The Conversion – Switching from Console to PC Gaming Part I
There are many reasons to explain exactly what has brought around my recent decision to spend the next few years focusing on PC gaming, rather than console gaming. Effectively meaning that I’ll most likely sit the next generation of consoles out.
With a new baby on the way and an diminishing disposable income, I’d long ridden myself of my Xbox Live account. Still bombarded by overpriced games on demand and arcade titles, a barrage of adverts, and long load times, I noticed no degradation in service. The only thing I couldn’t do was play the upcoming Counter Strike: Global Offensive online.
Which would have been a shame, except when I paid less to download it on Steam, and play it online for free. This really was my first toe in the water of PC gaming for a number of years. With the Steam client and marketplace proving to be an irresistible lure, I soon added the Left For Dead and Portal titles to my collection. The Source Engine being something that my AMD Radeon 5450 could just about handle.
But that wasn’t the only thing I started to pick up as I browsed deeper into their catalogue. Steam sales were throwing classic titles like Deus Ex, Tomb Raider and the Thief series out for a pittance. It wasn’t long before I’d built a collection that resembled some of the many classics I’d had to get rid of years ago as I upgraded consoles.
Adding to that were frustrations with the Xbox dashboard updates which seemed to always hit me on the infrequent occasions when I managed to get on there (Windows and Firefox download updates in the background which just require a restart, why the hell haven’t they got the 360 doing this yet?) and seeing games I wanted like Dishonored and The Witcher II going significantly cheaper on the PC. I also needed to seriously de-clutter my collection of tech as the new baby would take reign of the spare room that I’d been stationed in.
I soon added up the pros and cons of PC gaming and the pros won. PC gaming would provide a sustainable and longer term solution to whatever gaming I would be able to do over the next 10+ years.
I’d strongly argue that Steam was also a huge contributing factor in re-igniting my interest in PC gaming. Particularly in challenging the purchasing landscape against both brick and mortar stores and other more closed digital content providers like the Xbox Live marketplace. The first Steam sale I paid any attention to had an extremely profound impact on my gaming library without sending me to rack and ruin.
It’s also proved that you don’t have to own a console to have a sensible, well laid out and smart front end to your gaming experience.
Were Steam a closed market place then no doubt I wouldn’t talk so highly of it, but thanks to 3rd party retail sites like Greenman Gaming, Amazon and Gamersgate, even when Steam aren’t on one of their blow out sales or one off discounts, then you can always bank on finding some sort of deal elsewhere. And that’s before you even consider other web stores where you can download digital games and then link them into your Steam account.
Let’s start off with a full disclosure on my gaming history before we delve into what has been a thoroughly challenging… yet enjoyable recent conversion from traditional console gaming to PC.
I basically had the Commodore 64 joystick thrust into my hand from a very early age by my dad. The Sega Master System and Mega Drive were soon overtaken by the PlayStation 1 and 2. After those I made the switch to the Xbox 360 when it became apparent that Sony didn’t give a toss about the European market and put a substantial delay behind the PS3 release.
Throughout my PS1 and PS2 era of gaming, my Dad had a regular pattern of buying a new computer or graphics card and then passing the old machine/GFX over to me and my brother to play with. This was during the time when PC gaming was going through an exponential upheaval in terms of graphics and technology. It was a fast shifting landscape, but it allowed me the luxury of playing titles like Doom, Half Life and Deus Ex. Magical memories indeed until I took a low paying job and moved out of home.
From that point, with a tight income, consoles seemed to be a smarter choice. You could back then set your watch by the generation time span and I knew one console would last X amount of time. Filling the need for Internet, I spent the next 10 years rocking cheap and cheerful PCs which pretty much met the two requirements I had for them, writing and browsing online. A number of years ago I started adding film making to my list of hobbies.
Despite several upgrades and improvements on my previously purchased PC, I came to a point over a year ago now where I simply had to buy a new one. The old one was a creaking wreck despite numerous HD reformat, OS re-installations and RAM upgrades. I also had something of a business need to start editing HD video, something I hadn’t anticipated when I bought my previous computer.
Still I didn’t go mad, I ended up splashing out a modest sum on a refurbished Dell Inspiron 580 (with an i5 processor, 8GB DDR3 RAM and a 2TB HDD). It met the need for video editing perfectly, and the included AMD Radeon 5450 did a good enough job of convincing me that a return to PC gaming was the right way to go.
Still, as I found out with a kindly gifted copy of Saints Row The Third by the lovely Zeth and Amy, the card simply wasn’t up to scratch for more demanding modern day games. It certainly wasn’t going to see me through the next few years that was for sure. I was going to need an upgrade.
Now that we’ve caught up with my sorry back story, check out Games Fiends next week for Part II where I’ll cover both the shopping for the card and a first class schoolboy error that saw me spending more than I had anticipated.