Rounding off this set of posts for the time being, I thought I’d look my gaming PC. Obviously there are many benefits of a PC in terms of media and productivity, but I’m going to just look at gaming, after all I could get the other functions from a basic laptop for a fraction of the cost.
I’d also like to briefly address the heinous term “PC Master Race”. The implications of “Master Race” alone should be enough to make most people feel uncomfortable, but even taking it as a ‘light-hearted’ joke, it still stinks of the elitism that annoys the hell out of me in any ‘fandom’. PC gaming is rarely as straightforward as many would have you believe, and for everyone who preaches the wonders of Steam and how everything just works, there is someone else stuck in driver/windows/intermittent fault hell. I love gaming on my PC, but entirely understand anyone who prefers to just stick to consoles.
Anyway, on with the list.
- Real Time Strategy (RTS)
A genre that remains painful to play on a controller, the real home for these is the PC. These games entirely capture the childhood enjoyment of playing toy soldiers. There are so many great series; Warcraft, Starcraft, Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Empire Earth, Dawn of War. All favourites, despite my complete failure to be any good at them.
I’m also going to throw general strategy games in here, games I do enjoy but don’t play often, they only really feel ‘right’ in a PC environment. Things like Settlers, Civilization, City Building sims etc.
The developer probably responsible for most of my play time overall and filled with a genius approach to promoting their own other games from within each title. Although they dabble with console releases, they always feel best to me on the PC. Diablo 3 is awesome on the modern consoles for couch co-op, but if I’m going to play online with friends, I still turn to the PC.
Blizzard do an outstanding job of making me want to play all their games, all the time. Even the month I spent playing Hearthstone started because I just wanted to get 3 wins to unlock a mount in a different game. Heroes of the Storm & Hearthstone both managed to convince me to play genres I otherwise had no interest in. Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 get regular play from me and even though I’m well out of World of Warcraft, I still go back for a few weeks for each expansion. I’ve just put down my pre-order for Overwatch, and yes I’ll be playing the PC version.
- First Person Shooter (FPS)
My one time favourite genre, these days I have more of a love/hate relationship with it. As much as I love the Halo games and I’ve had a lot of fun with Destiny, whenever I sit at my desk to play a FPS online, it feels like coming home. Keyboard and Mouse controls being best for FPS is almost a cliché at this point, I’m sure there are plenty of skilled players who have never used anything other than a twin stick control pad. My love pretty much peaked with Quake 3 Arena, I dabble with whatever else my friends are playing, but I still go back to Quake Live for the Deathmatch fix.
- Shmups, emulators & rotating monitors
Thanks to some great steam ports, I can play a lot of the best shmups on my PC. Although there are some great console ones still exclusive to modern consoles, the PC still has an overall edge. A rotating monitor arm gives me access to TATE mode to play vertical shmups like Raiden as they are intended, and coupled with my arcade stick I get a solid experience that could only really be improved by building a full Arcade Cabinet. Add to this the abundance of emulators (accepting the morally grey area of sourcing ROMs) and you get the ability to play the greatest shmups from arcade and console history, easily justifying PC ownership for a shmup fan.
- Controller options
For many games the Keyboard & Mouse can be considered almost perfect, particularly the previously mentioned RTS and FPS genres. For those other games there is a seemingly never ending amount of choice. Personally I keep a USB Xbox 360 Control pad and Arcade Stick around for the majority of appropriate titles. I am considering adding a flight stick soon and getting involved in Elite Dangerous and replaying some classic Descent and Tie Fighter.
While Xbox Live and PSN both do the matchmaking, parties and voice chat stuff perfectly well, it still feels to me like the PC has the edge. There is a lot to be said for the simplicity of the console options, but the choice and flexibility of systems on PC suits me better, whether using group Skype calls, or other platforms such as Curse or Ventrilo. There is also much better support for setting up private servers, and customising them appropriately.
- In-home streaming & Steamlink
Relatively new to me, but since connecting a second PC in the lounge I’ve found Steam in-home streaming to be excellent. Those games suited to a big screen and the sofa with a controller, i.e. platformers are a natural fit. The steam link hardware makes this an option for people without a second PC with a low cost of entry.
- Cost of games & persistent libraries
Steam’s sales and sites selling bundles of games for a ‘pay-what-you-want’ system have led to a really low cost for PC games, making it very inexpensive to build up a (frankly ridiculous) library. It’s also important to note that unlike the console generation cycle, these games remain accessible with each upgrade. Although there is often some tinkering to get older games to run on each new version of windows, your library stays with you. Steps are sometimes taken via the console manufacturers to attempt to address this, at least for one generation, i.e. Xbox One backwards compatibility having limited support for Xbox 360 games. However it is more common for them to just make you re-buy the same game again, isn’t it Nintendo?
- Modding community
Another well know advantage, is the availability of user created mods and patches for games. This is widespread and a huge bonus in so many areas. Entire genres have come out of mods for other games, Tower Defence and MOBA’s such as DOTA have their origins in user mods (for Warcraft 3 I believe…)
Often mods are released for older games to take advantage of developments in hardware, with entire new engines added. Games like Doom, Quake, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and so many others benefit from this kind of thing. The closest parallel for consoles is generally the ‘HD Remaster’ which in many cases is still good, but disappointingly tends to involve re-buying the game again.
I have to put this in really, but yes, mid to high-end PC hardware is capable of outperforming consoles, and frequently has the best version of cross-platform releases where they take advantage of that hardware. Although it is important to note that this isn’t always the case, I’m looking at you Arkham Knight, and every big release currently on the Windows 10 store. Things like Killer Instinct, Quantum Break & Gears of War are all suffering issues, most seem to have been introduced by the distribution model though, and are good versions when you can get them working!