Valve has announced their intent a console-sized box for playing their Steam catalog, designed with simplicity of use in mind. For some this brought up, from the dregs of the Internet, the age-old console vs. PC debate.
In this case it seems to take on one of a few phases. There are those who claim that this will lead to the ‘dumbing down’ of PC gaming, making them expensive consoles. People, PC’s have been running with mostly console ports for about seven years now and they’re little – if any – worse off for it. Games are often first designed for consoles for various reasons including their known standard and the assumed larger install base. One working as intended the games can then be ported back to the platform that designed them, the PC, and tweaked/edited to work with the various hardware it will likely encounter in the wild. For example, on my desktop staring at me right now I see Dishonored, Borderlands 2, NBA 2K13, Mass Effect 3, Skyrim and Batman Arkham City, all of which can be considered console ports, and only NBA 2K13 suffered in translation. I fail to see the issue here.
What got my dander up was the old trite argument that PCs are too expensive, too clumsy, too hard to use and too buggy for gaming. Predominantly console-only gamers tend to bring one or all of these arguments up every time someone mentions they try PC gaming. I can understand exactly what they’re saying, because that’s all you hear. Mass-media sources often point out a PC’s flaws and insecurities, but if you go to PC enthusiast site you get allot of people talking tech specs and high-end hardware, which can be pretty damned expensive. Where does that leave Joe Average, trying to decide if he should get/build/find a PC? Staring squarely at a console that they see about all the time on TV and in commercials, that they’ve been told works every time and is only about $200-300. Why, that one site said he would have to pay that just for a video card! That’s crazy talk! No sir, getting a PC is not worth it. Or is it?
To avoid going overboard let’s cover the first problem everyone encounters eventually when getting a gaming PC: the cost. Yes, they’re going to run you more than a console. However, at least until we see what Microsoft and Sony plan for the next generation of consoles they’re going to do more for you, too. Email, web browsing, chatting, socializing, watching videos, listening to music and so much more come along with being able to play PC games. You’re also probably using a computer to read this right now, so you (presumably) know how to use one and are accustomed to having one around. It could either be a laptop, a netbook or a desktop model, but most people these days are interacting with a computer on a daily basis. The hardest part can be convincing yourself (and your bank account) that it is worth investing in a new computer (you could always see about upgrading what you already have but we’re looking at this from the little-to-no PC hardware experience angle).
I have put computers together from loose parts and I’ve also customized off-the-shelf models. My current PC was a $700 Lenovo that I took and replaced the power supply and video card on. The total cost ended up around $900. That could have bought me one and a half PlayStation 3’s when they first launched, or three Wii Us today. I benefited from already having a decent monitor, so that saved a chunk of money. I wanted something better than an entry level PC though, otherwise I could have spent a couple hundred dollars less. I’ve seen serviceable PCs for gaming retail around $500-600, or if you’re feeling industrious you can watch sales and bargains to put together your own, piece by piece for a wide range of costs. The cost of entry into PC gaming has gone down from its $1,000-2,000 range it was about ten years ago.
The biggest issue remains stability but even that has improved. Here’s my opinion: if you install your drivers as instructed, install decent security software (firewall, antivirus, etc.), monitor what you download for adware, spyware and the like, and don’t install ‘shady’ programs, you’re 90% of the way to a happy PC. Really, if you have a good working computer allot of what you have to do is not screw it up. I think this stands as pretty obvious but some people click on anything that promises them a prize or offers a free dingle bob for their Facebook game and then wonder why their computer doesn’t work like it should. Do you remember quote about believing half of what you see and nothing you hear? Expand that to include “and always double or triple guess anything you see on the internet.”
To wrap this up before I go on a rant about random internet stupidity, I think this proposed Steam Box could do more good than harm to PC gaming. As the previous 800+ words have probably shown, I consider myself a PC gamer. I have a particular distain for PC gamers who think poorly of people who pay primarily on consoles. News flash – playing on a PC does not confer a status of superiority upon the gamer. PC gamers are not a gaming ‘master race,’ as I’ve seen said (and when you think about it, that’s a pretty tasteless comment and not one I want to be associated with). Console gamers are not all kids, grandparents, and newbies. If this Steam Box can stand as some form of bridge between the two warring factions I would be elated. Maybe it’ll put an end to the console-vs-PC debate once and for all.
Right, and maybe it can turn the sun purple. I’d settle for a little more understanding between both sides in 2013. We’ll have to wait and see.