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The Quixotic Engineer

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Why Console Gaming is Better Than PC Gaming

I had originally considered a more moderate title for this post, but I thought a bit of tongue-in-cheek flame baiting might be fun. First, a bit of exposition: outside of the RTS genre, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool console gamer. PC elitists frequently scoff at console controls, the mouse and keyboard interface for shooters becoming a virtual sacred cow among those raised on Quake and Unreal Tournament. As someone who loves lively pointless debating, I've decided to strike back and offer my perspective on why console gaming is better than PC gaming.

#1: The Posture

To quote Bill Nye the Science Guy, consider the following:

Console Gaming

Gamers and couches go together like zombies and shopping malls. Let's face it, most sedentary relaxing activities take place on a couch. They're comfortable for both sitting and lying down and it's virtually impossible to get any work done while on one. Now contrast this with the following:

Console Gaming

I dare anyone to try and play a PC shooter in anything but an upright sitting position. Call me lazy (true) and insult my posture (also true), but after working at a computer all day I have no interest in assuming the same position in my leisure time.

#2: The Controls

Console Gaming

As any handyman will tell you, use the right tool for the job. Let's face it, standard keyboards are not designed with gaming in mind. Moving with the WASD control scheme is at best like writing a novel with an oversized novelty pencil; you can do it, but it's sub-optimal and there are better tools available.

Of course, what PC gamer gladly clamour about is the precision of mouse aiming. This is, of course, a strong point of contention in my mind. See, I like a bit of imprecision in my shooter games; it gives a game that run-and-gun, "relying on instinct" feel. The precision needed to headshot someone from half a mile away with a mouse is more akin to the later levels of Trauma Center: Under the Knife than to an actual firearm.

#3: The Cost / Technical Requirements

Gaming is an expensive hobby, just ask any PS3 owner (zing). However, this cost is compounded by the ridiculous system requirements of cutting edge PC games. To keep up requires frequent upgrades to your system. Ponying up $500 for a new video card to run Crysis on the lowest graphics setting is utterly inconceivable in my mind.

Furthermore, with the endless PC hardware permutations it's often a toss up as to whether or not a game will run on your particular setup. If it doesn't, you have hours of potentially fruitless forum reading / driver & patch downloading ahead. As a software engineering student, I'm a fairly technically minded guy, but even I prefer the convenience of coming home with a console game and knowing that it will work from the moment I put the disc in.


Before I loose this fairly inflammatory piece on the world, I'd like to emphasize its generally facetious nature and also make a few concessions. I'm well aware that PC gaming does many things spectacularly well. One could argue that most console games are ported over PC eventually, so the game selection is rather terrific (although lacking in Nintendo and platformers). While Xbox Live and Playstation Network are good and getting better, they're years behind the online capabilities of PC games. The modding community is also especially top-notch, and having complete control over the platform you play on is definite boon. It's that very control that, unfortunately, leads to gross inconvenience when things don't work.

Ultimately, your choice of platform comes down to a cost-benefit analysis with your own particular values. As someone who appreciates convenience, comfort and cost over customization, processing power and control precision, I'm going to stick with console gaming. Snobbery is for jerks; either way you choose to game, game on!



  • It's odd to me that people bring up cost as the reason to be a console gamers.
    I've always seen console gaming as more expensive. I need a pc anyway, so I can justify spending the money on it. The only difference between a study pc and a gaming pc for me is the video card. I can get by perfectly fine on a $AU200 video card. That's Australian dollars.

    I can make a up to date-ish gaming pc for $AU600. (recycling that hard drive, monitor and peripherals). Obviously I have to put it together myself though (which being a dork, I enjoy). It would last me a couple of years.

    If I buy a ps3 in Australia it costs $AU1000 (or $700 for the soon to be released nerfed version), an xbox $700.
    Additionally for some strange reason 'next gen' console games cost more then their PC versions.

    For me, buying a pc is cheaper and it's more useful. Plus once I've cannibalized the parts for my next pc, I can merge the left overs with old parts to pass a whole computer on to my siblings.

    I was in a lecture on the games industry in Australia, they were pretty depressed about it. Games companies in Australia are busy making things like Spongebob, Barbie and crap movie tie ins.
    The lecturer said he went for an interview and they realised he was keen on research and games as a genuine medium. They said "Don't forget, we just make expensive toys for rich kids."
    I cracked up laughing and got angry stares from everyone around me, but that's exactly what games are to many people.
    I could never afford the best things, consoles have always seemed too much of a luxury for me to justify.

    By Blogger nectarine, At October 8, 2007 at 12:01 AM  

  • Oh and don't forget the PC indie scene :P

    By Blogger nectarine, At October 8, 2007 at 12:06 AM  

  • Interesting counter point on the cost issue, I hadn't thought of it that way (makes me wish I was better at tinkering with hardware).

    I still think that the one-time cost of a console wins out in the long run though. Paying $AU700 gives you a machine for the lifetime of the console, which could be 5-10 years. How many hardware upgrades would you need in that time period? (granted that you can use these upgrades for things other than gaming too)

    That video card rant may or may not have been caused by the fact that I couldn't run Galactic Civilizations 2 because my current card doesn't suppose hardware transform and lighting :(

    That sounds like a really interesting lecture. I feel fortunate living in Montreal as someone interested in joining the gaming industry. Eidos, Ubisoft and EA all have branches here, it's become a real hub for gaming recently.

