"Console to PC, My Awakening"
As a gamer, there is a distinct line in the sand that many of us never recognize. The line is one that most of us don't realize it is as restrictive as it is. We move forward in our gaming lives, and we are oblivious to the truth. We are blissfully happy with our decision, and even willing to defend our choice of gaming console. So before I move forward, I am going to ask you (in my best Lawrence Fishbone impression) "Do you want to go down this rabbit hole? You take the blue pill the story ends and you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe, you take the red pill you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember all I am offering is the truth, nothing more!” Before I am drowned in the holy tears of Mario, and am beaten in the cathedral of Sony and Microsoft, let me set this straight. I am a lifelong console fan; in fact, I own all three consoles. Personally, I find strengths and weaknesses in each one. I have my favorite, but I do not feel the need to incite a fan boy riot just to prove a point. This is about my journey, my virtual awaking if you will, to the excitement and beauty of PC gaming.
I consider myself an Ol’ School Gamer, and I look at online gaming to be my generation’s bar. It is a safe place where everyone knows your name, and I happened to be “Norm”, the gaming’s version of an old bar fly. Unfortunately, something has happened in this generation. We have experienced “buggy” and often unplayable game releases. Our party chats have been rendered useless, our online servers have been left vulnerable, and in many cases, shut down completely. In every way possible as a console gamer, I have been left very unsatisfied with this generation. It’s like our bar has stopped serving beer, and we are left waiting around eating old pretzels and drinking warm tap water. Sadly, this wasn't what caused my wandering eye. My flirting with PC gaming began with the rise of Twitch on the console. For the first time ever I could watch what I was missing, and I could see the variety. I was able to experience the beauty of what a beastly PC could do. More importantly, I could see what my console could not do… and that was eye opening.
I know it is unfair to compare a gaming console built to last 10 years to a PC that can be built and upgraded at will to play the best and most demanding games. Still, you chose to take the red pill to learn the truth, so here it is. Games on my console get bland with time, just as any game does, with the limited and obvious exception of expensive DLC. You don't have an option to upgrade your experience or change the game for the better. On a PC, there is a rich culture of mods, or modifications, that can take a game and make it into a completely different experience. A good example of this is Arma II, a military strategy game that was transformed with a proper mod to make DayZ which is an extremely popular zombie survival horror simulation. Another popular example is Minecraft. The mod community on this game is mind boggling. My console version is years behind while there are literally hundreds of mods that completely change the way the game looks and is played. After experiencing Minecraft on the PC, I would tell you it is a difference of a 1970’s black and white TV compared to a 4k gaming monitor. If you had the means which one would you choose?
Part of the issue with PC gaming is the upfront expense and complicated hardware. It can be intimidating and expensive. To be completely honest, I have spent a couple hours reading and watching reviews on processors and of gaming keyboards available. It can be daunting! In contrast, the consoles are virtually plug and play, fairly inexpensive in comparison, and can be purchased virtually anywhere. So why would you go to PC gaming based on the initial facts? Let me explain. Remember Red Pill!
An Xbox One, PS4 and a Wii U cost roughly one-third of a “state of the art high end PC”. In the last generation, the average hardcore gamer bought 2.1 consoles, many of which were updated versions of the old console or an additional console. The average hardcore or serious gamer also buys 6.6 games per year. The cost of the current console generation is roughly $400 per unit and a “new” game is $60. The online service also runs about $60 per year. Meanwhile, a PC gamer spends more upfront at roughly $1400 and the average “new” game cost $28. That means by year 4 the PC gamer is spending less money, has vastly better graphics, more options, and virtually free mods that extend the life of their current games. I am making the argument that for a serious gamer, PC gaming is the superior and more affordable option. (You can see the chart above for breakdown of average gamer cost with one console.)
As an avid console gamer, I am comfortable with what comes in the box. The processing power and the graphics capabilities are optimize over the life of a generation. This is by the developers learning to make lemonade out of lemons. This is the plight of a console gamer. The user friendliness is also its biggest limitation. In technology, think about what could happen in 10 years. For example, YouTube was founded just 10 years ago. At this point can you imagine an internet without YouTube!? Not only are older PC’s stronger than the newest consoles, but once you have a base unit set, a gamer can upgrade to their heart’s desire. These can include optimizing for 4k tv, or much higher frame rates. The PC I just built is expected to have a capability to run at almost 300 frames per second, while the best console games run at 60. That is 5 times the power, at 1080p, with more affordable games and a wider selection. I am not sure I can look at console gaming the same way again. I feel like I am breaking up with a girlfriend I have loved for years for the girl I am supposed to marry. I am happy and sad at the same time, but unlike Cypher who took the red pill and regretted it, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is just that… ignorance. The raw power and customization gives the PC a gigantic edge on consoles.
So as I sit down to write this, I can’t help but wonder how long I would have sat in this dingy bar with my pretzels and warm tap water. How long would I have been content within the limitations of my console? If hackers hadn’t shut down the networks, and if Halo’s matchmaking actually worked, would I have let my allegiance waiver? Would I have stayed that young doe-eyed console gamer that was willing to argue against PC gaming, if I hadn’t watch Twitch? The sad truth is, I probably would have because no one else offered me the red pill. I had no one offer me the unaltered and unbiased truth. I would of been left in the Matrix, a prisoner to my limitations and blissfully unaware of what I was missing.