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By now, the news of the latest and greatest from Microsoft and Sony has likely hit your ears. The features this year include always online DRM, the inability to share games, and a general reduction in accessibility, at least with the Xbox One. Famed internet reviewer Yahtzee coined the phrase “The PC Master Race” to poke fun at how PC gamers often think their platform is superior. In truth, the versatility of a PC has always been balanced by the tight experiences consoles have had to offer, and in turn consoles have always been far more closed off than PCs in what you could really do with them.
Now it looks like we are entering and age where consoles are crossing the line in how restrictive they are. The shoe is on the other foot, however, as now you can have that tight console experience on your PC. Since console hardware has started to match high end PC hardware specs, many games have crossed the barrier and are now available on digital marketplaces like Steam and Good Old Games. Many of them have improved graphics settings, and almost all of them come with controller support. So let’s step away from the keyboard and mouse, hook the rig up to the big screen, and enjoy some games that are usually restricted to the lowly console peasantry!
Getting out of the office and on the couch.
For those who are new to PC gaming, it’s a bit daunting to build your machine. You can take a look at our guide on how to build your own gaming computer for some pointers where to start in the building process. As mentioned there, the corded Xbox 360 controller is natively supported on any Windows systems, and many games will automatically detect the controller and bind all of the keys for you, so you can have your crisper graphics and tight dual analog controls as well.
When one thinks of PC gaming, you usually get the mental image of hunching over a keyboard and mouse in an office chair at a cramped computer desk staring at a tiny monitor. We’ve come a long way from that, and these days it’s just as common to find PC gamers lounging on the couch as console gamers. The big shift came when flat-screen TVs stopped really seeing themselves as TVs and more as monitors, and started including all of the support for VGA, DVI, and HDMI connections you see on a traditional computer monitor. The introduction of wireless keyboard and mice setups didn’t hurt ether. The first step to creating the more relaxed console environment is moving the PC away from the desk and into the living room.
There are a few ways this can be accomplished, the simplest of which these days is to simply hook up your computer to your TV via the VGA or HDMI connector on your video card. If you are running a beefy gaming laptop, they usually come with secondary video outputs on the side for just this purpose. If there was ever a reason to go the more expensive laptop route, the ability to freely move your computer from the office to the living room would be one of them. For the rest of us, if you have a full sized tower, moving it around might get cumbersome, so you should plan and perhaps install your box near your entertainment setup in the living room if this is the primary way you want to game.
The gear to get the job done
Just like computer monitors, you can spend a bundle on a TV that supports PC input and get a great experience, or come out cheap and get what you pay for. The Panasonic Viera TC-P55ST50 is the premium choice in monitor for gaming or otherwise, supporting full 1080p for normal viewing experiences, has 3D settings for the few games that support the feature, and supports a high refresh rate (which is a must have for gaming. It is plasma, and generally you want to go LED or LCD because of a phenomenon known as image retention. On Plasmas and some other TV types, a static image may “burn in” the screen, causing a long lasting or permanent ghost of the image to be left behind. This is significantly worse for gaming, since games have all kinds of static features commonplace around the user interface. This particular model seems to have fixed the issue, but if its still a worry there are other LED/LCD models to consider. The TC-P55ST50 will set you back a bit over 1700. For a cheaper LED option, I suggest the Samsung UN40FH6030. It’ll only cost you around 600 bones, and while it’s about ten inches smaller than our Panasonic pick, you get a lot of quality in the smaller package.
The next thing you need to consider is controlling the experience comfortably. If you are using a corded Xbox 360 controller, then you should be fine, as the cord length is extremely long, and as mentioned many games ported from the console natively support the 360 controller with no configuration required. You can get one new for just under 40 bucks. As for a keyboard and mouse, you can’t get much simpler than the Logitech Wireless MK 300 for around $30, which shouldn’t have any problems broadcasting to the coach. If you aren’t afraid of some cords, you could do far worse than the E-3LUE Cobra gaming keyboard for $60. For something slightly different and a lot smaller, the Hausbell Mini wireless keyboard and touchpad can do the job of basic computer use without setting out a cumbersome full sized keyboard and mouse set, and it’ll do it for just under $20.
What is there to play? The list of cross-platform games has become quite exhaustive as of late, which means its prime time to jump ship and go full PC. The entire Fallout and Elder Scrolls series from Bethesda has always gotten full PC support, as well as unlikely genres such as the Metal Gear series (of which the recently released Metal Gear Raising has just been announced for PC), and JRPGs like Ys The Last Remnant. Don’t forget, the “Shock” series (System Shock and Bioshock) were all originally made for the PC, and all are supported. This list is honestly so vast, that it would dwarf the collectively libraries of any console, and for those who don’t like to play by the rules, emulation is always available (and sometimes runs better than the original on machines that can handle it!)
So cast off the shackles of your old console and join the PC master race! You can game how you want to, on your own terms, and control your own destiny. It might be a little more involved, but trust me when I say that the freedom to control your experience is well worth the investment.