Saturday, January 19, 2013

PC Gaming: Moving to the Dark Side

If you just want to view the thrifting pr0n, move on to the pictures. In the last few years, we moved to Austin, Texas, where the shopping is quite poor compared to Chicago. I miss the shopping there. Far fewer fun thrift scores to post about here in TX.

This is as good a place as any for me to yammer on about my current thoughts in gaming. I'm a collector and a gamer, and I have ideas about both aspects of the hobby.

Recently, I took a new direction in my gaming. I bought a gaming PC. Console gamers consider it going to the dark side. The implications as a gamer and collector are uncertain. What will I collect if I rely on digital downloads? I've already started keeping code cards for Xbox Live when I stumble upon them. There will be a market for those eventually. But most of my PC games will be digital downloads.  The preeminent source for digital PC games, Steam, is quite mature, and has been my inspiration to make this move. And (Good Old Games) has a brilliant selection of reasonably priced classic computer games available for download.

I specifically needed a PC that would fit in our diminutive entertainment center where the other consoles live while I await the build out of my game room. I would have been happy to build my own PC piecemeal, but I didn't find a case and hardware combination that looked nice and would fit in this small space. If I bought a different small system from a boutique builder or found a classy small format case to build my own, the price of assembly wasn't different enough to justify the bother. I settled on the Alienware X51, which looks more like a giant xbox than a typical high powered gaming PC. Small format PCs all have expansion limitations, and I'm willing to accept that. The goal was to create couch friendly system to hook up to my TV. I spend to much time sedentary at a desk for work to consider that approach.

Will I continue to collect console games? As long as I collect, I'll be interested in classic games. I collect for many systems I haven't logged huge hours on. Not to mention countless classic systems with bizzare power adapters I'll never even test. Play time on a system isn't a collecting criteria for me. But it certainly helps. I plan to go for a complete 360 collection at some point when prices reach their nadir. I'm already most of the way towards a complete original Xbox collection.

Will I continue to play console games? I hope so. Many of my friends are on Xbox Live and I have no interest in proselytizing the PC lifestyle. I don't plan to spend all of my time playing PC games anyway. The console experience will always be smoother and simpler. And my extensive backlog of games that don't look much better on PC will keep me coming back. I plan to write a few blog entries about my experience with Battlefield 3 on Xbox 360 and PC, a game I've already put hundreds of hours into on the console.

Will I be lost in the endless fruitful ecosystem of PC gaming, which goes far beyond the mast head companies into far more personal and unique true indie territory? I hope so. It is fantastic that the barriers to game creation are shrinking and taking us back to the early days of computer gaming, when one person could program one game and try to make a living from it. Inexpensive tools available allow for more personal expression. Gaming as an art form is evolving fastest on the PC, outside walled gardens of the consoles.

Are the current generation graphics and enhancements worth the expense? People talk about how cheaply one can assemble a gaming PC, but that has not been my experience. A current video card starts at $200. Future proofing your PC means spending a good few dollars. If you want 2 year old tech, why not just get a console? My graphics card should get me past this upcoming generation of console games, and I can always upgrade. It sure is fun to try out my favorite console games on 'Ultra' graphics mode. Things look a little better, but I can't see the emotional impact of Fallout 3 being too much greater, aside from installing the community created facial enhancement mods, which will be a complicated and time consuming process. Perhaps I'll be less distracted by the graphical limitations of consoles and occasionally awkward animations.

I am confused about where this will end up. Being a hardcore collector, I am torn. As a gamer, I need to follow my interests, rather than worry about what fits in with my self image or community of classic gamers. Perhaps I am over analyzing the evolution of my gaming hobby. This is probably me just getting with the times. Although the internets take these things very seriously, my initial impression is that PC vs console is a hair splitting argument. I simply can't resist the allure of experiencing all gaming has to offer.