New PC Gamers — Know Your Limits

When it comes down to PC gaming, it certainly isn’t a new a new phenomenon. There are a few gamers who’ve been gaming on PCs for literal decades! Indeed, this hobby has quite the history to it, and it continues to write even more history today with a plentiful harvest of new enthusiasts joining the ranks each and every year.

With all the growth, there’s quite a few newcomers that seem to be a bit lost at first. How so?

In this digital age, getting access to games is easier than it has ever been before. With massive online marketplaces such as Steam, PC gamers have a literal valley’s-worth of a game selection to dive into. With some new gamers however, while they know it’s easy to acquire these titles, many fail to understand the ‘Amusement Park Concept’. In other words — these rides have height requirements.

 

The main feature that separates console gaming from PC gaming is optimization. With consoles, developers have one specific guideline to follow, allowing them to ‘tailor-make’ their titles for these systems. With PCs on the other hand, things are rather different.

When it comes down to PCs, everything is fragmented. For instance, while Joe’s computer may be able to run GTA:V, Tom’s computer can’t. With that in mind, developers must try their best to make their games more adaptable to fit a wider target of PC gamers. However, unlike consoles, it’s not ‘one-size-fits-all’. For some new PC gamers, those who are coming from consoles as well as completely new recruits, getting used to this isn’t all that easy.

The average person may believe that as long as their computer is relatively modern, or even brand-new, then running recently-released titles as well as games from the days long past shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Unfortunately, it simply  isn’t that easy.

As it relates to PCs, as with pretty much every other product, you get what you pay for. Heading into Best Buy and buying a brand-new laptop for $300 isn’t going to magically give you the master key to the treasure chest of gaming. As mentioned before, these ‘rides’ have some ‘height requirements’ that are going to need to be met if you intend to enjoy them. Just like how each person differs in height, PCs differ in capabilities. You have some people who are just naturally short, and in like manner, you have some PCs which were built with the bare necessities in mind.

With the sharp increase in graphical fidelity and the complexity of game engines, generally speaking, games have become rather demanding. This isn’t just including the AAA-titles which one would expect to be demanding, as even a few indie-titles (think Trine) are graphically-intensive. Due to this sharp increase in graphical intensity, hardware capabilities have also grown at a very rapid pace, with new chips and processors being released regularly. While some may consider this to be the main drawback of PC gaming, it’s actually one of the greater benefits.

PC Gaming offers a plethora of choices, and that’s a good thing. 

Because there’s such a large amount of parts in circulation, that simply gives the end-user all the more choices to select from. You can go with the ‘tall’ PCs that tend to meet just about every ‘height requirement’, or you can go for one that’s a little shorter, but still gets the job done. If you decide to go for the shortest stick, then you’ll have to make use of it as best as you can. In other words, if you’re really  serious about getting into PC gaming, it’s all about what you’re willing to pay.

Looking towards laptops, your options are fairly limited. While laptops are most definitely computers, they aren’t built the same way as the average desktop. Remember, laptops are built to be sleek, efficient machines designed with portability in mind. They’re primarily built to satisfy those who need a computer, but want to be able to get at it at any given opportunity.  They’ll need it to perform average tasks such as writing a document in Word, quickly editing a photo, surfing the Internet, playing movies, and other general operations. When you decide you want to run Crysis 3 at the highest settings, then you’re pushing the envelope.

Like any other electronic device, the components inside a computer generate heat, but computers especially generate quite a lot of heat. From the hard drive to the graphics card, all of these parts are running in tandem with each other in order to power through each command. With a laptop, all of these parts are much closer together, and have far less breathing space than they would have in a desktop. While laptop parts are designed to work in these less-hospitable environments, cuts need to be made in order to achieve this.

The average laptop can’t properly run a graphically-intensive title simply because it wasn’t built for that kind of daunting task. While smaller heat-sinks is a factor, the biggest one lies within the graphics card. The majority of laptops come with integrated graphics cards; cards that are soldered on to the motherboard. Being designed to generate less heat and have a smaller size, these integrated chips simply cannot keep up with their bigger, full-sized dedicated graphics card counterparts. This is the main factor that trips up a lot of new PC gamers.

Common laptops are meant to be sleek & productive, not beefy & powerful. 

So then, is serious gaming on a laptop impossible? Not in the least! As we all know, there are gaming laptops. But, what makes them so special?

Gaming laptops tend to sacrifice sleekness for bulkier, heftier designs. These designs provide adequate housing for the proper parts that are necessary for intensive gaming, such as dedicated graphics cards. These bigger designs also allow for larger heat-sinks, meaning a lot more breathing space for all the different components. With all of these benefits, that naturally sends the price skyrocketing. I’ve seen quite a lot of people shutter at the thought of a mere laptop costing $800+ , but considering what you’re getting, the price is justified. Keep in mind that with laptops like these, you’re carrying something with power equivalent to that of a beefy desktop computer, in your backpack. Not only are the internal parts naturally expensive, but even the heavy duty battery that’s needed in order to provide an adequate amount of power is also a big price bullet.

In short, gaming laptops are expensive, but their  prices are justifiable because they’re giving you access to some serious power no matter where you are. So then, how about the desktops?

In all honesty, desktop-based PCs are really the best choice if you intend to be a serious PC gamer. How so? Well, for starters, don’t think it’s about the bragging rights. The biggest factor is something that’s already been brought up — selection.

The choice in laptops are pretty linear; basically it’s the same as a service that offers different levels of benefit-packages for different prices (think: starter, gold, premium, platinum). With desktops, it’s a completely different story. Just like how Subway let’s you create your own personalized sandwich, desktop PCs leave the choice up to you.

Custom-building a PC is easier than it’s ever been before, but while still a big task, it’s worth the effort. 

Some may quake at the thought of building their own PCs, but in this day-and-age, it really is a lot easier than one would think. Between the countless number of YouTube tutorials, to the large online repositories of information and forums all dedicated to the very task, it’s like getting a free online college course. With desktops, it’s simply all about picking what parts you want, making sure they all agree with each other, and placing them in a circuit. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but not as much as you may think.

Very few titles truly need the top-of-the-line components in order to run smoothly, meaning that in most cases, you don’t have to pay an arm and leg just to get into the thick of it all. Simply looking at reviews, both professional and user-based, should give you a clear idea of which parts are right for your needs. That isn’t to say it would be incredibly cheap as buying a console, however, neither will it be a massive payout. Gaming itself is quite the investment, as like most hobbies — you never really stop paying for it. With PC gaming, especially in the desktop sector, you have the power to select what you want in order to enjoy the experience as best you can.

In the end, for those of you who are struggling to try and optimize your computers and boost their performance, no ‘magic’ program or dangerous-tinkering is going to suddenly turn your Toyota-like computer, into a Ferrari-like supercomputer. You simply need to know your limits. Research, analyze, and compare. With the wealth of information that’s literally accessible in seconds, there’s no excuse to tell yourself that you ‘can’t ‘ enjoy PC gaming because it’s too demanding. The power, literally is in your hands.