Feature: How Hard Is It To Get Into PC Gaming?

how-hard-is-pc-gamingThere’s a clear divide between those who get their gaming fix on their home console, and those who play on a beefy PC. With the recent announcement of the PlayStation 4, fans from both sides have been clashing in a war of words over the advantages and disadvantages of gaming on home consoles and PC’s.

I’m going to be honest, I’m not a big PC gamer, never have been, never will be. I’ve always been drawn to the ease of access of the home consoles, from the old SEGA MegaDrive right up to this generation with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with a bit of Wii on the side. Consoles are relatively cheap and don’t require a whole lot of technical knowledge.

That was up until a few months ago.

September just gone me and my partner upped sticks and moved to France for my partner to do her year abroad for University. I couldn’t take my beloved consoles with me, but I wasn’t too bothered as I had a PS Vita and Nintendo handheld, so I thought I’d be more than fine to get my gaming goodies on them. After a few weeks however, I got a little bored of the handheld, especially with the drought of PS Vita games, though Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation sucked some hours away, but it just wasn’t the same as the nice big adventures that sit on the consoles and PC.

In search of better gaming, we headed to the nearest big store that sold laptops at reasonable prices and plunked down the 400 Euros and away we went. Unfortunately, the laptop was a bit on the low-end of the scale. The guy at the supermarket assured me it had a good processor and would handle most modern games, but I was lucky to even get Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to run at medium settings. Here in lies the problem with making the switch from console to PC gaming. If you’re not a tech-buff, you’re basically going in blind and hoping for the best, where as with a console, you know it’s good, you know every game for the system works (well, most of them…) and you’ll never need to upgrade the hardware, unless you get the dreaded Red Light of Death or Yellow Light of Death, or just clumsily dropping it down the stairs (with my first PlayStation 3, I totally did just that, didn’t even get to power it on before it was buggered.)

So I put up with the laptop and explored some of the older offerings like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Call of Duty 2, Football Manager series, Command & Conquer, so on and so forth.

Just after Christmas, we made the move to Vienna, Austria for the second leg of the year abroad. Here my partner (Beth, it’s not like her name’s a secret) took up the position of Assistant English Teacher in a top school, earning a more than comfortable wage, which meant one thing: Shopping! (A la White Chicks.)

We set a limit, 500 Euros each on whatever we want. Naturally she went straight to the nearest clothing store and wasted money on something called ‘clothes’ whilst I mooched around a PC store looking for a laptop that might be worthy of the 21st century. Though we now had a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U in the flat (our flat mate is a student, so naturally he has all the consoles, but no food…) I had been bitten by the PC gaming bug, and I wanted more.

Initially, I found the controls for PC games a little awkward, understandable as I’d only known console controllers my entire life. I dabbled with using a controller, but a lot of games just don’t support gamepads, or just don’t feel the same as using a gamepad on a console, I don’t know why, but some just felt weird. So I stuck with the keyboard and mouse setup and within no time I was zipping around Los Santos without a care in the world, pulling off drive-by’s like a real gangsta. Tupac would have been proud.

So with that in mind, I had a look around the PC shop and tried to make sense of what processors did what, which graphics card was better than the others, but ultimately, I just ended up leaving the store empty-handed with 500 Euros stuck in my wallet. Again the problem of being misinformed reared its head, even the bearded man behind the counter couldn’t be sure which was the best for gaming but for less than 500 Euros. If even the shop worker doesn’t know what’s what, how the heck is the average Joe supposed to know what’s the best deal?

So on I went, bags full of these ‘clothes’ and began the trot home. When we finally got back to the warmth of the flat, I got on the laptop we already have and decided to do some snooping around Amazon for a laptop. Now, I know that there are some PC purists who consider gaming on a laptop to be paramount to high treason, but there’s no way I was going to shell out for a full gaming PC and monitor that I’ll have to ship back to Great Britain in the summer, so a laptop was the only choice.

After much searching on Amazon and copy & pasting different specs’ and laptop models into Google and Youtube, I finally settled on a laptop that I hoped would be good enough for me to get into some beefier games. Coming in at a whopping 407.99 Euros (including shipping!) I’d got myself an Acer, with a Core i3 2350 processor with a nVidia GeForce 610m graphics card, even got a nice little screen cleaning wipe for free. Happy days.

It took a lot of searching, comparing, asking on multiple forums and enduring the endless “just get a gaming PC rig, it’ll only cost like $1,500” comments, I’d finally gotten a laptop that could play some great modern games at a good quality. Admittedly, I’m not going to be running Crysis 3 on highest graphics, but I can happily take on faceless foes in Black Ops 2, zip around Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto IV or feel like a big man by smashing Cardiff City with Barcelona in Fifa 13.

At the end of the day, I’m happy with my purchase but for the same price I could have gotten a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or Wii U with a few top games with change to spare to maybe get myself some of these mystical ‘clothes’ that the missus keeps banging on about. It took a long time to come decide on a computer, and even more time on researching the difference between the plethora of processors and graphics card’s available in today’s computers.

Ultimately, it was a hard experience and I’m thoroughly looking forward to returning home to Britain in the summer and getting my hands back on my neglected consoles, and I’m pretty confident that when it comes to buying into the next-generation of home consoles the research will be easier and I’ll not have to endure the nervous installation of a game and the first test-run to see how well it works.

For me, PC gaming is never going to be my primary source of fun, but it’s definitely possible to make the switch, just make sure you do your research and get some technical knowledge in your head before you put down some big money on what could be a dud.

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What do you do your gaming on? Have you made the switch form console to PC? Or maybe the other way around? Let us know how it went for you down in the comments section below.

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