    Finally, in my mind I threw the indie gaming scene in with modding community, which really isn't really a fair grouping in retrospect.

    By Blogger Mr.Bubbles, At October 8, 2007 at 2:40 AM  

  • To be fair, the actual thread in question was caused by Mr Doak pretty much scoffing at PC Gamers who like their control systems.

    Nasty Elitism cuts both ways, basically.


    By Blogger Kieron, At October 8, 2007 at 6:31 PM  

  • I'm not sure that he was being THAT nasty, his comments about console expectations versus PC expectations were more or less dead on in my opinion.

    As much as I'm sure that there are console snobs out there, I can't say I've ever run into one (possibly because there's not a really whole lot to be snobby about :P)

    By Blogger Mr.Bubbles, At October 8, 2007 at 9:42 PM  

  • So every 1 or 2 months you spend 6-700 bucks on a video card, cuz new ones come out so fast with this lil bit added (stuff they keep off of previous video cards just to get you to buy, some kind of setting or shader or instructions you didn't have before which also happens to be supported by the latest PC game and only that one). I stopped supporting PC gaming cuz of this, i buy a middle of the pack card for 200 bones and still i can barely do anything. Just wait till your 600 dollar card is not good enough in a month or two. You spend once on a 360 for good. My nintendo is still in good shape (yes the original) with the original Zelda and Final Fantasy and Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure.

    AU prices look whack, all i know is the latest video card is abotu 500 bucks plus tax, and same goes for the PS3 top of the line, and Xbox 360.

    Now you also have to make sure, is all your other PC configuration up to date, for you it might be, but anothers case might be they have a single core motherboard (which does just fine for studying by the way, so does a 486 running windows 3.11, you never need a dual core or anything recent to study on a computer) and their motherboard sucks so they can't upgrade their chip past a 2.4ghz Athlon with 1mb of cache, running IDE because the Sata is only Sata-1 and has to be limited in speed on the hard drive, and the 200 dollar video card you bought a year and a half ago can't even be upgraded unless your chip is, and you might need a new power supply too.

    The thing with PC's are, is sometimes you can't upgrade, and most people won't buy top of the line cuz its too much. Basically way too many possibilities on a system that will give you marginally better graphics, and framerates (if you know how to run a computer properly, and most people don't, even gamers, the wrong setup and you think you got yours tweaked out and its not, or vice versa, then that new game comes along in like 6months time to spend another 500 bucks on a Video card, yay. And this is why i don't PC game, cuz i barely noticed the difference (besides some high resolutions and aliasing) between late XBOX games and PC games of the same time period.

    So lets review, if your PC was free, and you like PC games (something else i forgot to mention, also not the same difference as it used to be, when PC games meant they were more challenging between 83-97 or 98 it just became a bunch of shooters cuz the market died off, and ports, hardly any good rpgs solely for PC like it used to be, don't forget if you like playing NHL 2008 xbox 360 is the far better console to play on, or the PS3. The pc version is left alone because it doesn't make money, its the same as PS2's version, except you can make the resolution a lot higher i'm sure.) Then Pc gaming is for you.

    If you have money, then the PC industry and their constant updates (which isn't bad if you didn't have to pay for every single little update per card) you can never keep up, but if your rich you can always be on the latest, hope you don't have to work cuz you won't have muich time to play before you got to upgrade (maybe beat one game, play or rent a couple more, for 500 bucks or more not worth it) no thanks. I refuse to support an industry thats based on tryin to get you to buy the latest thing all the time, they want you to spend all their money on them and not even on anything else, and i'm sure they have to live with the fact you would like some money for that new PC game, but what if you don't, piracy. Its a vicious circle all setup by the PC industry. Fortunately the PC and the Internet won't die and neither will PC gaming, nor will its choking peoples wallets.

    XBOX 360, i wait for 5 years get a new system, and the graphics continually impress and the PC games will still barely surpass its over look until it goes through another generation change too which seems to be the same time as consoles.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 28, 2007 at 6:58 PM  

  • Sounds like you've got a real chip on your shoulder about PC gaming, anonymous. While you've probably had worse luck than most, you bring up a valid point about how frustrating hardware compatibility can be.

    By Blogger Matthew Gallant, At November 28, 2007 at 11:18 PM  

  • cost is not really a big thing to me. I do need a computer so I don't mind buying it. Plus i just recently purchased a a Quad Core, 3GB ddr2, 1 TB HDD, with a 8500 for $600. Since the card wasn't the best in the world i got a 8800 for under 300. So basically (in the scheme of things) i hardly spend that much on this wonderful system; I won't have to buy a new console the next time Sony decided's it needs more money and finally, if it comes out for Xbox or PS3, it pretty much only comes out on PC. The same is not true in reverse.

    By Anonymous R.Wing, At January 12, 2008 at 7:41 AM  

  • I'm glad that you managed to make a PC for a reasonble cost, but how long will that video card really last you? How long until you need to put down $300 for another one?

    With regards to the game selection, I already made this concession:

    One could argue that most console games are ported over PC eventually, so the game selection is rather terrific (although lacking in Nintendo and platformers).

    By Blogger Matthew Gallant, At January 12, 2008 at 12:58 PM  

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