PC Gaming: The Cause of My Joy

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John Pombrio

My oldest son did not play many games but he was fascinated with the technology. I gave him his own PC at the age of 9. He played with programming as soon as he got the computer. Now he is going for his PhD at Brown for developing new computer languages.
What the PC offers is no entry barriers to writing programs. In fact, it is encouraged in schools. With all of the tools available online at little to no cost and a cheap PC, people can learn and write some amazing programs, including games.

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vrmlbasic

I miss the days when OSes came integrated with the facilities to write "real" code. The C64 let one just start wailing away at the keys to cobble together intricate BASIC programs. The closest thing Windows has to that, out of the box, has been its ability to write Batch files, or possibly Javascript files if you count that.

I also miss the days, though I wasn't around for them, when attending Ivy League schools meant something impressive, when they were the "most rigorous academic institutions". :(

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dgrmouse

vrmlbasic said, "I miss the days when OSes came integrated with the facilities to write "real" code."

Honestly, today's folks have it much better. A fresh Windows install has out-of-the-box support for vbscript, javascript and .NET with an included C# compiler, along with pretty robust API support via COM and WSH (including your money-makers, like ODBC/ADO and .NET via DSLs). There's also the powershell, the .NET runtime and extension libraries, and all the supplementary (free) downloads, including the kernel debugger, platform SDK, full IDEs, etc. Honestly, there's enough to fill many careers worth of "real" coding just with the free stuff.

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AFDozerman

But in the end, it's just scripting. I'm not saying that an interpreted language isn't a "real" language, or that the exact same thing accomplished with Python isn't as good as it accomplished with Fortran, but I *do* feel that low level programming is something of a lost art. We seem to be stuck in that same old computing rat race we've been in since the beginning of time where computers are getting faster and faster but the programming techniques and the languages themselves are becoming slower and more abstracted, making it easier on the programmer, but, in turn, using up more resources.

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Brian Dowding

Most "pro-sumers" and console fans like to attach character judgements and in turn assert they have hurt feelings if you point out the following reality:

Consoles are merely locked-down computers.

They are gaming appliances - a computer, running an OS that is locked down to only allow you to do very specific things. Being locked down, it can be tailored with an interface to make doing those things as easy as possible. It is a simplified experience. Hardware-wise, it is a single hardware profile that does not evolve until the next product version comes out. Sure, there are instances where a smaller, more portable version of something gets released, but even if the hardware on that "edition" changes, it is still locked to perform about the same as the original release product.

Computers are NOT locked down.

Computers can be upgraded at will, and the only limits to what you can do are your skill and or wallet. To properly manage a computer, more expertise is required. It is easier to spend much more on a PC given it's vast hardware options and upgrade paths.

Will a console ever outshine a PC?

Isn't that kind of like asking if a one-armed man will ever out-box Muhammad Ali?

I'm not trying to say console fanboys are inferior, or assign any character judgements of any kind to the above statements. This is just a factsheet. Consoles ARE restricted PC's. Period. It is a market reaction to a recognized demographic. Gaming companies recognize that those without IT degrees also like to game. To that end, consoles deliver on an important role and give entry to modern gaming to literally anyone that can afford one. But in the end, it will never defeat a PC because it is a PC with restrictions imposed upon it. Fact.

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pitashen

Sure those so called "locked down" personal computing devices, will never match the capability of a performance desktop computers or a laptop. However most consumers could not care less about whether or not their ipad could beat some gaming PCs, or that their PS4 cannot run games at 4K resolutions. Not very many one-armed man would be interested at all about beating anyone else. Truth is consoles provide a much more friendly environment for developers to develop and provide support and most developers are not interested in making games that even the most expensive setup would have trouble to run (like what Crytek did with Crysis). In fact, it was never really about beating PC to start with. It is just like tablets are never meant to try to destroy PC and it never will anyway. It is a matter of pros and cons on a given usage scenario and a intended business model.

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Nimrod

People will care about the fact tha their consoles cant play at 4k(an in many cases even at 1080) when 4k TVs go mainstream in the next few years at the halfway mark of the consoles life. When people crowd into PAX or any of the other cons and see PC games blasting away at 4k they will be pissed.

