I'm just a kid that tries to cover PC building and gaming the best he can despite running on a beyond-destitute gaming laptop from years past (2007- seven years!) and also talks about assorted Japanese fuckery like No More Heroes and Kingdom Hearts.
I'm also a freelance writer, have made quite a bit of money off of it ($1500 a year for a then-16 year old? Fuckin' sweet!) and I make a lot of jokes (too much) about penises and whatnot.
Keep your expectations low and you'll have a great time. Keep your expectations around the middle and you'll have a good time, but don't have high expectations around me because I am literally incapable of not disappointing you.
If you're reading this, you're likely one of the following parties:
*Today's CBlog recapper (hi!) *A member of the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race, like myself, who wants to see if this guide is up to par
*Someone who has an interest in PC gaming but either doesn't know where to start or wants to expand their pre-existing knowledge
*Some other specimen of loser
Welcome, one and all.
This is a guide that I'd recommend to anyone who wants to get into PC gaming. It may not be the most thorough- because if it was, I could fill a book with it- but the information presented here should be simple enough for anyone to understand without having to know what the difference between a North Bridge and South Bridge is.
Also, this isn't necessarily what PC gaming is about. PC gaming can be an alternative choice to consoles if their exclusives don't interest you or something you enjoy along with consoles if you enjoy the platform's various perks. The "Glorious PC Gaming Master Race" arrogance is a joke- PC gaming is for everyone.
No, seriously. You don't need to spend hella cash to be a PC gamer. You can be using an ancient machine that can't even run Crysis (peasant) but you're still just as much a PC gamer as the guy with six monitors in Eyefinity with 2 R9 290s screeching inside his tower.
Even if you can't play modern titles, there's plenty of options from older games out there for you. PC games simply have a longer lifespan- people still play Counter Strike: Source, and that shit came out, what, a decade ago?
With console-equivalent hardware in the present day, you won't necessarily get console-equivalent performance, but you can still most certainly enjoy playable experiences. Unlike when it comes to consoles, you have a choice about how you play- don't like how higher settings make you lag? Turn them down for smoother performance.
PC gaming- and gaming, period- isn't all about processing power and graphics. Those things are important, yes, and if you have a lot of either or both, more power to you, but you don't need to spend 400 dollars to experience PC gaming for what it is.
With that out of the way, let's get into the meat of this guide.
Benefits and Drawbacks of PC Gaming
The benefits of PC gaming are numerous.
Backwards compatibility, for instance, is much better here. Even if you happen to be burdened with an especially ancient machine, you can still comfortably play older, classic games like Deus Ex or Half-Life.
You can also play emulators. So long as you own the console and game in question and legally acquire your ROMs or ISOs (pffffffff-) there's literally no consequence for playing your favorite classic console titles on your computer. You can make them look better with emulation, too!
No, I'm serious. Get Project 64 and play Super Mario 64 at a ridiculously high resolution with ridiculously high filtering and antialiasing on (which, yes, even a bad computer can do easily) and tell me it isn't ridiculously awesome.
Indie gaming, too, is on the rise. Indie games typically have low prices, try things that are simply infeasible with AAA budgets, and tend to support weaker hardware well, since most of them don't have much in terms of graphical horsepower. Even a game like Trine, which looks absolutely stunning at max settings, is still very much playable on my seven-year old laptop with all the settings turned down, and it still looks beautiful.
Remember The Stanley Parable? Yeah, well, there's hundreds of other games available that also probe your favorite genres in interesting ways. Feel free to explore.
Oh, and mods. The Stanley Parable, Portal, Team Fortress, DOTA...yeah, those big names all started out as mods of something else. Mods on PC provide all kinds of benefits that you simply can't get elsewhere, and in some extreme cases, you can come across completely new games created and released, for free, by a dedicated group of modders.
Hell, you could mod one of your favorite games and see what you can do. Maybe you'll be the next Robin Walker- in the PC gaming arena, the customers are also creators, and if you make something really, really cool, chances are a lot of people are going to notice it and you may find yourself with a hefty bag with a dollar sign sitting in your lap.
This is, of course, where we hit the downsides.
PC gaming can be complicated. Sometimes a game you bought just didn't work because your hardware couldn't support it, sometimes it's a pain to adjust all these settings for your optimal experience, sometimes you see all these crazy words like GPU and RAM thrown around and you have no idea how they relate to you.
And that's okay.
PC gaming is a learning experience. If you're willing to put forth the time, effort and research, it's a better experience.
The huge downside comes to console exclusives, however. Your Halos. Your Marios and your Uncharteds.
It still doesn't mean you don't have a choice, however. Personally, I've had a PS3, Wii and an old laptop this past generation, and that's how I've been enjoying my time as a gamer. Even if you're dying for these next-gen exclusives, you can reasonably save up for a PC alongside them. In this modern age, you need to buy a PC anyways- why not spend a little extra and get something that can also play some pretty sweet games?
With that in mind, let's proceed to the next big point.
Buying a Prebuilt vs. Buying a Laptop vs. Building a Machine Yourself
Let's just get this out of the way: to get the best for your money, build it yourself. You don't need to be an expert to build it yourself. You don't need to take classes to build it yourself, and hell, you don't even need to build it yourself, you can just hire someone else to build it for you or ask a tech-savvy friend really nicely to.
The information is there, it's free, and if you educate yourself, you can save quite a bit of money. If it really looks too hard for you, just buy the right parts and consult a shop to build it for you.
Don't buy a prebuilt. Just don't.
Laptops will see you get significantly less performance than you would for the same price you could pay for a high-end gaming PC, but if portability is important to you, that's fine. Search for a laptop with the highest specs at the right price for you and go for it.
As a warning, though, laptops aren't really made for gaming, even the actual "gaming" laptops. Computer hardware gets really hot, and it's not supposed to do that. Bigger machines have better ventilation and cooling. Laptops are tight and packed-in, and their demise is pretty much inevitable. If you buy a laptop you plan to use for gaming frequently, it's most likely going to last you about three to four years before it starts dying on you. Mine is dying on me, but I can still salvage performance in some of my favorite games and I still proudly consider myself a PC gamer.
I hope that this guide has made some things clear to you.
There's a ton to cover about PC gaming, there's a lot I could cover about hardware, about vendor selection, about pricing and about troubleshooting and about repairs...but this is a beginner's guide, and I'm sure a beginner has taken in quite a bit already.
I've given you all you really need to get into PC gaming. You know most of the important information. You can dig for more with the links I gave you. You can always ask more questions if you aren't sure, and since this is the internet, there will always be an answer.
Also, don't fucking buy an Alienware. Even if you defy my advice and choose to buy a prebuilt, try these guys if you live in the US.