Sigh. I suppose I brought it upon myself. I poked the PC bear and then as I should have expected, the bear mauled me with its claws of tech-knowledge. I tried to make amends of a sort. I admitted that my recent post complaining about PC gaming was poorly titled and opted to change it from “The Number Reason (Besides Piracy) That PC Gaming is Dying,” to “The Number One Problem With PC Gaming (Besides Piracy).”
When people commented, both negatively and positively, I replied and did so in a manner that I felt was respectful. But no matter how I spin it, I feel it’s time to fess up. I did a lousy job. I wrote something on the fly while I was annoyed at another situation and allowed my momentary biases to influence me. It happens to the best and the worst alike, and I’d like to think I at least fall somewhere in the middle of those poles.
In light of this realization, I’d like to offer a more even, less frustrated examination of the current state of PC gaming. Its ups, its downs and why I tend to choose consoles when the option is available.
To set the record straight, PC gaming is not dying. In fact, you’d be more accurate in saying it’s been on the rise again in recent years. The continued rise of digital distribution, cloud gaming, and of course, the constant money sucking presence of MMOs are helping to restore the platform to at least some semblance of its former prominence. Not to mention, the PC is a ripe platform for indie gaming and development, which isn’t something to roll your eyes at.
That said, you’d be a fool to insist PC gaming is anywhere near as strong as it used to be. Piracy has decimated software sales, leading to fewer and fewer big budget PC games. This last year alone contained only a few of note, while the remaining releases were mainly multiplatform games with comparable console versions. At the moment, consoles are just a safer platform to develop for.
Consoles are also a more convenient platform for consumers. Building a good gaming computer requires either skill or money, often both. As some commented on my previous piece, it is possible to build a PC that can run Crysis at its highest settings on the cheap, but how the hell would I know how to do that? I didn’t have a PC until I was sixteen and I certainly don’t have time to learn how to make one myself now. Not to mention, I am a fairly technically inept person. I think that some people forget that these sorts of skills come to others with a bit more difficulty than it came to them. When a piece of hardware stops working in my house, the most I know to do is slap it a couple times and start cussing. I can’t even keep the sliding doors on my closet working, how the hell am I supposed to make a high performance gaming machine?
Consoles for me, and many others, in turn are a favored platform because of their convenience factor. Even as consoles become more like PCs, they still generally come with the knowledge that if you buy a game for a PS3, it’s going to work on your PS3. I know with relative certainty what will work on what. I don’t have that with a PC.
Point in case, I bought a new laptop this morning. I am currently trying to play Knights of the Old Republic II on it, but due to compatibility issues I’m having to go through a whole process of making the game work. The anticipation I felt earlier while installing the game is gone now, and replaced by an uneasy feeling that this game I paid for and want to play may not work.
Now, I researched all the PC games I wanted to use before buying my new computer to make sure they would work. All the signs I read, pointed to yes, but all it seems to take is one no. The problem of course is that computers by themselves are not primarily game machines, so they’re often not made primarily with gaming in mind. Comparatively, while an Xbox 360 or PS3 might have alternative uses they are first and foremost for games.
Add to this the fact that PC games are becoming more and more annoying to actually play and the problem is further exacerbated. Alluding again to my previous post, many took issue with my being annoyed about EA requiring my wife’s gaming PC be hooked to the internet and logged in to their servers in order to use DLC for Dragon Age: Origins. Their disputes noted, it still annoys me to no end.
Many seemed to find this silly. I’ve gotten several comments to the effect that it’s ludicrous not to have a computer connected to the internet in this day and age. I reply to that with a simple, why? If the purpose of my computer is solely to play games, and the games I play don’t require the internet, then why should I use it? To surf the web? I have a netbook for that. For multiplayer? Sure, but I don’t like multiplayer all that much.
In my opinion, if a game doesn’t require the internet for its actual gameplay, it shouldn’t require it at all. Dragon Age is one such case where the internet connection has nothing to do with the gameplay. It’s there to give EA some piece of mind that I’m not stealing their property, which is understandable. Gamers haven’t really given publishers much reason to trust them in recent years. Even so, as a paying consumer who always buys things legally, it is an offense to me that I’m punished for the actions of others. There must be some more clever way of protecting software.
Because aside from being offensive, this method can be detrimental to the actual game. Point in case, last summer I wrote IGN’s walkthrough for Command and Conquer 4. The internet where I live is sometimes unreliable. Our local provider isn’t the best, and it often stops working. To put it short, it caused me problems on several occasions and, honestly if the trend continues in this direction I will probably be playing PC games less and less.
Which really may not be much of a sacrifice in my eyes. Sure PCs can be upgraded with the times, but I’m not the type to care about whether or not my graphics are the shiniest. I’m actually more impressed with a nice looking game on a console than on a PC, because console developers have limits imposed upon them based on available hardware. PC developers in turn can just tell me what I need to play their games.
Moreover, I’m becoming more and more convinced that there isn’t a damn thing that consoles couldn’t do if used properly. So many PC gamers like to cite the fact that certain genres play better on computers versus consoles, but I don’t think it needs to be that way. The majority of RTS and turn-based strategy games I’ve played for instance, have been on consoles. I played Civilization on my SNES. I played Starcraft on my N64. I’m currently playing the original Command and Conquer (PS1 version) on my PSP, and you know what? They all work just fine. Do these games work better with a mouse and keyboard? Exorbitantly so. But they can be played well with a controller, and really, there’s no reason the mouse and keyboard set up can’t work with a console. Point in case. I own a wireless USB mouse and keyboard. My PS3 has four USB slots. Do the math.
At the end of the day, the reason I like consoles over PCs when it comes to gaming is simply for the convenience. When I come home, I want to play a game. I don’t want to wrestle with a piece of software for an hour and a half before I can use it. PC gaming isn’t dying. It’s not going to die. But it could be improved, and will fall even further if consoles learn just how much they can really do.