Dear Reader, you join me as I embark on a journey, making a decision I never thought I’d make. As I write this I am 24 years old and have been playing computer games for the best part of 18 years, starting when I was around seven years old with my first games machine, the Nintendo Entertainment System. Since then I’ve also owned SNES (what I’d personally consider the holy grail of game systems), a SEGA GameGear, a Gameboy Colour, a Playstation, a Playstation 2, a Dreamcast, a Gameboy Advance, a Gamecube, a DS Lite, an original Xbox, a Wii, a Xbox 360, a PS3 and even an OnLive kit. This list serves as living proof that I alone have spent far too much money on computer already in my lifetime.
But that’s not the point, the point is that amongst my plethora of gaming machines not even a single PC, Mac or laptop is listed. Sure, I’ve had PCs and laptops (in fact I’m currently writing to you on a Macbook – how elitist of me!) and I’ve played a few PC games here and there but never enough to stake my claim as a PC gamer. I am by very definition a ‘console kid’.
But all of that is soon to change.
With the current generation of consoles on their way out, and a brand new generation coming in, the games industry is in a state of transformation. Cloud storage, 3D, motion control, graphical upgrades, entertainment services and power are the current order of the day with this years E3 summing up the present climate. It says a lot about the games industry when the only companies to really show up to E3 were the third party developers.
Another make or break year looming ever closer with the release of their next consoles Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have seemingly ditched the current gen, palming it off with even more sequels, spinoff titles and shovelware guff to focus on the next decade of gaming: the Wii U, Playstation 4 and Xbox 720 (or whatever they decide to call it in the end). And with that comes advances in technology and changes in defining what a games console actually is. So, lets take a quick moment to reflect on the current generation because, for me personally, it’s been a very interesting one.
From the release of the very first Xbox 360 right up to this very second and this very day (Monday the 9th of July, 19:00pm and 10 seconds to be precise) games consoles have undergone numerous transformations. Xbox Live has finally come to real fruition, Blu-Ray support for PS3, the Playstation Network, Playstation+, downloadable content, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Store, 3D, HD, and you can even watch live TV and movies on your console, listen to music and chat with your friends, a far cry from the days of Pacman and Alex Kidd. Games consoles aren’t just about games anymore, they sell a variety of different products and services, and if the rumours and leaks of what’s to come from the upcoming generation of consoles are proved to be true, the shift from games will move ever further.
On a personal level this has thrown up a dilemma I’ve really never had to face before. My choice was always about which console and company to back but over the past few years as games consoles have drifted away from the very thing they were created to do – allow you to play games at home – I’ve become more and more disillusioned with console gaming as a whole. With every service added and new piece of content that’s available I become more and more disinterested. Games consoles were often sold on the very fact they allowed you to play computer games at home, the perfect bedroom companion. Now the likes of Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are intent on taking over your living room rather than your bedroom, providing an all round entertainment hub than a games console.
I’m a single, 24 year old male who still lives with his parents, who has a job he doesn’t particularly want and has a few hobbies he enjoys – music and computer games. I don’t want to be able to watch Sky on my Xbox, I have a Sky set-top box for that. I don’t want to listen to music on my console, I have an iPod. I don’t want to surf the web on my PS3 because I have laptops that do a much better job. I don’t want an entertainment hub for the family.
I just want to play some cracking games.
Is that too much to ask for? It wasn’t before but it seems like it is now and suddenly I find myself turning to the side of gaming I’ve always neglected – the PC. In fact, even as I write this I’m taking the plunge - I’m building a PC from scratch without any prior knowledge of doing so before and my parts are on their way. I am no longer interested in the next Xbox or the next Playstation, sure I’ll probably pick one or both up eventually but the way things are heading, they won’t cater for me.
Instead I look towards the blooming free-to-play PC gaming market, the incredible indie games, Steam, the huge library of exciting releases on their way (Guild Wars 2, Amnesia: Machine for Pigs, Phantasy Star Online 2, DOTA2, SimCity, Elder Scrolls: Online, Torchlight 2, Arma 3, Shootmania, Xenonauts, and Black Mesa, to name but a few) amazing titles that are already available on PC like Diablo 3 and Arma 2′s Day Z mod and games that will be simply better on PC than on consoles (DOOM 3: BFG Edition, XCOM, Borderlands 2 and Far Cry 3). It’s upon realising how much great gaming content there is on PC that making this the decision becomes an easy one to make.
That’s not to say my love affair with console gaming is totally over. I’ll still buy and play console games and I’ll probably still enjoy them, but as I look to the future I can’t see myself getting as much out of my consoles as I used to. The whole reason I’m finally splashing the cash and buying a gaming PC is to preserve of the idea of a machine that’s main purpose is to play games on. Building my own gaming PC will act as a way of future proofing the gaming ideals I’ve instilled and grown up with ever since I unwrapped that NES at Christmas.
-Kieran E. Roycroft