What’s up with PC gamers?
As a gamer I often find myself on the receiving end of criticism and much of it I can shake off. I “score too many two-yard tap-ins” on FIFA 12. I “button-mash” on fighting games like Tekken or Marvel vs. Capcom. I “slept with a German junkie whore” in LA Noire. The list goes on.
But one criticism which particularly irks me surrounds my preferred method of gaming and it comes from a group of gamers who I’ve often found to be incredibly patronising and full of amusingly high levels of self-superiority. The type of gamers who believe that, unless you’re pressing “WASD” with your left-hand and waving your gaming mouse wildly with your right that you aren’t a true gamer.
Yes, my bugbear lies with my own personal experiences with PC gamers and their attitude towards me: a console gamer.
“My bugbear lies with my own personal experiences with PC gamers and their attitude towards me”I should point out that I was being deliberately inflammatory in the paragraph above. I am positive that not all PC gamers carry an air of self-satisfaction when looking down on console gamers and that the majority doubtless dabble in both videogame worlds (even as a console gamer I cannot prevent myself from indulging in repeated Football Manager 2012 marathons).
But in my experience, the only PC gamers I have met or dealt with have scoffed at my assertions that I consider myself a console gamer and have struggled to resist letting out a brief “harrumph” after asserting in their minds that, as a man with only a PlayStation 3 and a shite laptop that runs on AA batteries for gaming contentment, I am little more than a serf in their gaming kingdom.
I wish I didn’t have to generalise in that manner but given my experiences I’ve little choice. The PC gamers I have met and befriended often treat me with contempt because I have little-to-no interest in playing an FPS game online without the comfort of analogue sticks and rear triggers. They may play the occasional game of Pro Evolution Soccer or have a blast of World at War’s Nazi Zombies on the nearest Xbox 360 but their main passion is investing time and effort into their PC gaming library, whether they enjoy a clan game of Counter-Strike or a quest in World of Warcraft.
I’ve encountered this attitude towards my gaming habits (and console gaming as a whole) from PC gamers for several years now and I still briefly encounter it to this day. I live in halls of residence with two PC gamers who I consider very close friends. Each of them have just ordered brand new dedicated gaming computers with their well-deserved Christmas money but both own current-generation consoles (admittedly, they only really play Skyrim on console and that’s pretty much a glorified PC game anyway).
Last month my flatmates thought they would treat me and allowed me a brief play of a game on one of their “aging” dedicated gaming computers before they sold them. Being the kind, caring, considerate friends that they always have been to me they allowed me to play a fun game of their choice.
It was the psychological horror Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
After spending six hours convincing myself that all the fear and horror would be worth the inevitable post-event banter I sat down in front of the 19-inch widescreen monitor. As I waited for Amnesia to load (my hand shaking as I did so; I had after all seen the trailer for Amnesia and that alone left me nervous) I tried to figure out how much all this hardware must have cost to purchase. The tower alone was a good 2-3ft tall and it contained two separate fans which cooled an unmistakably red-and-gold graphics card. This PC, which my flatmate was replacing, would cost a hell of a lot more than a top-of-the-range PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 would.
“I’m sure that the majority of PC gamers across the world aren’t as high-and-mighty as some of those I have encountered”Eventually Amnesia started and I tried to acquaint myself with the standard “WASD” movement controls, whilst figuring out what each of the other keyboard buttons did. Barely 30 seconds after the game had begun and my flatmates were already asking me what I was waiting for. I raised a titter when I mentioned that I hadn’t played a first-person PC game since 2007 and that I was unsure how PC games were controlled. As I eventually moved down the first beautifully-designed and unbearably atmospheric corridor I was soon confusing buttons and hotkeys, throwing chairs around the castle, taking out my lantern to read a note and just generally not knowing how to control my character. I was nervous but I eventually began to question why. Was I more nervous about my sanity slowly draining away as I stuttered about in Amnesia or was I perhaps more nervous about looking like an actual gamer in front of my PC-loving pals? By the third “you’re not very good with PC games, are you?” I had strong suspicions it was the latter.
