PC gaming has been around for decades and PC gamers are a special breed. Where console games use simplified controllers and offer standard performance, video games on the PC tend to offer better graphics, more extensive gameplay and more customization options including higher graphics settings and even surround sound. To reap these benefits you do have to be willing to accept some inconveniences as well. Playing video games on a console generally involved popping in a disc and going, but on a PC you need to go through a (sometimes lengthy) install process first. You also have to deal with things like driver updates for graphics cards or sound processors. Still, for a richer and more detailed gaming experience it is absolutely worth it.
So what makes a good gaming computer? Generally speaking it takes a good balance of CPU and GPU power, coupled with a decent amount of memory and decent sound capabilities. These days most computers come standard with a good amount of RAM and built-in sound processing, not enough to satisfy an audio fanatic but good enough for just about anyone else. Those are important to look for but the CPU and GPU are the real workhorses for today’s games. Lacking in one or the other can cause your games to run slowly, or only run well at lower resolutions or with a number of graphical effects turned down or off. The CPU would generally be an intel chip and the most popular and compatible GPUs are made by Nvidia, although ATI’s Radeon systems have been consistently good over the years and shouldn’t be passed up if the price is right.
One thing that I cannot stress enough is to be very conscious of the expense curve with a good gaming computer. Console gamers need to spend money on a new console every five years or so, and this is about the same for entry level PC gaming (which is still advantageous over consoles in a number of ways). Maintaining a high end PC gaming system can become an expensive proposition very quickly. The top of the line graphics cards and CPUs can cost nearly double that of units that are only slightly less powerful. Unlike new console systems, the latest and greatest PC technology tends to stay that way only for a few months, or at most a year. Anyone who is spending several thousand dollars on the absolute top of the line machine should know an even faster machine will be available in a year, and it will likely cost about the same (if they were planning to always have the latest and greatest).
Most PC gamers manage this dilemma by finding a price point they are comfortable with and sticking with it. The gaming PC’s that cost a fraction of top-of-the-line machines often are within 10% – 20% of the same performance. Whether you are a techie that upgrades CPU’s video cards, motherboards and RAM as you go, or if you prefer to just buy a whole new PC in one shot, finding that magic price point is important to keep your hobby going long-term. Once you do, you will find the world of PC gaming much deeper than that of console gaming and with it’s own unique feel. PC gamers are a special lot and joining their ranks can be a ton of fun.