And no, the consoles are not more friendly to develop for.

The reason they dont want to make games that systems have problems running is because its more expensive to be at the high end of the tech curve. If you want to make Cryis or DooM3 you have to have people to program an engine that can do that, most devs dont have what it takes to do that. To further show that you are wrong, there are already games on the XB1 that cant even run at 1080, they already push it past its limits, but thats not very hard to do on the console side of things.

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vrmlbasic

Consoles provide a friendly environment for developers? When consoles were consoles, 2 generations ago, I don't think that was the case.

If Intel hadn't saddled so many PCs with horrid GPUs then PC developers too would have a "baseline" for which to develop, a baseline that would be more powerful than the PS3/360 (which are, sadly, going to remain the baseline for a long while yet).

BTW, did the PS4 come with an updated HDMI port so that it could output in 4K @ 60 Hz? Does such a port even exist yet?

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John Pombrio

The Apple Macs are also closed systems that can only be modified and upgraded slightly and with limited choices. And look at how well it plays games! Oh wait, I just made your point for you again about locked down systems, didn't I?

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Obsidian

McDonald has had some decent articles, unfortunately this isn't one of them. Although essentially an opinion piece on the subjective concept of uniqueness, the brevity of his writing didn't allow for more than a water cooler thought on the subject.

I think MCPers could admit to being a bit protective of the platform. It has so much more to offer than indi games, and certainly these disappointing titles. Software-wise indi games have done a ton for the PC platform.

The future of PC gaming is looking something like SteamOS and potentially streamed experiences to other devices. Nvidia Shield isn't the answer, but the technology behind it could be part of the advancement.

Console EULAs outline significant behavioral tracking, and limit software selling through proprietary stores. All the while, PC users are able to tap into all but those 3 self-limiting platform distribution networks (Nintendo, Sony PSN, and XBox Live). Steam, Good Old Games (GOG), Humble Bundles, browser titles, emulation, modification; all of these and more are at a PC user's disposal.

The hardware advances on the horizon for the PC are leaps and bounds beyond the console hardware refresh. Those consoles which are designed to stay hardware-stagnate for 10-years, may find themselves overrun by consumers looking for the real next thing.

Quite a few of the readers here have built their own rigs, or upgraded some sort of system. That hands-on tinkering and enjoyment creates a different kind of bond than an off-the-shelf console or tablet purchase.

Due to price, consoles will always have a place in the bedrooms of the non-working (kids not yet on their own) and lower disposable income homes. PCs aren't always cost effective, but what they offer is a level of possibility vastly superior to off-the-shelf boxes.

HUGE game companies churning out games put together by 300 employees will never go away. They have a place, but so many have become an interactive movie, like we are moving back to a more input-heavy version of Dragon's Lair. Games like Far Cry 3 with it's larger sandbox, and Guild Wars with an enormous world, DOTA 2 helping to bring gaming into a sport (yes, I laugh at that too), or even (cough) WoW is still relevant - all these experiences built with teams and big-company support will continue to have their place at the table.

The PC can bring us those, and so much more. The cause of Tom's joy isn't wide enough to encompass all of our opinions.

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John Pombrio

The average age of gamers is 30, 49% of all gamers are women. So much for the underaged console player being poor and living with their parents.

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Obsidian

John ---
Taking two (out of many unmentioned) user-case scenarios personally? Read it again John. Without falling on silly stats that don't disprove the point. You have something against poor people John, or people living with their parents?

There are so many people that can't afford to build or buy a gaming PC.
- Right?
- How can that be disputed?

The moment monetary satisfaction and purchasing ability is mentioned blinders come up with so many people and real anger turns into insecure financial defensiveness.

Anti-wealth crusaders are all over the place. Is there a game for it on FB yet?

It's a shame because that perception and others like it are preventing many families from discussing the enjoyment value of a dollar and the potentials of disposable income.

To some people a $1500 PC is not attainable, but a $500 console is. GET OVER IT - then start talking about the topic. It's not a personal slight, it is just money.

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vrmlbasic

30 year olds still can live with their parents. 30 is pretty close to the new Lost Generation, the "millenials", who are still living at home in significant numbers and who lack ambition and are un/underemployed, the "NEETs" of this hemisphere. Point being that I disagree that your stats corroborate your claim that gamers aren't poor or living with their parents.

