC gamers having to be avid PC users.  I haven’t even touched on OS installation, drive partitioning, driver updates, etc…  True PC gamers become tinkerers whether they like it or not, so if you don’t have a natural affinity for taking stuff apart then PC gaming is always going to bug you.

  1. It’s all more complicated.


So, this might seem like kind of a cop out for #1, but basically the amalgamation of #5 through #2 makes the entire idea of getting into PC gaming feel like a gargantuan undertaking.  There’s money to spend, skills to learn, and countless awkward hurdles to overcome.  PC gaming is great…once it’s set up…and it works.  The road to that end game (PUN!!!) is no easy task though, especially if you’ve never attempted it before.  What’s more, the PC gaming community is about as elitist as it gets.  That may be because since we’ve already overcome the hurdles we think we’re better, or maybe it’s because we have to somehow justify all the time and money we’ve spent.  Regardless of the reason, PC gaming has a stigma that extends beyond the facts about what PC gaming actually requires.  I can imagine that any prospective PC gamer would most likely be put off by this, and I can’t necessarily blame them.  There’s a lot to like about PC gaming once you’re in it, but literally everything up to that point is annoying.