Opinion: The affordability and ease of PC gaming

PC gaming has always just been something I’ve just dabbled in throughout my years as a gamer. During the early years, I had a standard PC that ran some basic games and I even somehow managed to load emulators on the thing which gave me access to a wide array of titles from gaming’s past that would have been impossible otherwise. My gaming teeth was cut on ROMs of Mega Man and Pokemon on the Gameboy Colour and playing Age of Empires II like every other kid of my generation. However, I’ve always gravitated more to the console space, with my first ever game being played on a knock-off NES also like many kids in my age bracket. I moved on to PS1, then to PS2 and then finally found a home on the Xbox 360 where I spent the grand majority of my gaming time.

During this time, PC gaming fell on the backburner with me having a relatively modest gaming PC in 2009 that wasn’t really utilised outside of the occasional LAN and when my Xbox 360 got struck out by lightning once. Up until very recently, I’ve only had that PC I got in 2009 and a few scattered laptops, which were obviously not ideal for modern gaming in any way. It’s not because I didn’t want to upgrade or get a new and shiny PC, I just never had the means and my attention pivoted a lot more to console gaming where I could utilise the second-hand market and game on a budget.

This all changed when I decided to spend a ludicrous amount of money on a brand new PC that is running the latest and best hardware you can buy. I’m talking an Intel i7 8700, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, 256 GB SSD (which has changed my life) and the pièce de résistance, a Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti. If you look up the prices for those parts, in particular the GPU, you’d know that I could have bought a car instead of this PC. I did it because I wanted to future-proof myself and if a 1080 Ti becomes outdated in the next five years then I just give up. I wanted the best money could buy at this point in time and considering I’ve had a PC that survived two floods and was running decade old hardware covered in cobwebs, it was time for an upgrade. I just decided to go to the extreme.

It shocked me how easy it was to get a beast of a system like this. Online retailers offer services to build and test the thing for you which is exactly what I did because like hell am I going to handle a 1080 Ti with these hands that have never built a PC before. I know some PC elitists are shouting at me right now since it’s often considered “easy”, but I’m way too anxious to handle such expensive hardware and there’s a reason I’m typing right now and not wielding a screwdriver in a factory. I also bought everything new which is often not the optimal way because new hardware is ridiculously expensive and the second-hand market is always there. Also with crypto mining being a thing, stock shortages and prices for GPUs skyrocketed, but I still regret nothing because this thing is a tower of beauty.

It crushes anything I throw at it. 4K 60 FPS gaming on some of the most demanding games on max settings? Not a problem. Having a hundred Chrome tabs open while also having twenty programs running and downloads going? Not even breaking a sweat. I’ve never experienced the peak of what a PC gaming system can offer and let me tell you, it’s magic. I can see why PC gamers can become so obsessed with their systems because it gives you so much pleasure in every department that a simple console simply cannot. However, I did have one problem. I had no games.

Well, not exactly zero games as my Steam library had a few titles in it that I got when I dabbled in PC gaming on my laptop that could manage games at bare minimum settings. I also played Dota 2 with a friend for quite some time, on super low settings of course, but that was the extent of it. I needed to populate my Steam library and I was similarly blown away by how easy that was. PC gaming gives you myriad options in order to obtain games that consoles with their walled gardens simply doesn’t. Steam itself has frequent sales outside of the gigantic seasonal sales and if you carefully wishlist the games you want, you can get them for much cheaper than the initial asking price. However, buying games through Steam wasn’t the best option that I took.

Humble Bundle is a fantastic service where you pay an amount of your choosing for a bundle of games and some of the proceeds go to charity. For the price of one discounted game on the PS4, I suddenly got around eight to ten games. Since my library was barren, none of these games were duplicates either. No throwaway Greenlight games either, these were proper titles that still had high prices on Steam. I then decided to sign up for Humble Monthly which gave you even more high-quality titles for the same price as a couple of hours at a bar. My library was ballooning at an incredible rate and I even reached a point where, like many PC gamers, I uttered “I have way too many games”.

Thanks to websites like our good friends over at Cheapgamer, I got the lowdown whenever some awesome sale was happening for games on PC from other retailers such as Green Man Gaming and Good Old Games. There are also key reselling websites that offer some great deals, but those are still in a bit of a moral and ethical grey area. Some of them are more legit than others, but the practice remains a little nefarious, still. However, they are an option.

Then there’s the bevvy of free-to-play games available on the platform. Dota 2 that I mentioned earlier is right there alongside games that perform better on a PC such as Fortnite. My personal favourite free-to-play game is Warframe which gives you hours upon hours of entertainment in a beautiful galaxy with gorgeous visuals for the low price of nothing. You have your MMOs as well, but I still value my time a little bit and those are a bit of a risky road to walk down, but they are still very much open to exploration at some point. Multiplayer titles are fantastic as well with games such as PUBGOverwatchFortnite and CS GO feeling like they belong on a PC.

I experienced this palpable excitement when being a new PC gaming convert. Here are some amazing games that run absolutely beautifully on my prime hardware and I got them for immensely cheap. Obviously, the initial investment of the PC was tough, but you don’t have to go as extreme as I have in order to have a solid gaming experience. If you scrounge the second-hand market, research optimal builds that give you the most value and do it all yourself, you can have a beastly gaming PC for a reasonable price. You can upgrade it in the future too.

The days when I said that PC gaming was “too complicated” are over. It’s often more convenient than its console counterparts and everything just works now thanks to optimisation. If you run into trouble, which is rarely the case, there’s a massive archive of support out there on the internet. I think there’s this misconception that is still happening that PC gaming is for the “elite” and that its complexity is almost impenetrable but take it from a console gamer, it really isn’t. You can even play on your couch like I am with Steam Big Picture mode and a controller and trust me, The Witcher 3 at max settings at 60 FPS is a thing dreams are made of. And I got the whole package for R200.

I’ve pivoted from being a console gamer to being a polymorphic gamer. I play on all my systems and I still heavily utilise my PS4 for most titles, and I have a Switch, but now I can experience everything that gaming has to offer in its best possible form. It’s not a question of one platform being better than the other, they all have their individual strengths and weaknesses, and the fact remains that no matter where you choose to game, you’ll always be in for a good time. I’m glad I gave PC gaming a proper chance and have opened my eyes to what a wonderful world it can be. My gaming horizons are looking mighty sunny at this moment in time. And the frames per second are off the charts.

I am way too tall, played way too many games and I love to write about what we love about games. In the end, I'm just being #Thabolicious

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