With the bulk of the big E3 announcements behind us, and as the excitement wanes just a tad, what are we left with? A slew of great looking games for either a new $500 console or a new $400 console. The Wii U is still hovering around the $300-$350. Maybe its price will drop by the time those other new consoles hit the market. Or maybe not. Either way, if someone was looking to buy all-new this holiday season, s/he could easily drop $1200. And that’s not even counting all the games, accessories, online access fees, etc.
So why not just get a PC?
That’s the question my little household has been considering for awhile. Seriously, have you seen the prices of a decent gaming computer lately? CHEAP! The classic Alienware computers start well under 1K. Those with the knowledge and skills could easily put together a custom gaming rig at or under the price of all the next gen consoles combined. Shoot, even the high-end PCs/equipment are relatively inexpensive when you look at what you get. Add to that hardware that can be modified and upgraded, along with cheap, downloadable games, and well…it’s hard to argue with the equation.
However, the equation is not perfect. PCs are certainly not without their problems. Even if you get one that seems “fully loaded,” it probably needs something else to make it run just right. PCs don’t generally get the lion’s share of games. Internet connection and network issues might abound (as with any computer.) It can be difficult getting used to playing with a keyboard and a mouse (though you can plug in most any gaming controller via USB). And sometimes, things crash, get viruses, etc. A gaming PC is still a PC after all.
Think I don’t know what I’m talking about, Mrs. Consoles-For-Life over here? Well, as rooted as my gaming history is in consoles, I once regularly played games on a PC. While my younger siblings and I progressed from the Atari to the NES to the SNES within a decade, we actually had far more games for our PC. I learned BASIC on our TRS-80; and I moved into more complicated fare once my parents adopted a large, lovely, beige IBM PC, complete with a dot-matrix printer and a swanky 5.25″ floppy disk drive. (It was eventually upgraded to a 3.5″ disk drive. The printer though, man, that thing survived for...way too long.) So in between my Nintendo time with Princess Peach and Ryu, I sunk hours of play into our PC with old favorites such as Frogger and Q*Bert, and new titles such as Commander Keen. And then…somehow, in some way, along came DOOM.
id Software’s DOOM was not the first FPS I had ever played, but it was the first that I truly enjoyed — enjoyed enough to play over and over and over again. It played smooth as silk on even our large, lovely, beige PC. DOOM helped me learn how to think strategically. It showed me the difference between ranged vs. melee weapons. And it made me into a more patient gamer (though it was not without its rage-quitting moments).
But more than just improving my gaming abilities, DOOM altered the way I interacted with console games. One of the things I really liked about DOOM on the PC was using keyboard controls. Being able to look up, down, left, and right, and having fine-tune control over my movements was so…refreshing is the word that comes to mind, but it was more than that. So…right. After playing DOOM, I had a really hard time going back to the Nintendo controllers. Those buttons and stiff d-pad felt so clunky. I wanted to be able to stop Mario and Mega Man on dimes and instead had them slipping and sliding all over the place.
DOOM also taught me (hindsight being 20/20) that one needed a good computer to play PC games. It might sound ridiculous, but I hardly ever thought about the actual nuts and bolts of our PC. My folks and other relatives were pretty good with computer electronics, so if a new keyboard appeared, or the tower suddenly looked different, or a game started loading faster, sadly, I didn’t really take notice. I never knew of everything my parents did to keep our computer as bleeding edge as possible. That large, lovely, beige PC also handled DOOM 2 with ease. But later in life, when I tried to load it onto my very first, rinky-dink laptop, oh my…the choppiness of the high seas was nothing compared to what I saw on that screen.
My computer gaming days ended in the late 1990s. I went back full-time to consoles with the N64, and I haven’t looked back.
It hard to not ignore all the good things PC gaming has to offer right now: price, quality, flexibility, getting exactly what you want. We might head down that path, but I’m no seer. For now we plan to keep an eye on what comes of the E3 announcements over the next few months. And maybe, at some point, perhaps amid jingle bells and candy canes, we’ll make a decision.
So where do you stand? PCs forever, consoles for life, or the best of both worlds?