Soon after I finished my experience of Amnesia (I lasted an hour before retiring to my room with the lights on and the curtains closed) I began to wonder just why I felt I had to justify my being as a gamer to both my friends and to myself. Just why I felt so inadequate when put in front of a PC monitor and a PC game? I didn’t enjoy trying to control a character in the first-person on a PC, that was for sure. I didn’t like the mouse-and-keyboard control method, and I certainly didn’t enjoy assigning hotkeys, discovering in-game menus through the keyboard and the overly-responsive gaming mouse.
Maybe, as a teenager brought up on consoles to provide videogame entertainment, I was so used to the idea of an actual controller in my hand that I just dismissed any alternatives immediately. The only PC game I have ever enjoyed has been Football Manager and it requires nothing more than a touchpad and the spacebar to play. The simplicity of using a controller (or a spacebar in Football Manager’s case) appeals to me and maybe that says more about me than I would like to let on, but in truth I don’t enjoy videogames that become a chore to control as many PC games do.
During those teenage years I would enjoy a wide range of games on console: both home and handheld. Titles like FIFA 2003, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Mario Kart 64, V-Rally, Pokémon Blue and WWF Smackdown were all fantastic experiences for me and stuck with me as I grew older and wiser. Soon however the gamers around me were entering a strange new world of videogames that I couldn’t comprehend.
Out of nowhere my friends were switching from their PlayStation 2s and GameCubes to their PCs. Four of them had purchased a copy of Counter-Strike: Source each to play online and before long they were involved in clans and professional matches. This was a strange sight to behold as my friends were soon discussing official gaming tournaments and the latest MMORPGs available. When I tried to turn the conversation to a console game I was enjoying I would be offered patronising sympathies, awkward glances or just plain laughed at. PC gaming, I was told, was the future and I should get my parents to invest in a better computer so I could play online with them.
“I couldn’t understand what made PC games so special compared to their console counterparts”But as I watched some of my friends play Counter-Strike: Source, although I could understand the appeal of the game, I couldn’t understand what made PC games so special compared to their console counterparts. Why was Counter-Strike: Source so much better than Call of Duty 3, for example? The graphics and sound of CS:S certainly weren’t up to much and the gameplay seemed a lot less fluid than that on the PlayStation 2. My friends assured me that rather than the games being sub-par it was simply their gaming machines that weren’t up to scratch. Once they had saved enough for a new graphics card or a new processor, there would be a great improvement in overall game quality.
By this time however I was already saving up for some gaming hardware of my own: the heavily-delayed, industry-changing PlayStation 3. My friends were still telling me how I should stop playing consoles and invest in a new computer as it was a much better way of experiencing videogames but in the light of this beautiful new console I just couldn’t see how. The PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 represented everything my friends wanted from their PC games: beautiful graphics, unrivalled processing power, a great range of FPS titles and a good online community at a much cheaper price than a gaming computer.
My friends eventually bought seventh-generation consoles but even today they very rarely play them, preferring to experience and enjoy their PC games. Some play Portal 2, others play World of Warcraft and some just enjoy whatever Steam is offering this month. My flatmates enjoy nothing more than a match of League of Legends or Starcraft II and I hear on a regular basis how bloody good Minecraft is, but not as often as I hear myself being chastised for sticking with console gaming and being a poorer gamer as a result, whether by PC-playing friends or on internet forums.
Again, maybe I’m generalising. As I said before, I’m sure that the majority of PC gamers across the world aren’t as high-and-mighty as some of those I have encountered and that many of them enjoy a fine mix of PC and console gaming.
Perhaps PC gaming just isn’t for me and that’s that. I’ve certainly not gone out of my way to try a top-of-the-range PC game (aside from one stupid night where I signed up for a World of Warcraft trial and realised it was just a multiplayer Morrowind) and to be honest, I don’t intend to. I don’t believe sticking with console games makes me any less of a gamer and I don’t believe it makes any of my opinions less valid. I prefer to sit down with a beer in my mouse-clicking hand and a DualShock in my “WASD” hand.
It’s just how I enjoy games. And isn’t that the most important thing?