The many splendid sides of PC gaming

On the Internet, people focus on the negative to the detriment of the positive, and nowhere is this evidenced more than among gamers. Just one criticism of a platform or company can be taken as proof that somebody “hates” whatever’s been criticized. 

I’ve made my fair share of complaints about PC gaming — from the hassle it can take to get certain games running, to the long-standing piracy issue, to saying some PC games are simply “alright” instead of saying they’re flawlessly brilliant. Usually, I’d call people idiots for only focusing on the positive and accentuating the negative, but to be totally, completely honest … I have not done the positives justice. 

In a move that some will call cynical, I decided to lay out my love for PC gaming — because I use my computer for gaming more than I use consoles these days, and it pains me to think that I’m considered a hater of the platform. Commence the love!

It would have been easy to hit the really obvious points, such as dedicated servers, highly customizable control options, and the like. I tried to find a few aspects of PC gaming that don’t get lauded quite so much, so please don’t get angry that I didn’t mention your particular favorite thing. 

Games Are Good, Old Games Are Good, Good Old Games Are Old Games That Are Good

As much as people love to go on about powerful computers running gorgeous new titles that shame the Xbox 360 and PS3, one of the best aspects of PC gaming, to me, is the ready access one has to obsolete classics. The visual splendor of Crysis is fleeting, but the ready gratification of DOOM II is eternal. 

Thanks to the Good Old Games service, a significant number of terrific, old school classics are available at a great price and are almost always compatible with your current machine. If I get a sudden urge to play Blood, or Messiah, or Planescape: Torment, it’s right there. I could click a link now and be winning at life within the hour! 

Home Of The Weird

You wouldn’t get a game like The Void on consoles. I’m not even a fan of The Void, but I still find it a respectable example of what PC gaming brings to the table. The fact a game like that can get made, and even do quite well, is testament to the great creative freedom that PC developers can get. 

I think of some of the titles scheduled to come out — A Valley Without Wind, Dark Scavenger, Jeklynn Heights — and have to admit that you wouldn’t get such eccentric ideas on a console. They might all end up being terrible, but then they could end up as brilliant examples of genius. The important thing is, they’re wonderfully weird and they all have a chance to prove themselves. 

I’ve become a big fan of letting the market decide the fate of games, rather than the small group of out-of-touch executives that control whether a project lives or dies in the retail space. Mobile gaming and PC gaming put more control in the hands of the market, and we’ve seen some big success stories because of it. 

I think Amnesia would never have become such a hit were it not for the PC medium. 

Someone Is Always Online, Playing Everything, Always

I don’t know what it is about PC gaming, but you can fire up any online game, no matter how old or obscure, and almost guarantee that there’s a session running. While games that aren’t Call of Duty or Halo quickly see their online communities disappear on the Xbox 360 and (to a lesser extent) PS3, it seems that a community will form around almost any PC title, and it’ll stick around. 

It’s because of this curious mentality that games like Counter-Strike and Killing Floor are still alive and kicking, and that I can still get my Xenomorph action in Aliens vs. Predator. It’s kind of insane, but plenty welcome. I bet I could even play Dark Sector online right now if I wanted to. Not that I can be bothered, but knowing it’s possible is a warm comfort. 

It’s Satisfying To Make A Borked Game Work

Some don’t like to admit it, but PC gaming can be a hassle sometimes. Getting games to work with various operating systems and graphics card drivers can be a pain in the arse, not to mention the time one can spend tweaking the settings to get the optimal performance. However, once one has gone through the obligatory bullshit, it feels pretty damn awesome. 

There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with installing a game, finding it runs like crap or looks horrible, and then playing around with its guts and getting gorgeous results. Even if the software runs fine and you just need to switch a few settings in the options menu, there’s an egotistical charm in clicking “Ultra” on all the graphics options and feeling like you have massive metaphorical penis. 

And what is PC gaming for, if not having a huge, fake, dick?

Digital Distribution Done Right

When I think of digital distribution taking over the industry, I want to crawl into a cave and never come out. The prospect of major publishers gaining total market control should be concerning to anybody who cares about videogames, and the pathetic digital efforts seen in the console market should demonstrate why. 

On the Xbox 360, we can buy digital versions of games that cost considerably less in a physical format. Same goes for the PSP, which demands money for games that can have cheaper special editions at retail. The PS3/PSP Minis are a failed attempt at countering iTunes with games that cost far too much for a market used to $0.99 titles. Then there’s Nintendo, with online marketing efforts that resemble someone from the Special Olympics being forced into a race with Jesse Owens. 

Compare this to Steam and Good Old Games, where classics are laughably affordable (no old game on GOG is more than $10.00) and brand new titles typically start out at ten bucks less than their console counterparts. Not to mention, Steam is famous for ludicrous sales where games can be bought for a pittance, and developers have a lot more freedom over their prices. You’re not forced into fixed pricing structures with terrible fake money like on Xbox Live Arcade. 

It’s Just Kinda Good, Isn’t It?

As you may have noticed, Destructoid is ramping up its PC gaming coverage considerably. We have a dedicated PC editor in Jordan Devore, Josh Tolentino and Maurice Tan are always looking for obscurities and I am reaching out to more PC developers to get extended review coverage. We’re taking this silliness seriously, folks. 

PC gaming is a fascinating creature, still utterly unique compared to console gaming, something strangely on the “outside” of modern gaming, despite being an older medium and remaining the leader in terms of graphical power and raw developer ambition. It’s exciting, and we love it, even when PC gaming hasn’t been given its fair share of the spotlight. 

Yeah, we’ll bitch and moan about some of the bullshit that happens, because sometimes there are issues that really deserve to be complained about, but there’s also a lot of good, some of which hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.  

I love PC gaming, as do many Destructoid editors. As do many of you. Hopefully that love becomes more apparent, and then we’ll have a legitimate reason to call you an idiot if you start saying how much we hate it. 

That was a joke, by the way. 

Kinda. 

Jim Sterling