I remember the first time I opened up my very first Computer like it was yesterday. Christmas morning was here and the presents sat neat and tidy underneath the tree. I ran from the top of the stairs yelling “It’s Christmas!” at the top of my lungs. My parents were already sitting in their chairs drinking coffee. My dad gave me his patented nod to let us know that the chaos could commence. Our living room changed from the clean and presentable spot to an almost inhospitable wasteland of wrapping paper, tape, and bows. After wreaking as much havoc as we could my mom says there’s one more that we could open at the same time. We tore back the snowman style wrapping paper to reveal the iconic brown box with blue text of a Dell computer.
This memory is so vivid to me because it was such a special thing at that age. No doubt millions of kids have experienced the same thing over the years and I am even willing to bet that it will continue to happen for at least one hundred more years.
Valve’s head honcho Gabe Newell has announced this week that they will be releasing a brand new gaming console built for the living room next year. They look to base this on a computer but plan to lock it down so it’s not as open as your standard PC. This is almost a requirement for gaming consoles because let’s face it, people are stupid and will inevitably mess it up. This begs the question, are gaming PC’s starting to be phased out by consoles, tablets, and other gaming devices?
PC Gaming has been around for over forty years with virtual versions of games like tic-tac-toe, and very early space shooters like spacewar! and quite a few text based adventure games. Fast forward to the early to mid 80’s and we started seeing titles like Kings Quest on these high resolution bitmap displays. Moving on to the early 90’s id software put out Hovertank 3D and other companies followed suit with games like Star Cruiser and Acolade’s Day of the Viper. Let’s not forget about Wolfenstein 3D which made its debut in 1992. Then in 1993 Doom was released for the 486 PC that revolutionized the world of PC gaming and made the genre of First Person Shooters popular. In 1996 Microsoft’s Windows operating system rose to power and with it came huge interest in hardware accelerated 3D graphics. This is where ATI comes in and creates the ATI Rage, Matrox creates the Matrox Mystique and S3 comes out with the ViRGE. The first game to take advantage of this was Tomb Raider. PC gaming started to grow with the faster graphics accelerators and improving CPU technology. This allowed the best graphics and sounds to be played only on PC. Until this point PC gaming and console gaming were nearly the same experience minus the controller but when the PC hardware boom happened it left consoles in the dust and PC’s have never looked back.
So as you can see PC gaming has quite a rich history. PC gaming will always be known to have much better fidelity because it has the capability for much more processing power, higher resolution, higher frame-rate, anti-aliasing and increased draw distances. The openness also creates a system where anyone can create a game and in turn that reduces the cost of a game. Even now PC games are significantly cheaper than their console counterparts.
The downside has always been the cost and that holds true even today. Developers for console games are given the console and have to try to fit their product into the console and are stuck with the limitations it shipped with. This leads to a flat rate for console prices that usually only goes down. On the other hand developers for PC games don’t have to limit themselves and can create a game that pushes the limit on processing and graphical power with no fear of maxing out their possibilities. Just look at Crysis, most gaming PC’s that existed at the time could play the game just fine. But if you really wanted to max it out your computer would fall to its knees. Just giving people the option for a much better looking experience is huge. You aren’t going to lose a whole lot if you can’t play it on maximum settings but you will gain a lot if you can. Those who want to play these games at maximum settings will have to pay for it with video cards and processors that by themselves will equal the entire cost of a home console. Spending $300 – $500 isn’t uncommon for those looking to really looking to play at maximum settings.
There are still tons of people out there who love PC gaming and regularly attend events called LAN parties. These LAN parties are events where anywhere from 5 to a few thousand people show up to one location and play PC games for a few days getting little sleep and consuming a lot of soda and energy drinks. I have had the privilege of being able to attend the LAN party association of New England’s Nor’Easter LAN party. In 2007 499 other PC gamers, some of which include some of the staff here at NEG, and I descended upon Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington Massachusetts for three days of PC Gaming fun. It’s not just about the fun, it’s about the camaraderie. At this particular LAN party there were 500 of us there for the same thing to enjoy each other’s company and destroy each other in various virtual battlegrounds. Now the Nor’Easter is one of the largest in New England but there are tons of these events around the world that garner more PC gamers. Elmia Exhibition and Convention Centre in Jönköping, Sweden is usually home to trade fairs, boats and car shows but a few times a year its home to the largest LAN party in the world, DreamHack. DreamHack attracts 13,000 PC gamers to bring their own computers to play tons of games. The event is usually home to tournaments, giveaways, and live events like concerts and other things to keep people entertained. In short, the history is too rich.
You can ask any PC gamer at a LAN party why the showed up and why do they keep coming back and you’re probably going to get a million different answers. Some are in it for the fun and games, some are in it for the free swag and giveaways, some are in it to see friends from different states. The point of it is that PC gamers are passionate about their platform and will not let it simply go away because of home consoles. PC’s offer an experience like no other console has been able to replicate and that’s exactly why PC’s will always have a place in our lives. As long as developers will continue to develop games on and for PC’s there will always be an audience of extremely passionate gamers waiting and willing to get their hands on it.
Not to mention hardware manufacturers might have a little something to say about this.
So you see no matter how large and popular home consoles like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and their successors become PC gaming will never go away. When a group of people are passionate enough about their cause or livelihoods they won’t just let it be destroyed, they will stand up and fight. As long as there are PC gamers out there to play these games there will always be developers and publishers looking to make some money.