Gaming, as a media platform, is fairly unique as far as creating conflict goes. While you are hardly likely to hear the average TV viewer having a heated debate with a friend about why Virgin Media is clearly a better option than Sky, gamers will fight to the death to defend the things they love, whether that be a specific game, console, or even a style of play.
The past 8 years have been rocked by the latest generation of the console war. “XBOX SUX PS3 IS DA BEST” and “LOL XBOX LIVE IZ BETR DAN PSN” have ravaged YouTube comments since the inception of the website, tearing apart families and turning friends against each other. However, in the background, a more subtle war has been occuring. Where the console gamers shout and snarl at one another, the PC gamers laugh over their wine glasses in an almost pitying way. The recent announcements of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox O ne led to a great deal of snickering from PC players, with TotalBiscuit (YouTube PC gaming reviewer) frequently joking about the technical specs of the consoles, when compared to the PC. The revelation that Microsoft had in fact been using PCs to demonstrate Xbox One games did little to stop the smug superiority from PC gamers on Twitter.
Of course, they have a point. Technology-wise, the PC wins hands down. Both the Xbox One and the PS4 come with 8GB of memory, while a high-end gaming PC will usually have in excess of 16GB. The GPU of the PS4 has a capacity of 1.84 teraflops, while an NVIDIA GTX Titan has a somewhat excessive 4.5 teraflops. Flexibility is another big bonus for PC gaming, with many games allowing you to play using a controller or a gamepad, adjust a larger amount of settings when necessary and distribution services such as Steam allowing for games to be installed on multiple devices at once without needing a disc.
The main benefit of PC gaming, in my eyes at least, is the vast amount of possibilities provided by modding. Modding is something that the console gaming scene lacks, while the PC gaming scene has embraced it. Additional maps, gameplay tweaks, new characters, new weapons and new game modes are just some of the things made possible by modding. As well as hugely increasing the playability of a game, modding also allows aspiring programmers to experience developing game software without having to start from the ground up with a new project of their own. It also allows for a great deal of fun and interesting gameplay mechanics to be introduced to games, such as Arma II’s famous DayZ mod, or the Carmageddon mod for Grand Theft Auto IV.
Despite this, I still hold console gaming in high regard. Without console gaming, some of the most successful and enjoyable game franchises in the world may not exist today; Halo (as an FPS, at least), Metal Gear Solid and – a childhood favourite – Crash Bandicoot were all developed for consoles, not PC. Game developers tend to aim their games at consoles, which is why PC games can occasionally seem like poor ports of console-optimised games. Skyrim, for example, changed the standard Elder Scrolls menu system to be more console friendly, which was appreciated by console players but proved a slight annoyance to PC players.
The main reason I have stuck with console gaming throughout my life, though, is the knowledge that the technology I pay money for will still be up to date in 5 years time, something that is a lot less likely in PC gaming. While console generations tend to last at least 5 years, PC technology will have improved hugely in that time, making it very easy for PC gamers to be left behind, having to purchase expensive new components to keep up. As a student with a low income, this isn’t a great prospect in my eyes. In contrast to this, my current Xbox 360 is an original Core model, a model that was discontinued around 5 year ago. Despite its age, it still works just as well as any other Xbox 360, something that wouldn’t be true for an 8 year old PC.
PC gaming, then, is a much more flexible and powerful platform than the console alternative. However, PC gaming is also severely more costly for the consumer. Console gaming, on the other hand, is a one time cost (ideally), that ages far more slowly and requires a great deal less “updating”.