Earlier this year, I finally bit the bullet and got back into something I’d abandoned almost a decade ago: PC gaming. The last game I had played on PC before this past February was Command & Conquer Generals: Zero Hour. That tells you how long it’s been… and really, I got out of it just because I didn’t really have the time. This year, though, after writing about the constant Steam sales for this site, I finally got motivated enough to get back into it… and ran head-first into many of the exact reasons folks say they dislike it.
Hardware: Does My Rig Run It?
I didn’t buy a $2,000 rig, because only insane people spend $2,000 on a gaming machine, but I did have a rig built with a decent graphics card, power supply, 8GB RAM, yada yada yada. So imagine my surprise when I can’t run Crysis, a game that my system falls well within the minimum specs of. Or my beloved Zero Hour, which won’t even run on an OS newer than Vista. Do you know what happens when I put a 5-year-old PS3 game in my PS3? It works. If I do that with a PC game, I first have to do a couple of hours of research just to make sure my apparently overpowered system can even load the damn thing… and let’s not even get into driver updates, patches, and whether or not those games with online DRM will still be playable a few years from now. At least, we won’t get into that in this particular paragraph.
Digital Only = No Room for Error
Back to Crysis for a second. There’s no reason this game shouldn’t run on my system (I even tried Compatbility Mode), but whatever, I’ll just get a refund, right? Nope. The majority of PC games are digital only now. That may not be a problem, necessarily: in fact, you can take advantage of great sales from places like Green Man Gaming, Steam, etc., but that also means that if you bought it digitally (which of course you did) you damn well better be absolutely sure it’ll run on your machine. I wasted $20 on Crysis and all I have to show for it is a “0 minutes played” message on my Steam account. What’s worse is they KNOW it doesn’t work for me; they can see I’ve tried and failed to play it, yet no refunds for me because I was an idiot and assumed that my BRAND NEW PC could run a game that came out in 2007. EA wasn’t any help either, only to say that there should be no reason my game wouldn’t run. I try to only buy games that have demos available so I can test them out first, but demos are becoming more and more rare every day.
Is it Steam? GFWL? Origin?
I recently picked up Batman: Arkham Asylum’s Game of the Year edition because it was dirt cheap and I’m working on replacing my PS3 games with PC versions so I can keep playing them after I sell my PS3. Maybe I should hang onto it, because even though it’s sold through Steam (and Amazon), the game won’t run unless you’ve got Games for Windows Live running too. Got Windows 8? Then the game won’t run for you without you downloading the newest version of GFWL, which requires an Xbox account that I didn’t want but was forced to sign up for just to play my damn game. Want to play Mass Effect 3 on PC, but you only shop on Steam? Then you’re out of luck, because it requires Origin. Like Assassin’s Creed? Better hope uPlay stays operational. That’s four services that are required for seperate games… or, you could play on a console and – oh, I don’t know – YOUR GAMES JUST WORK.
The Supporters are Crazy
Go into the comments section of any gaming website. Seriously, any site that’s not specifically dedicated to only Nintendo. Within fifteen seconds, you’ll find someone saying something like this:
“That’s nice and all, but if you want to be a REEL GAMUR, get a PC, noob. PC MASTER RACE FTW!!1!!”
I get it, you really, really like that box you pumped a lot of money into. Hey, I like the boxes I pump money into as well, and there’s no shortage of snobbery when it comes to consoles either, but there’s just something… extra grating… about the PC fanboys. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s like they believe they’re better than everyone else or something. Oh, wait, that’s exactly it actually.
I’ll admit that there are some bright spots for PC gaming: the games are usually at least $10 cheaper, most times even lower because there’s actual open competition between marketplaces instead of Xbox Live and PSN’s “buy it here or buy it nowhere” pricing structure. Well-built PCs can make the most modern games — and even some notoriously glitchy ones — look astounding. The indie scene is ludicrously packed with quality games.
I just wish it wasn’t so frustrating. There are friends who keep telling me “keep at it, it’ll get better eventually,” or “you’ll learn to love all of PC gaming’s quirks.” That sounds less like fun and more like Stockholm Syndrome.