Home > Uncategorized > An impromptu defense of PC gaming (Updated)

An impromptu defense of PC gaming (Updated)

As I’ve written about before, I largely favor computers for my video gaming, and a recent episode of 1up.com’s “1up Yours” podcast made me give some good, hard thought to why that was.

On a rather large side-tangent, I can’t say I’d recommend the crudely-named “1 up Yours”, mostly because it’s populated by blowhards and idiots. The host of sorts and one of the guests made good points, but they were few and far between. The rest of them offered only poorly-enunciated close-minded fanboy drivel and trash talk.

In their console-fanboy-ish-ness, however, one of the aformentioned blowhards lapped up the unfounded statement from a high-profile game developer that console gaming was “stealing” hardcore gamers away from their “traditional home” on the PC. Not only does he have no basis for issuing such a statement, it’s utterly meaningless. Has a hardcore gamer who cut his teeth on Halo and never bothered to buy a PC been “stolen”?

At any rate, in what he must have thought was a stunning proof of his point, this blowhard made up the statistic that ten times more people bought Call of Duty 4 for the XBox 360 than for the PC. It is an utter crock of shit, but the point remains: I was forced to wonder why I decided to buy CoD4 for my PC, instead of for a console.

Well, the most correct, truthful, and straightforward answer is that I bought it to play with my friends, none of whom have 360s. A contributing factor was also the fact that the game was for sale on Steam, Valve’s service that allows for digital downloads of computer games, much like Apple TV is to movies. I was able to download the full retail game right on to my PC, and begin playing with my friends in a matter of hours.

On a bit of a tangent, again: the direct download is quite instrumental in all of this, to be sure. While Microsoft does allow for downloading games over XBox live, the games are limited to 150 megabytes, which restricts the titles thusly available to a specific category unto themselves. For reference, Call of Duty 4 ended up being many gigabytes.

However, that answer is not a very satisfying one, and uses the same defense that my earlier writing on this topic used: I game on the PC because I have a PC.

So why do I keep paying to upgrade my PC instead of buying a console? I’ve been able to come up with two main reasons: the freedom and the control scheme.

The first, the freedom, is a big deal, for exactly the reason specified above, with Microsoft’s 150 megabyte cap. See, if a service launched on the PC that had such a cap, and developers wanted to sell games larger than the cap, another service would be created to fill this demand, like Steam. But with the XBox 360, there is only one possible service, and that is the one that Microsoft provides — at a fee. That’s another rub of the whole lack of freedom. There is only one XBox Live, which means that if you want to play multiplayer games on your 360, you have to pay whatever Microsoft requires you to pay to gain access to the service — on top of your broadband wireless charges each month.

Also, because of the structure of the console multiplayer networks, where only the consoles have access to them, multiplayer gaming must be done in a peer-to-peer fashion where one of the players is also the server. This causes problems in games such as Team Fortress 2, where the PC version can play just fine with 32 people on a dedicated server, where the limit is half of that on the XBox 360.

But even casting all of that aside, the number one thing that keeps me gaming on the PC is my n52 Gamepad. This thing is bristling with buttons, and fully utilizes every finger. See, With console gaming, your thumbs and your index fingers do all of the work, while the rest of your hands languish, which makes the workload on those four digits rather hard. And all of this casts aside the fact that trying to control your point of view with a thumb-joystick instead of a mouse isn’t even a contest, simply because you can only move the joystick “so far”, and that limits how fast you can turn.

This is why I find that the Nintendo DS is such a wonderful gaming platform, thanks to its touch screen. I almost exclusively play strategy games on my DS, where I am presented with a sandtable-like view of all my troops laid out before me. Being able to reach out and touch any one of them, and then instruct them what to do, is so incredibly intuitive that I can’t imagine playing a strategy game using, for example, the XBox 360 controller.

But perhaps the crowning jewel of this argument against consoles and their control schemes are the products that have sold as many if not more consoles as Halo: Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But see, these games come with custom controllers designed to give just the right gameplay experience. Whether it’s a plastic guitar or a plastic drum kit, these controllers do the same thing my beloved n52 does: make the interface intuitive.

Update: Interestingly, it would seem that consoles are also losing one of their main advantages against computers: a lack of install time.

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