Friday, January 11, 2013

Why I'll Never Be A PC Gamer

Our part of the Internet is all a flutter about A not THE Steam Box (Piston or something) and now some biometric gaze tracking thing but I for one couldn't care less. Note, American friends it is couldn't care less not could care less. Could care less means that you still care about something. You could lower the level of care about something. Couldn't care less. Could Not.

Anyway, I'll probably never be a PC gamer. Don't get me wrong I think PC games can be brilliant. Rock Paper Shotgun is my little window into the world of PC games and every now and then I'll get a little bit jealous of the gaming opportunities I'm missing out on. I love the stories that come from the RPS team and the unique gaming experiences that can only be had with mods, indie platformers almost as good as older platformers, the 'five second' games and loser generated stuff that really reaches into the upper echelons of what gaming is capable of being. On the other hand though I cannot be fucking bothered with PCs at the best of times particularly not in my ever diminishing leisure time. 

They're a fucking faff to start off with. Install this, update this, buy this, upgrade this. I know that some PC geeks get off on this. They love 'optimising' their rigs and pissing around with settings and tirelessly working on their own mods to fix commercial games or completely remix them. I'm not begrudging the people who enjoy this at all. But it's not for me. It's boring. I half read articles about the best hardware configurations and how to fix games that don't come with standards that allow you to play with the best FOV and Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I'm also an entitled consumer. I pay money for something I expect it to work. I don't expect to have to mess around with files, settings and patches to fix something I've bought. It genuinely scares me the model of PC (and console games now) where you never actually own a game. You merely buy the right to possibly play it. Until the servers break down or are permanently switched off or on those odd days you can't get an internet connection or when the latest patch somehow makes the game unplayable. I care about games and I care about celebrating the heritage of them and paying homage to older games. To me none of this has ever been properly built into the way that games are made so the only way you can ensure that you can play older games is to keep the machines that play them in working order and the games you want to play in working condition. How does the UK, a country which is a large part of gaming history despite some morons thinking it all began with Japan, celebrate it's rich gaming history? Well tax payers money goes towards funding this museum of grey machines. Missing the point much? Gaming history isn't the machines we used to play games on, it's the games and the experiences we have playing them. The somewhat transitional nature of many PC games put me off. In fact I refuse to play any MMOs purely because one day they'll all be turned off. Emulation is a way of keeping older games alive but the problems with emulation are so rife that I struggle to see how 'progress' in technology means playing the games of yesteryear with the wrong sound or aspect ratio or botched controls. That ain't how I play games. I'll just plug in the PlayStation and my memory card and within minutes I'm continuing my Resident Evil game from over a decade ago thanks.

PCs should work and don't. A classic case in point? Every ten years or so I'll upgrade our home computers (you know for writing documents and making graphs) and recently I was given a four year old PC far more powerful than any previous computer I had. I cracked out my slim selection of PC games from yesteryear to finally play them without problems and lo and behold seven year old Paraworld inexplicably crashed during the tutorial level. And then wouldn't load level 2. And then Snooooze. Two of my geek friends have been struggling with getting Day Z and the Witcher 2 playing on their machines and they have far more knowledge and willpower than I do. I'm just not happy to buy products that don't work as they should without an investment of my time in fixing them. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to waste time in games. As we speak I'm halfway and ten hours into the slow process of transferring my living pokedex from Pokemon White to Pokemon Black Version 2 all for a shining charm and different coloured trainer card. Am I having fun? No absolutely not but I'm not having fun in a way I choose to rather than un-fun being forced upon me by an unintelligible error box or installation progress bar.

Am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? Not willing to put up with hours or days of pissing around in the guts of a PC for what surely amounts to half a lifetime of crazy gaming experiences? Maybe but then it's always been this way with PCs so I'm voting with my wallet by not having bought a PC game for the last seven years. The rub however, is that HD consoles are so progressive and advanced nowadays that they almost perfectly replicate the frustrating PC experience authentically:


I'll link to that all day. This is pretty much the dramatisation of how I interact with PCs and what's causing me to gnaw my teeth at modern HD consoles. Want to know what one of the best console games of this generation is for us? It's 1vs100 on the Xbox 360 and it was fucking brilliant bringing together families and hundreds of thousands of gamers in a way that flailing your arms around never will. Don't believe me? Well tough because it was only available for a limited time only. It's gone. You missed out and you'll never be able to experience that again. 

Back to PCs. I don't have to put up with essentially working for somebody else for the privilege of experiencing someone else's game and I won't. Make it easy for me because I have like a hundred other demands on my time and the returns are guaranteed to be better. For all of two seconds I was excited about Piston. It sounds like a PC I can just plug in and play. Sort of like a console but with all the benefits of PCs. Sort of like how Ouya and Onlive R.I.P were supposed to be. Sadly though it's looking like it'll be a gimped PC with sub-console accessibility. So the worst of both worlds then. Great. 

Until PCs become more accessible, PC gaming is always going to be the quintessential computer geek's domain. The lonely boys' club where conversation may turn to how many graphics can fit on the screen and everyone but the smelliest dies of boredom. There are such things as accessible PC games that ditch all that aggravating pissing around to make stuff work, hello PopCap Games and Zynga R.I.P. But then the boys' club doesn't deem all that to be proper gaming. If it isn't the content from an 11 year old's dream (shooting! Elves! Aliens! Fire engines! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee) with the prerequisite of messing around with installing stuff and upgrading graphics cards it isn't 'proper' gaming. But until this changes, PC gaming won't ever be for everyone or more importantly me. At the moment I don't feel like I'm missing out enough to bother trying The gap is closing though and it's really only Nintendo that's keeping me hanging in with consoles now that everything is ported to PC and when it's done right, it's better on PC*.

*Or Mac ha! There's also mobile and tablet gaming which is still an oxymoron.

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