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Shoot From the Lip: Totally PC

Despised isn’t the right word, more “pitied”, sums up my past feelings regarding PC gamers. Waltzing into game shops to pick up their copy of the latest must-have title for half the price of its console cousins, then proudly proclaiming the mouse and keyboard setup to hump the hind legs off any controller, before disappearing into the nearest news-agent to flick through PC Gay… sorry, PC Gamer. I’ve never seen the attraction of clicking people to death, much the same way i don’t insert straws into my nostrils and drink my nightly Horlicks through my nose.

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Then there’s the placement of the computer – most PCs sit in hallways or living rooms, often occupied by other people of the household who make just enough noise to divert your attention away from the game you’ve just bought, in the same way those annoying chavs-to-be run amok in libraries, trying to climb the shelving and tripping over your feet as you try to sit and peacefully read a book.

It was upon arrival, then, of the newest addition to my gaming shrine, a PC, that I had to really ask myself what I was doing. I’d spent essentially two months worth of part-time wages on a tower of plastic and steel. My girlfriend was going to kill me. Besides, I left the evil clutches of Microsoft this very time last year for the merry heavens and 50 virgins promised by Steve Jobs over at Apple. The grass tastes nicer, I’ll give them that, but it isn’t much greener. When the ancient SimCity 4 crashes for the umpteenth time and the solitary Mac editor for Football Manager 2008 still hasn’t been released, the gamer in any Mac user begins to wonder why they bothered. Add to the fact that I never really understood what 22 inches of monitor actually looked like, and the aftermath conspired of a hefty room change. Out went the wardrobe and heavy oak computer table, in came a swanky glass stand for my two desktops and their accompanying accessories. And then those shelves look a bit tiring…

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Put simply, the two days I had planned for relaxation were spent rearranging my bedroom-come-gaming-shrine to accommodate a hefty computer tower and its monitor, along with a second mouse and keyboard with which to confuse myself when trying to check my email but accidently setting a tornado off in SimCity on the other screen. Then there’s trying to configure internet sharing between the two and praying to the god of wireless connectivity for the router to pick up my signal, and I’ve not even got to the swearing and fits of rage.

However, it’s when loading up Crysis and being told that your graphics settings have been altered to “very high” that all this hard work and sweat and tears pays off. Suddenly you’re at the top of the gaming pile, strafing with the D key and clicking a few rounds into some bad guys before space-bar jumping over an oncoming vehicle and turning quickly with a flick of the mouse. You have to wonder how gaming controllers ever became the norm.

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If there was anything to scare me off PC gaming then it would have to be the compatibility checks that you have to wade through. The numbers on graphics cards – they lie – have to be imprinted into your skull so you can remember your setup when browsing the shelves at GAME, suddenly RAM has millahertz to worry about and, as if out of nowhere, we have to give a shit about processors too. I dread to think of my last PC and its mighty 128MB RAM and 32MB graphics card. It ran Worms you know! And then there’s the driver updating, keyboard mapping, over-clocking, under-wanking, you name it, and i have no idea what any of it means.

BUT. Here’s where PC gaming comes out top trumps. There’s a spate of games on consoles, namely the Xbox 360 in which developers have ignored glitches and bugs and moved on, or released updates that created more problems elsewhere and simply turned a blind eye. This also happens on the PC platform, but then you have fans that make their own patches and fixes, distributing them via Rapidshare. Take Oblivion – you’ve official and unofficial patches, fixes for the various plug ins and modifications to bring extra graphical effects and detail as well as bringing extra gameplay elements to the table. It’s this customization and sense of community that console gamers have barely known, because they seem to strive to get the best out of games, to make them the way we wanted. It’s as if you have a say in what happens, that for your investment of a few pounds, the world is your oyster. And I feel that’s what the console gaming scene is lacking.

And with that, I’m off to stick some straws up my nose.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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