A PC By Any Other Name.

Whenever PC and console gamers clash over which platform boasts the quintessential gaming experience, there are a few arguments that always rear their head. PC gamers will often proudly trumpet the positives of a mouse and keyboard interface over a console joypad. Console owners will retaliate by saying that they merely want to play games, not crack the Enigma code with one hand whilst pointing their foes to death with the other. PC gamers will highlight the superior graphical capabilities of their custom-built £2,500 Alienware uber-rig. Console gamers will point out that they don’t have £2,500 to spend on a custom-built Alienware uber-rig, and would said PC gamers kindly shut their smug faces. PC gamers will explain the benefits of using dedicated servers for multiplayer gaming. Console gamers will point to the nearest copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and then run away sniggering.

Update Required
Is it? Is it really?

While all platforms have their strong suits there is one area where the home console traditionally held the winning hand: convenience. The ability to unwrap a newly purchased game, flick your console on, pop the disc in the drawer and be bustin’ heads inside of a minute has always been a major plus-point of the console experience. No need to fret over minimum specifications, driver updates, lengthy installs or optimum settings – like the total annihilation of humankind, fun is just a button-press away.

At least that’s how it used to be. As consoles have become more reliant upon firmware updates, mandatory installs and downloadable content, the gap between PC and console has narrowed. I have turned on my Playstation 3 ready to dive into a new game, only to be hit with a lengthy firmware update, a mandatory install, followed immediately by a mandatory update for the game itself. In the case of Heavy Rain‘s recent update debacle, owners of older Playstation 3 units dutifully jumped through all of these irritating hoops to discover the game didn’t work, their trophy support had vanished and, in some extremely unfortunate cases, their console had been killed stone-dead. Modern console owners suddenly find themselves mired in the very binary bureaucracy that many of them were trying to avoid in the first place. Say what you like about the Master System, at least it didn’t answer back.

"We will add your biological and technological distinctiv… shit, where's my Proficient Fortune Hunter trophy gone?!"

There are undeniable benefits to the internet-dependent nature of 7th generation consoles. Online multiplayer is an expectation nowadays regardless of platform, and consoles have been delivering in this department since the original Xbox hit the streets. New features, codecs and drivers help to expand the capabilities of units that may be five-years old, prolonging the lifespan of the entire console generation. Downloadable content means that some games are never truly completed, with extra chapters appearing every couple of months to keep the story alive and the player returning for more. When your console is plugged into the Netz it is a constantly evolving organism, tapped into the hive mind; forever augmenting itself, conforming to the will of the web.

Which is all well and good, provided you have the time and patience to wait for your console to cocoon itself up and burst wings anew every time the powers that be decide to monkey with its back-end. Last week I got together with a few friends so that they could kick my ass up and down the desert in Modern Warfare 2. When we turned on the Xbox 360 and signed in there was an update waiting to be installed. We were pressed for time and I was eager to die repeatedly in a puddle of crimson sand-sludge, so we declined the update. As each one of us signed in, there was a lengthy pause while the console wondered whether the keeper of each new profile might want to update the console instead. So, one by one, we were pestered with an unwanted update request on the off-chance that one of us would have a change of heart. No Microsoft, we have not changed our minds in the last 10 seconds. No means no. Don’t push. I’ve got a small whistle in my purse and I’m not afraid to use it.

One of the joys of consoles used to be their ability to provide instant gratification. Playing used to be as difficult as throwing some pads at your friends, stealing the comfiest spot on the sofa and pressing ‘Start’. The more consoles accumulate the baggage of the PC gaming process, the less immediate the experience becomes. It’s a trade-off that many of us are willing to make, considering the benefits offered by updates and DLC. But when there is a 20 minute gap between turning your console on and actually being allowed to play a game, I worry that the whole concept of ‘plug and play’ is being slowly smothered to death by a large pillow stuffed with unnecessary frustration.







2 responses to “A PC By Any Other Name.”

  1. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    Sometimes you have a limited amount of time and you just want to have a quick go which you cannot do with a new game it seems (on PS3).

    I’ve not played many games on PC, so a joypad is easier for me to control than keyboard and mouse. (I just had an image of someone strapping the keyboard to their chest to play a Guitar Hero game :D)

    PC will have the better looking games but with today’s tech, console games look pretty decent too.

  2. Simon avatar

    It is becoming an interesting issue.

    For me, the 360 is just right at the moment. The PS3 seems to go too far the wrong way.

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