Also, the _underaged_ console player could still be poor and live with his parents. Would we expect anything else of an underage person?

If 49% of gamers are women then I must be playing the wrong games because that hasn't been observed. Are you sure that figure doesn't count Facebook games?

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Engelsstaub

Obsidian: "Due to price, consoles will always have a place in the bedrooms of the non-working (kids not yet on their own) and lower disposable income homes."

I play games on both PC and console and even I can see this as pure freaking delusion and crying on behalf of those who think everyone should think as they do. It's basically the marginal being so out-of-touch with reality that they marginalize the majority.

Console gamers have always been the majority for as long as I've been playing games. I came to grips with that over thirty years ago. It has nothing to do with age or income-level. My family was never rich but I had friends whose families were loaded. Not one had a PC instead of one or two consoles.

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Obsidian

Engelsstaub - those were two examples among many user case scenarios. Those two user groups may not be able to afford to build a gaming PC. If you read it again without attempting to make it a personal wealth slight you'll see the point. This is the same calculation that goes into the price points for multinational corporation product launches all over the spectrum of devices and the globe. If it's priced right for the target audiences it will sell.

Markets can and should be judged by the level of disposable income especially when it comes to non-essential goods. Taking it personally just shows how sensitive people are and how any mention of income disparity is such a negative hot topic.

Financial barrier-to-entry in the PC vs Console debate, measured against enjoyment received from whichever entertainment, box is a perfectly valid and real point. It not only applies to the two groups I outlined, but certainly something even 'rich' or as you put it, 'loaded' people can relate to.

There are literally millions of use-case scenarios for any entertainment device. If someone with $2000 of disposable income this month would get more enjoyment out of purchasing a PS4 the latest iDevice and several nights out on the town, in lieu of a boutique PC, then that is their choice.

My sentence still reads correctly and I stand by it. Those two places will always find a home for a console because at this point the entertainment to consumer dollar ratio is very high. I don't even fathom how you can disagree with the quote as written, even out of context.

"Due to price, consoles will always have a place in the bedrooms of the non-working (kids not yet on their own) and lower disposable income homes."

No where did I say those two were the ONLY places consoles would be.

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dgrmouse

Monaco, the best game of the year?? Praise for Antichamber, et al? THIS is why you should NEVER be allowed to professionally review another game, ever. Everyone who wastes $15 a pop on all these crappy games after hearing you describe them as "Games of the Year" and comes away disappointed after comparing them with the mega-million dollar blockbusters should rightfully curse your name.

If the only way to properly rate these amateurish indie games is to create a new scale, then so be it, but it's patently obnoxious to keep seeing games like the ones mentioned getting critical reviews placing them on the same level or above those with true AAA craftsmanship.

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John Pombrio

With 49% of all gamers being women and large percentage of that play being older women playing solitaire, free cell, or hearts online, I beg to differ. Casual play is by far the dominant form of gaming and probably where 75% of the money goes (the latest GTA non-withstanding, heh).

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vrmlbasic

But solitaire, freecell and hearts are free to play online. How does any money go anywhere then?

...I think that the term "gamer" is being misused. If playing Solitaire makes one a "gamer" then posting on Twitter makes one a "novelist" and posting a cat video on YouTube makes one a "wildlife filmmaker"

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Scatter

So are you saying that Indie games aren't capable as being as good as AAA games or are you saying that AAA games can't suck hard? Because both claims are false. Games are games, fun is fun and opinions are opinions.

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dgrmouse

If the reviews I read were catering to a retro-gaming audience or something, then I could understand your sentiment. But for the most part, you have recapitulated my sentiment with reasonable accuracy. I mean, if it were possible to make amazing games on a shoestring budget with tiny development teams, then there would be no AAA games. Why would anyone spend millions to develop a game if it could be done just as well for the price of a Happy Meal?

I don't want to see the latest iOS game compared favorably against the latest PC smash blockbuster - that's not to say that Candy Crush and Angry Birds aren't amusing and don't have a place, but it isn't reasonable to rate Angry Birds as a 90 and then rate the latest PC blockbuster smash hit as an 85 on the same scale. Seeing Monoco be named Game of the Year is like being told that the car of the year is a bicycle.

