BIGsheep – With my new PC imminent and your foray into Champions online, it seems that we’ve both been using our PCs a little more than usual recently. I think I can speak for both of us, however, when I say that our home consoles are our format of choice when it comes to gaming, but why do you personally play that in preference to your home computer?
Manuel – It just sort of evolved that way for me, I’m not sure about yourself? I began playing games on a home PC but then as soon as the Mega Drive came out I began to split my time. When the last generation of console hardware began to move online and made that leap over and above the possibilities of a modest PC—at the time—I really took my cues from that and shifted over.
That said, I do still play on a PC, just not anywhere near as much as I used to. But the bug is beginning to bite again… how about yourself?
BIGsheep – For me, it’s mostly about comfort. With my Xbox and PlayStation I am fully capable of lying down on the sofa, head cricked towards the telly and controller cupped to my chest playing all manner of games. Input for a PC isn’t quite so flexible and it’s that aspect that doesn’t make me automatically think of booting it up when I want to relax. As much as there is the possibility of lapboards and wireless keyboards, I remember trying to operate a set-top internet box at my Nan’s and I don’t recall the experience fondly.
Manuel – Yeah, I suppose as you end up maturing in life it’s natural to want to progress towards communal spaces with partners/family as well, rather than be holed up in an office or a bedroom staring at a monitor from a couple of inches away. I think if the PC can shed that image however, and incorporate a little more friendliness towards traditional AV setups, there really isn’t any reason a media/gaming rig couldn’t sit happily underneath a TV with the rest of the kit.
Indeed that’s the role my laptop is gradually being assimilated into. HDMI out, straight into the amp, and you’ve got yourself another gaming rig that you can happily sit back on the sofa to enjoy. Wireless keyboards and mice are easy enough to use in that position, and as the 360 pad works… the barriers are broken down.
Even though you’re mostly a console gamer though, given that you have the one type of job in the world that’d let you play games at work, I suspect you end up fiddling with quite a few PC titles nevertheless?
BIGsheep – I must say that I do play more PC games at work than at home. It’s possibly because I’m already at my desk and the ability to simply relax with a controller in a chair designed to make you sit up straight is a simply impossible. For the past few years, too, my work PC been far more powerful than my home machine, meaning that if I did want to play anything on a PC I would have to play it at work.
Most of those that I do play tend to be social games, whether it be an MMO like World of Warcraft or a co-op campaign in Dawn of War II. This is partly because all of us are in the same gaming boat and given a superfast network it would be a shame to waste it. Even single-player experiences such as Armadillo Run turned into large social sessions where the four of us in our corner of the office would all hack away on the same level, trying to construct the quickest and cheapest solution before the others.
BIGsheep – Thinking about it, I tend to go in waves between the two devices. Back at the start of the nineties, my brother and I received our beloved NES one Christmas and for the next few years we would not be shifted from its rectangular controls. Come 1994, however, we took in our first PC and our habits changed; for as long as our limited graphics card and a RAM upgrades could sustain us we moved into the world of Hexen, Theme Park and the Lucasarts’ back catalogue. Although during our NES days we pined for an Amiga and then looked on enviously at the SNES generation when we were WASDing, it was more a case of we played what we had as our pocket money simply couldn’t stretch to both.
Manuel – It’s funny that was the case for most people, because buying a PC back in those days was horrendously expensive. I think the lure of the old ‘it’s educational!’ excuse got the better of most families though. Educational my ass, unless you consider learning about tweaking memory management to get Commander Keen running to be educational. Actually, come to think about it, those types of things probably led me to both of my careers today. Bugger, maybe there was something to it. Certainly didn’t feel like it at the time.
BIGsheep – Back in the day I went angling for an Amiga before we settled on our Hewlett Packard 486 66Mhz, and we were steered towards the latter exactly because it was “educational”. I’m glad to see we weren’t the only ones sold that line.
Manuel – A part of me still misses the customisation possibilities with the PC in those early days, none of them were ever the same. If you had a sound card then you were rich, and if you had money for memory upgrades… well, colour me impressed. I think consoles lack that sense of ownership a little bit, although they obviously strive for that within the NXE and XMB with avatars, themes etc. It never really feels like you’re connected to the hardware though.
BIGsheep – There is a large part of me which enjoys the lack of hassle, though. I’m of an age now where I just want things to work and whilst I can see what you mean about ownership, I don’t think it was ever a factor for me with a computer; I simply stuck it under the desk and hoped it had enough ventilation to survive. I have seen friends pimp their machines with glass sides, neon strips and water cooling, and I can tell they get a great deal of pride from showing off their finished article but I don’t fall in that bracket.
Manuel – Did you ever build your own kit back in the day? Will you be doing so with your new machine?
BIGsheep – I have built a couple from scratch during my time. Ordering in countless components from various online retailers, waiting eagerly for all them to arrive and then slotting them together with a selection of miscellaneous screwdrivers before nervous turning it on and hoping I’d attached the heat sync correctly. I have been privy to a friend turning on their fresh new build only to discover their heat sync was not attached correctly: the smell of melting processor was not one I care to remember.
And I think it’s that reason why I stopped. It was fun in its day simply being able to say “I built that” but it’s an expensive mistake should you make one. The last couple I’ve bought have all been through sites that will allow you to spec out exactly the components you want. It’s then up to them to piece it together and check it doesn’t implode on itself once the power button is pressed meaning a burden is off my shoulders. It may cost a fraction more but I think it’s worth it for the piece of mind, and it’s still cheaper than picking one straight off the shelf at PC World.
Manuel – Certain genres will simply always drag me back to the PC though. Simulation titles like Civilisation, Sim City or any from that ilk have never found a home anywhere else, and I can’t see that being the case any time soon. What about you, are there any game types that you simply cannot envision working on a traditional console?
BIGsheep – I was chatting with a PC gamer just the other day along these lines regarding IL-2, a recently released hardcore flight sim that used be call the PC its home but has now made an outing on the Xbox 360. He basically summed it up by calling it “disappointing” because a controller simply doesn’t have the quantity of buttons needed to deliver a full on simulation. As such, the game was a much dumbed downed version of what he had experienced on the PC.
And there are countless others in the same boat, World of Warcraft for one. No matter how much it is rumoured I can never see that reaching Microsoft’s or Sony’s systems.
It’s not a bad thing, though. It’s nice to have specialist games that can only be played proficiently on the PC, just as in the same way that only certain genres work on the DS or the Wii or on the forthcoming Natal. I suppose the truly devise genre, though, is First Person Shooters. But I think that might be a whole other kettle of fish.