Clickbait title or sad realisation? You be the judge.
I’ve been PC gaming for about 28 years – ever since I was old enough to know what a computer is and how to slap the keyboard to get a response, I’ve been playing PC games. By age 3 I knew enough about DOS to launch my favourite games. My father made sure to foster my interest in computers – whenever he would upgrade his PC, I’d get his old parts, so I was the proud owner of my own 486 DX in the early-mid 90s… and it never stopped.
I’ve seen a lot of awesome and annoying things in PC gaming – though probably not as long as some of you reading this. I remember dicking around with bootdisks to squeeze extra memory out of DOS to get speech running in a game, or trying to figure out why the fucking mouse driver didn’t want to load. I can remember the times when games had to actually support your sound card, and if they didn’t, you were shit out of luck. I remember the Win95 days when a shitty SoundBlaster driver would cause the system to BSOD on boot. Remember when we had a choice of rendering pathways? Software, Direct3D, and OpenGl… or Glide, if you happened to be one of the cool kids with a Voodoo card (with the cool boxes). Or how about the early to mid 2000s when you were basically doing a full system upgrade every 12 months minimum to keep framerates somewhere near acceptable level?
But now? Honestly, it’s hard to bring myself to care about a lot of things to do with PC gaming – and sometimes gaming in general. A lot of what I used to enjoy I’ve pretty much stopped playing or enjoying. Maybe this is part of growing up with more responsibilities, or maybe the industry is going downhill. It’s hard to say just now. But here are some thoughts on why I’m pretty fatigued with PC gaming and have shifted towards either console gaming, or just not playing at all.
The AAA sector is fairly uninteresting for most of the year. I don’t hate on AAA developers as much as some other commentators – because by and large they do put out excellent games that are well worth playing, with good production values. And I don’t even really care so much if they’re sequels to other IP. But there’s a whole lot of uninteresting bullshit out there, some of which trades off previous games, and there’s little real incentive to play. I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to gaming, so what time I do have I want to be enjoyable. I’d rather play Doom (2016) than Call of Duty 27: WW2 Except More Pixels or something.
The indie sector is full of absolute trash. Remember when the indie sector was going to save us from derivative AAA titles? Yeah, that never fucking happened, did it? Much like AAA games, occasionally someone releases something good – which is then followed by a glut of copycats that clutter up Steam. On top of that, there’s been an influx in indie holier-than-thou ‘artgames’ that attempt to moralise, or tell a ‘poignant’ story, or otherwise spout some pretentious nonsense. The kind of shit that would get laughed out of a film festival (or a high school paper) but gets praise from the mental midgets at Kotaku US because it made them anxious about floor tiles or something.
Many games are heavily multiplayer focused and battle royale isn’t my thing. I don’t like MP games as a general rule – I’ll occasionally find one that I like, but typically I don’t like playing them. I don’t have the time to invest in the ‘progression’ system that every game inevitably comes with these days, nor do I have the time to climb the skill ladder just to be competitive. Give me a solid SP experience any day of the week. I also don’t like PUBG or Fortnite, nor the trend of every developer trying to shoe-horn these modes into their games.
I don’t have the time to play many games anymore. When I was in university, or high school, I had the time to play loads of games. I’ve always been really good at time management and I could get all of my work done and still have plenty of time to spend on playing games. Now I work long hours and do shift work, so I don’t have that much time to play games. As a result, there’s only so much I can play, especially for prolonged periods. That means I can’t really get into a lot of grand strategy games anymore. If you like your Crusader Kings 2 that’s just fine, but I don’t have the time to learn it properly, nor do I really enjoy watching a few things move across the map while I click dialogue boxes. I don’t have the time (or the patience anymore) to see out a game of CivVI. Your favourite incredibly deep and complicated TBS might be the best game ever made for you, but it’s effectively impenetrable to me because I don’t have the time to invest. I’d rather play something that I can enjoy fairly easily. I’m not afraid of learning how to play, nor of progression, but if there’s a significant time investment just to get some enjoyment out of it, I’m going to choose to do something else. I’ll play Cities: Skylines and have fun, but I won’t be as good at it as most people. That doesn’t mean your games are shitty, or that my taste is bad, just that I can’t play them and don’t enjoy them anymore.
A lot of the PC exclusives fall into the category of ‘time sink’. I used to love playing something like Rome: Total War. I could play for hours. But I don’t have that time anymore. A lot of the PC exclusive titles are either indie titles that I couldn’t give a shit about, or are more involved titles that I probably don’t have the time to play. I’ve naturally pivoted away from PC gaming as a result. Many titles are now cross-platform so I can typically pick up the new exciting AAA game on my Xbox One X if I want it.
Even little things with PCs will piss me off. My tolerance for faults is getting lower each year. There was a time when I’d happily go diagnose issues with games or my PC at large; if I was getting an FPS drop in a particular area of a game, I’d fiddle with settings until I got it running right. Today? I just don’t have the patience for it. If something goes wrong with my rig, it’s low on my priority list to fix. My Asus laptop has a critical firmware issue (which Asus are never going to fix) where the NVMe drive sometimes fails to boot, which stops me from installing major Windows updates without reinstalling from scratch. Have I fixed it? (Spoiler: I probably can’t) No, and it isn’t something I’m likely to fix any time soon. It just isn’t a priority. I’d rather be doing something else. If I am going to play a game on my PC, all I want to do is sit down and play it. I don’t want anything else to get in the way, to screw up, or otherwise interrupt that process – because whenever something goes wrong, that’s time I end up having to take out of my day to try to fix it. Even fairly minor issues are a major inconvenience for me.
Consoles are basically ‘good enough’ for most of my needs. There’s a lot of things I don’t like about console gaming. I don’t like the higher game prices. I don’t like 30 FPS being an acceptable framerate. I’m not good with a controller. I don’t like paying for online gameplay (well, if I ever wanted to play online). But I do like the fact that I can sit down, start up a game, and it’ll work – and it’ll work just as well as the next guy’s toy box. If the game has an issue, it’s probably something wrong with the game. If the box has an issue then it’s more inconvenient to fix than a PC (because… well, I can’t really fix it, I need to replace it, or send it for repairs) but it’s less likely to have a problem than my comparatively complex PC. What I give up in quality I tend to gain in convenience and reliability. Is it as good as my PC? No – well, my Xbox One X can more reliably push 4K in some titles (despite my laptop having a 1070). But it’s close enough that I don’t really care too much.
I haven’t given up on PC gaming, nor am I suggesting consoles are superior, nor am I suggesting PC gaming is dying or some other silly bullshit. All I’m saying is that I’ve found that PC gaming holds less and less appeal for me as I get older. The amount of enjoyment I get out of it is ultimately dependent on the time I can invest. It used to be money, but now that I work a good job, it’s actually time that I’m short on these days. That seems to have directly affected how much I enjoy PC gaming. I can’t invest a lot of time into maintaining my PC or solving problems if things go wrong. I can’t invest a lot of time into those grand strategy games that I used to love on the PC. I’ve just naturally started to spend less and less time with my PC.
I still use it, of course – I have a massive legacy library that I can’t use anywhere else. But I don’t really need a powerful PC to utilise that library anymore. My PC can sit there, unused, for days at a time – but only a few years ago it was turned on every day for several hours. I just find it interesting how something that was such a big part of my life has diminished in importance, and somewhat replaced by a platform that I once absolutely despised. I guess I understand why some people prefer consoles now.
If you’re still into PC gaming, that’s great, and I’m by no means suggesting that PC gaming is problematic or too time consuming for the average person. I know that it isn’t. But for me? I’ve had enough for the moment.