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Scatter

It seems as if you have a very narrow definition of what you consider fun, and that's cool everyone's entitled to their opinions. It's just that I don't believe that you're in the majority with yours.

I like a lot of AAA games but I find that I spend more of my gaming time (and money) on indie games. IMO AAA games seem to be pigeon holded into very specific genres while there seems to be a lot more creativity and chances taken in indie games.

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jbitzer

Yeah, I'm going to run out and spend $60 on the callofhonorfield 23 because you say AAA games are so great!!!!

Stick to your crapbox then.

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dgrmouse

callofhonorfield 23 may not float your boat, but I can at least look at it and understand its appeal. Gorgeous graphics, voice acting from actors you already know and enjoy, a breathtaking music score from talented and well-known contemporary composers, and all the other trimmings that come with big-budget production. Contrast with spending $60 for four indie games, based on the awful recommendations in this article, that all look like they were designed to run on a circa 1990 game console. I mean, seriously, how can you possibly compare Super Meat Boy or Hotline Miami favorably against a Rocksteady Batman? This is exactly what's happening on critic sites, and it's wrong.

youtube.com/watch?v=cwJnk6QRZ8Q (Conan O'Brian reviews Minecraft, safe for work) THIS is how critics ought to react to these backwater homework-project games.

recap: "Who made these graphics!? My six year-old can draw better monsters!" "They should call this glaucoma world!"

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vrmlbasic

I share your complaints about so many indie games. So many of them just baffle me as to how they can have a following as the gameplay is rudimentary, the graphics horrendous and the "plot" laughable.

I've seen droves of people play Hotline: Miami and I just do not see the appeal. Minecraft actually causes me to get a headache from the blurriness.

I don't want to buy a game because it is "quirky", I want to buy a game because it is good. I just don't understand why that position puts me in either the minority or in the "silent majority".

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jbitzer

Yep, and retarded ass kids who think graphics are the be all end all are suckered.

Oddly, Minecraft was wildly successful on PC, BEFORE going on to sell millions on Xbox, gee, I wonder why that could be?

Oh maybe because it's fun? If you want to be a retard graphics whore though, Rocksteady's Batman looks 100x better on PC than the fisher price gaming systems.

Otherwise, at least when I blow $5 on a crap game, it was only $5, not the $60 you pay for the shit console games to find out they're nothing but regurgitated bullshit.

I look at callofhonorfield 23 and understand its appeal too: Moronic fucking "bros" and Ahole 12 year olds want to live out unrealistic army fantasies and scream racial homophobic insults to each other.

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vrmlbasic

These indie games could run on the original Xbox. The only barrier preventing their entry to the PSN and Xbox Live is the cost and bureaucracy of getting games onto Sony and M$'s network. If Sony and M$ decide to lessen these barriers, which they might once they determine the "greatness" of these quirky, hipster indie games, then the PC loses what, according to this article, makes it great.

This article says that what makes the PC great is that it can beat the Xbox and the PlayStation in a foot race, but only because Microsoft and Sony shot their consoles in the foot at the start of the race. That isn't exactly a morale booster for the PC world ;)

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Renegade Knight

PC's win because they are open. You can use mods. Or not. Most console games get ported. You need not miss anything. I came back to PC gaming because of a Steam sale. I stayed because of everything you can do on a PC you can't do on a console.

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vrmlbasic

These are points that the author of this column didn't make.

His argument was "PC is better than console because it has all of these indie games". I contend that the consoles could run these indie games and, if Microsoft and Sony find them to be profitable on PC, they will run these indie games.

It was still a pretty sad point, that the saving grace of the PC is, according to the author, a bunch of poorly-plotted, "retro" looking indie games. That's just tragic.

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dgrmouse

vrmlbasic said, "It was still a pretty sad point, that the saving grace of the PC is, according to the author, a bunch of poorly-plotted, "retro" looking indie games. That's just tragic."

Haha, so true. It's like the "And you said PC gaming was dying!" editorials that have begun waaaaayyyyy too many of the print issues for waaaayyyy too long. Rhetorical filler.

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spokenwordd

Very well spoken.....