Thursday, 13 March 2008

PC Gaming = Still Alive!

Over the past few months some wildly outrageous and somewhat unsubstantiated claims have been thrown about – a pimple faced kid on the train told me Spider-Man sucked, my brother bragged he could beat me at Third Strike, and my ‘friend’ told me to pass on Wii Fit because I was too heavy for the balance board, from my response to the Wii Fit comment it wouldn’t be a far stretch to assume that I was deeply hurt, but in actual fact it didn’t have much of an effect on me, firstly because IT IS NOT TRUE...ANY OF IT, and secondly because I was too busy nursing a pre-existing emotional wound I sustained from reading a number of disturbing articles featuring various industry figures RSVPing for a funeral – apparently, PC gaming is dead.

The first console I owned was a SEGA Mega Drive II (Genesis in the US) and since then my gaming has been almost exclusively on consoles but the PC still has a special place in my heart, it introduced me to first-person shooters and eye-strain through Quake and eventually led me to what would become one of my favourite games of all time - Counter-Strike, so forgive me if I’m reluctant to call time on the PC gaming industry.
The console gaming environment would not be what it is today without both the direct and indirect influence of the PC gaming industry, even the most rampant console purist would have a hard time arguing against this. Everything from genre influences to major developments in the way we play games (evident through the console internet gaming revolution) got their start on the PC, and if that’s not convincing enough...without PC gaming there would be no Xbox Live – come on, you know that hurts.
That’s not to say that PC gaming isn’t suffering, clearly it is and it all boils down to one thing - approachability.
If you’ve had any experience with PC games you’ll know that despite all the mind-blowing evolutions in technology getting a game to work on a PC is even more difficult than it would have been ten years ago.
The reason console gaming has become so popular is because of the simplicity involved, when you want to play a game you just purchase for the appropriate platform, put the game in the drive and watch it go, whereas attempting to do the same for the PC involves a whole lot more, take me for example, I love Counter-Strike but haven’t played it in over a year because I can’t get the damn thing to run on my pc. Despite upgrading my PC numerous times the game still runs like slideshow. At this point a consumer is usually faced with two options; spend a ridiculous amount of money buying a powerful new graphics card, realise that your existing components aren’t compatible with it and then sell some treasured possessions to pay for upgrades to the rest of the thing only to have it all become impotent a mere three or four months later.
The second option is to buy a home console where the only supplementary spending will be on the games, the hardware will remain largely unchanged for at least 4 years, 10 if you believe Sony.
As much as I want to play Crysis given the amount of money I would have to spend in order to experience the game the way it should be is just not an option, I’d gladly support the PC if I knew that I could play the game I purchase, but that just isn’t the case.
It is for this reason that smaller flash based video games have become so popular, even though I have Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike: Source and a bunch of other games installed on my computer Desktop Tower Defence got the most PC playtime in 2007.
This is where Steam comes in; I’m really excited to see what smaller games come out of the platform, so far Audiosurf has got me back to gaming on my PC and it’s the type of game that isn’t typically associated with PC gaming.This is where I think the future of the PC gaming is, sure there will always be the dedicated group of gamers willing to keep up with the constantly changing hardware in order to play the triple A title but gaming as an industry will develop through the little quirky games created by a small group of passionate developers thinking outside of the box and offering experiences that large developers wouldn’t think of or couldn’t get the green light for. Playing games like Audiosurf, Desktop Tower Defence and Fez, games that don’t require divine gaming rigs to play makes me hopeful for the future of PC games, PC gaming isn’t dead – it’s evolving.

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