Should I buy (or even build) a gaming PC?
Is now the time to consider a gaming PC?
Having previously considered whether the time's right to buy Sony's PlayStation 4 or Microsoft's Xbox One, we now turn our attention to the alternative route to consoles.
2014 has been a pretty good year for the PC, undeniably helped along by a few hiccups from the new consoles. The difference between what many consumers were promised with their new ‘next-gen’ machine and what it’s actually capable of, have, in many cases, been two different things.
Mainstream coverage might make you believe the video game industry is a two (maybe three) horse race, but don’t believe the narrative. The multitude of consoles available right now might see their share of the limelight, but who doesn’t love backing a dark horse? The PC is coming along leaps and bounds, both in terms of accessibility and affordability and it deserves your consideration if you’re looking into a new system for the new year.
Many believe the experience of building a PC too intimidating or technologically advanced for them to take part in. However, with access to YouTube for walkthroughs and review websites for recommendations, picking your components and building your shrine has never, ever been easier.
Key Selling Points
The PC is the true open platform, even down to the operating system. You’re only limited by your imagination and the technical capabilities of the PC you assemble.
Your PC is everything you want it to be. Depending on your budget it can be something that’s solid, affordable and reliable over the next couple of years at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second. If you’re wanting the future today, you could build something capable of 4K, or a set-up supporting a trio of high-resolution monitors. When it comes to gaming on PC, the sky really is the limit.
The sales never end on PC, whether it’s Steam offering 90% off on a game you’ve had your eye on for a while, or Humble Bundle letting you pay what you can give for a collection of great titles. If you spent a little extra building your PC in comparison to a console’s cost, you can almost guarantee you’ll save money in the long run due to the overall lower cost of games.
Your PC is something that can be constantly adapting to your needs. Maybe you’ve decided you’d like more power from your graphics card, then it’s normally as simple as buying a new one and slotting it in. Hardware items, like games, are constantly on sale. It’s worth perusing various forums dedicated to finding hardware sales, you never know when a bargain will come along that could revitalise an ageing PC.
Play How You Want
Perhaps you’ve never played on PC before and mouse and keyboard inputs don’t feel comfortable to you yet. That’s fine! You can get wireless Xbox 360 controllers for your PC, or plug in a DualShock 4 with the right drivers installed. Microsoft have also released a wired Xbox One controller, if that’s what you’d prefer. Your fighting game can be played with a fight stick, your racing game with a wheel and your flight simulator with a joystick, it’s all up to you. And, unlike consoles, compatibility with peripherals will not end with the generation cycle, so investing in a decent racing wheel for example can be an investment for the long term.
The Living Room Experience
Your PC, contrary to popular belief, can perform the actions a console can. More specifically, it can be popped under your TV and played from your sofa. All it takes is an HDMI cable and a wireless input device, be it mouse and keyboard or controller. Steam’s Big Picture mode is also available for those of you who want to experience your Steam library using a controller, much like how a console dashboard would work.
Your PC can be everything, it can be your editing station where you create video content or your music station where you make, well, music.
Since Windows 8, apps have been crawling onto PC, although not exactly welcomed by most. With your Windows 8 and 8.1 start screens you have a whole host of customisable widgets that open up into apps for some semblance of convenience. In reality, though, everything you ever need can be made available on your desktop through programs you download and install. Apps are here and they’re coming again in Windows 10, but they’re not exactly a necessary part of your experience.
Streaming is something that’s possible and strongly supported, even now through handheld devices. The NVidia Shield tablet lets you run games through your PC hardware and stream and control it using a handheld device in another room. Although not perfect, the device could signal bigger and better things in the future.
Again, when it comes to PC, your musical tastes are covered. Be it vinyl, CD or digital media, it can be played on a PC. With distribution and library services like ITunes and Spotify grabbing all the headlines, it can be easy to forget about the multitude of unsigned artists and music makers using services like SoundCloud. Or you could forgo listening entirely and make your own music, and you guessed it, it’s available to do on your PC.
The PC is swimming in exclusive titles, be them small indie experiments or huge, sprawling AAA adventures. Just this year games like Divinity: Original Sin, Civilisation: Beyond Earth, The Sims 4 and Elite: Dangerous were all released, exclusively to PC. If you’re willing to take a punt with early access titles there’s also games like DayZ, The Forest and Kerbal Space Programme to choose from.
The past is just as accessible as the present on PC. Services like GOG.com offer a multitude of old titles, DRM-free. Taking those nostalgia trips is one great benefit of being a PC gamer. If there’s a game 20 or more years old that you fancy picking up, chances are it’s available and playable somewhere.
Finally, mods allow games you may have played before to become something new altogether. The Long War for XCOM: Enemy Unknown adds a huge amount of content, making the game an entirely new experience and challenge. Major mods to games like Mount and Blade: Warband, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Fallout 3 + New Vegas could make games you hadn’t thought about for a while feel like an entirely new experience.
PC isn’t without issues when it comes to exclusive games, though. Steam has been lax on quality control for a long time now, and as such games labelled ‘early access’ or ‘new’ should be approached with a degree of caution. Researching a game before buying it is a necessary part of PC ownership, as unfortunately it’s all too easy to be burnt by a swift purchase decision on PC.
Should I buy a gaming PC now?
The time is ripe to jump into PC gaming. A PC is a hugely customisable piece of hardware that can become almost anything your mind can stretch to. What your PC becomes is all up to personal preference, and that’s the true beauty of PC ownership. Instead of being told what you can and cannot do with your system, it’s yours to do with as you please.
PC hardware will only continue to get stronger and, in turn, cheaper and more accessible. As new hardware is released, items less powerful than the newest piece of tech will see their prices drop. And on the subject of new hardware: peripherals on the horizon only make PC gaming in 2015 seem more exciting, the obvious mention going to the Oculus Rift.
Make no mistake, a PC is not for everyone, but they’re plagued by misconceptions concerning their price, customisation options and reliability. What you put in to your PC, you will get out of it tenfold. So, for those of you with a PC now or planning on getting one in the future, look after your shrines and they’ll look after you.
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