About 3 years ago I was playing console games almost exclusively. PC games were a pretty rare treat and usually only with games that made sense for PC, such as RTS games. Everything else at the time was just a better proposal on a console. I could sit among my friends and enjoy a single-player game while they watched some TV or even if they played something else entirely. But something happened when I moved out from college. In a really short span of time it seemed like I was playing on the PC quite a bit more than I remembered. My Steam library was filling up at a rapid pace and my time on Xbox Live was slowly parring down. As has been discussed quite a bit recently, PC gaming has made a meteoric comeback, but I want to reflect on why exactly that happened for me personally when I was just so into these console games before.
Skype was a big deal to my friends and I. Originally it started as the easiest-to-setup solution to playing a round of Titan Quest over Steam. Yea, that’s exactly how it started for us. We quickly found that the ease of use was also its biggest reason to stay. No hassling with servers or push-to-talk baloney, just start a call and be done with it. Invite others at will instantly. Speed and ease are the two biggest reasons I tend to adopt lots of things from (Google Chrome and Evernote come to mind) and I think this is why Skype was adopted so quickly.
But the idea of getting onto a group chat every night had already been around. In fact we were doing this almost every night on Xbox Live to play Modern Warfare 2 for a time. But that system always had its limits. When we got to around 6 or more people a lot of problems began to arise, network quality sank and more than often certain people just couldn’t join at all! I also despised how the simplistic interface of the Xbox took forever to get from menu to menu. A fact that has not changed even in recent updates. How we ever put up with this for so long is beyond me, but I think it was just a sign of the times. When we were all able to put up with the lower quality for a trade-off in ease-of-use. Once we discovered Skype it was game over.
Steam was another huge factor in getting me over to the PC. Steam sales, I need to remind all of you, have only really been around in their current form for about 2 or 3 years. And each one typically results in many of us grabbing our wallets and buying multiple copies of games. This is huge though. Over the years I’ve amassed a bigger library of games than I could ever hope to play through, but keeping all of them in one easy place also means I’ve been drawn away from the rack of Xbox games on my dresser to the computer that I was already sitting at. Again, speed and ease, and in this case also cheapness.
Its unfair to a certain extent to say that the lack of new consoles has moved us over to PCs. I don’t really think that’s the reason at all. Graphical prowess today is pretty much where we’ve needed it to be for some time. Most games look incredible and to say that the slight advantage you get on a PC is the main reason to switch would just be something to drive more people away. I do have to pay money to keep my graphics running smooth on a PC. I can’t really deny that. Its the unfortunate by-product of games that will use up as many resources as they can get their hands on.
No, the real reason I’ve made the switch is because PC finally caught up to the modern gaming experience and far surpassed it. PC is now where the innovations are, not consoles. We all remember how shiny achievements were at first and how every other platform adopted it eventually, but now PC is taking the first steps to show us what the more meta experience for gaming can be like. Had a new console come out in the last year it may have been able to show us a new generation of that experience, but unfortunately we didn’t get one. Wii U is poised to do something with the experience, but from what I’ve seen I have my doubts.
Excellent distribution platforms, ease-of-use when it comes to communication and even simple things like a central library or border-less windows have all pushed me back to the original PC gaming rig that I grew on. We’re not going to LAN parties anymore (unfortunately), but we’re still having a blast!