I’ve always been a PC gamer first. It’s where I started and what I like to use. I prefer mouse and keyboard, I like tinkering with my PC, I like mods and variety. However, I haven’t always had a computer capable of playing great games.
Some games run on almost any computer. World of Warcraft is certainly a commonly cited example of a game with relatively simple hardware requirements, allowing for a vast number of potential players. There are also games that push existing hardware as far as it can go, appealing to the hardcore hardware aficionados.
However this is a niche market, as there are few PC builders and tinkerers in comparison to the number of PC owners who haven’t so much as changed a video card or added RAM to their computer.
For good and for bad, computers are complex machines with many hardware parts and numerous levels of software. Problems can and do occur anywhere, from overheated parts to failing hard discs to viruses to incompatible hardware/hardware, hardware/software or software/software combinations.
Thanks to this complexity, the early 2000s saw many gamers go to console-only gaming. I believe that the ease-of-use and lower system cost for a console was then and is now an incredibly compelling argument for gaming only on a console. However, given recent reports of the exceptionally high fail-rate on an Xbox 360, it is apparent that there are plenty of problems with console hardware systems as well.
What makes these problems forgivable for gamers is that the systems are all the same. A console owner that has a problem with his/her console knows what to do – try to get it fixed by its maker, or replace it. A PC owner can go to the maker of the PC, however there are numerous parts that could be causing the problem, and often warranties don’t last long enough or cover enough to get it fixed. Not to mention the hardware may not be the cause of the problem – it could be the software or other software getting in the way.
In the end, gaming on a pc is a generally more complicated and costly affair than on a console. The benefits, however, are exceptional; one in particular is worth noting: Games can be made like WoW, appealing to a relatively low-denominator of hardware requirements; or they can be made like Crysis, damning those with older or lower level rigs to much lower graphics than what the game can provide.
While anyone playing on a console has the same experience as everyone else, the PC provides variety. And this is where its brilliance shines through all the blue screens of death, memory errors, and hard-drive crashes. Games on a PC exist across a gamut of technological requirements, ensuring that any PC bought within the last few years can play some great games, while always allowing for the cutting edge of gaming graphics to be pushed further and further.
What this means is that there are games for everyone, no matter what system they have. Given the recognition of WoW’s money-making power despite its lack of graphics-power, there are many developers attempting to create games that can be playable on systems as basic as a netbook. Which means all the merrier for us PC gamers.