Technology

Pc gaming: the first steps

PC Gaming has received more and more attention in the media lately, but getting into PC gaming is still very daunting for a newcomer. 
 
PC’s have many barriers to entry compared to consoles and smartphones/tablets, with a huge variety in possible combinations of components, and you can’t just go into a local store and buy a PC that will let you play the latest and greatest games. 
 
A gaming computer can be a very rewarding investment, but the time and money needed is a quite a commitment. 
 
What you need
Gaming desktop PC’s running Windows is what constitutes the focus of PC Gaming’s benefits. A gaming desktop has the following essential components: a case, a motherboard, a Central Processing Unit, a Power Supply Unit and RAM, as well as a keyboard and mouse, a controller to play any games uncomfortable on a keyboard and mouse, and a monitor. 
 
Then you need to decide on whether to get a Hard Drive or an SSD, if you can’t stretch your budget enough to get both at once. An SSD gives much less storage space for the money, but the speed benefit is incredible: If you are frequently digging through your hard drive or waiting for applications to load, the difference can be night and day, especially if you are coming from a laptop, as laptops have very slow hard drives. 
 
Also essential is a GPU from either AMD or Nvidia’s ranges, unless you are intending on playing only simpler, non-graphically intensive or decade-old games. If you want to use Wi-Fi, you’ll need to add in a Wi-Fi PCI radio, or consider investing in Powerline adapters instead, that run a wired internet connection between electrical sockets in your residence. 
 
If you want to buy DVD versions of games, add in a disk drive. Blu-Rays aren’t used for any PC software. The amount of games being released on DVD-ROM is declining, however. Any HDTV that isn’t too large can be used as a monitor, but designated PC monitor displays tend to be far more suitable for rendering Windows.
 
And finally you need a copy of the Windows OS to install, be it 7, 8.1 or the newest 10. This is essential if you wish to have full access to the catalogue of games available for computers; Linux-based computers can run only a fraction of the games available to Windows, but Linux is free to install. 
 
Macs do have games available to them, but not most, as with Linux, and you still need to get an idea of what you have the ability to play with the CPU and GPU in your systems.
 
This is a lot to take in, and even if you buy a pre-assembled PC, you need  to know the ins and outs of the components that make up your PC in order to upgrade later and diagnose unlikely problems that may come up.
 
Where to buy
PC Specialist offer pre-assembly of PC’s that they will ship to you, you can design through the PC through a configuration tool that will automatically make sure all your components work together. Individual parts can be ordered from Amazon, Komplett, Dabs, Newegg and others.
 
Local stores such as PC World or Harvey Norman will not have the most up-to-date parts, especially not graphics cards, and will be much more expensive to buy from. If ordering components online isn’t for you, neither is PC Gaming.
 
If you want to assemble a PC from the ground up yourself, which many dedicated PC gamers will attest to being both much better value for money and a satisfying learning experience, make sure to get advice on your builds through sites such as Boards.ie’s PC building board or the Build a PC page on Reddit, and use the website PC Part Picker to make sure you haven’t missed any incompatibility issues between components. 
 
There are many instruction guides and videos available online from a quick Google search; it’s a fairly simple process once you make the time and room for it. 
 
As a newcomer, €800 should be your minimum budget.
 
Benefits and disadvantages
Most games on PC can run at 60FPS with the right components, which substantially improves the feel and experience of playing games. Games can be played in higher resolutions then the “full HD” standard of 1920x1080p, although you’ll need to invest in 1440p or 4K monitors to take advantage of this. 
 
More graphical effects are available in PC games, making every smaller detail that much more believable or attractive. The difference in graphics quality isn’t as drastically pronounced between a PS4 or Xbox One and PC’s now as it was between the last gen and PC’s, but the difference is still very noticeable.
 
Backwards compatibility is one part of gaming PC’s that is hard to live without in the long term. Steam has been running for over 10 years, and most games are still available now to buy, download and play that have been there since the start. When moving from a PS3 to a PS4, you don’t get to take much with you, be it games or their expensive peripherals. 
 
Also, PC’s can run emulators that open up a huge archive of material, much of it unavailable to buy anymore. And more and more big-name games have PC versions now than a decade ago, although you’ll still want Nintendo consoles for Nintendo’s fun games, and unfortunately, occasionally a PC version of a game is a disaster like Arkham Knight that should be avoided until it receives lots of patches and updates. 
 
Games are discounted heavily on PC and sites like Green Man Gaming, Humble, GOG, Origin and Steam, have sales and giveaways frequently. 
 
If spending €30 to €60 on a game has put you off gaming, PC gaming will shock you with how easy it is to afford any and every game that catches your fancy. Try to restrain yourself, though. You won’t have anywhere near the time to play everything. You should also spend time eating and showering, maybe even reading books.
 
Games on PC can be modded by their player base, which leads to an incredible amount of customisation, expansion and refinement of games beyond their basic form.
 
Finally, a good gaming PC can be a pleasure to use if you use a PC frequently for whatever reason. An SSD and a good processor can provide you with a faster, better, more enjoyable experience then a €500 laptop can. 
 
Of course, desktop PC’s are comparatively huge machines nowadays, so make sure you’re comfortable with one taking up a relatively huge amount of space in a stationary position.
 
In short, getting into PC gaming requires dedication and research, and a much larger starting budget than a PS4 or Xbox One or Wii U. But the rewards for the dedicated are an experience that trumps any alternative, from visual immersion, to modding potential, to long-term savings and vast libraries of games to choose from.
 
 
Photo: Mr Seb/ Flickr