It appears to me, that there is way too much tension between console and Personal Computer (PC) gamers. The reason why there is so much built up animosity is lost on me. If we ever had to advocate our gaming passions through a united lobby group, the reasoning for our desire to play should fundamentally be the same. At the moment, I am a console gamer, and have to admit, I am a total noob when it comes to modern PC gaming. It would be like me trying to fill up the DeLorean with leaded fuel, while the Doc is throwing in a hand full of garbage into Mr Fusion. Times have definitely changed, but has the reason to play remained the same?
Dr. Emmett Brown: It's gonna be really hard waiting 30 years before I can talk to you about everything that's happened in the past few days. I'm really gonna miss you, Marty.
Contrary to what many may believe or feel today, the line between console and PC gaming wasn't always so clear. In the beginning, before the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), many gaming platforms tried to be both console and PC. Let's take the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour for a quick history lesson, shall we?
My first experience with PC gaming was with the Commodore 64 and it was fantastic. The Commodore 64 became available in 1982, and was at first, way beyond the reach of any normal family investment. Over time the price did come down, as the number of software titles increased. One of the main catalysts for change in its popularity was the influx of gaming titles. How could any parent defend the argument that you could first do your homework, then as a reward, play some games? Parent would buy it thinking “it’s for their future”, and kids would beg for it thinking “ooh PC gaming”. In reality, I don’t know anyone who actually did their homework on the Commodore 64. I am sure the Commodore 64 was able to be upgraded, but at the time, it was a plug and play PC from my experience.
Younger Dr. Emmett Brown: 1.21 gigawatts! 1.21 gigawatts. Great Scott!
Marty McFly: What-what the hell is a gigawatt?
The Commodore 64 was obviously a very early PC, and as such the technology required more patience than any modern gamer could handle. Imagine loading your game from a tape cassette? This would take a minimum of five minutes to load! My friend and I would eagerly power up the Commodore 64, choose the game, insert the tape and then wait and wait, ... and wait, .... and wait, .................. and wait.
Just like in modern chat parties, we would end up on same weird tangent of conversation, and the experience of waiting became part of the fun.
Two of the most memorable games for my friends and I would have to be Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Winter Games. Winter Games in particular, required a significant amount of button bashing to move your avatar across the course. Both of these were also available on consoles, but I don’t recall caring what platform you had. It was all about access to games, and playing them.
Adaptation and Customisation
What was good about PC gaming was the choice of controllers available. There were so many options to choose from, with some that had automated firing buttons and others that had trigger buttons on the joystick (leaps and bounds!). This differentiated the PC gaming from the console experience because on the console, you were limited to only the branded products of the console, rather than the multitude of suppliers that were available on PC.
Marty McFly: This is heavy.
Dr. Emmett Brown: Weight has nothing to do with it.
The most powerful and immersive gaming environment at the time remained at the arcade, and the adaptation of bringing that experience into your home was something exciting to imagine. Overtime, both consoles and PC gaming provided so many new innovations, that the arcade became redundant to the personalised experience that could be had at home.
The drive to be the best has always been there, and whether it was on arcade, console or PC has never mattered. The competitive aspect of gaming has always prompted people to have the most advantageous tools for any slight edge.
Lorraine Baines: I think we need a rematch.
George McFly: Oh, a rematch. Why? Were you cheating?
It can be argued that all things being said and done, that it always comes down to the skill of the player and this is true to a point. In the Commodore 64 era, these advantages were more about how to reach the highest score, rather than to decimate your opponent in a show of absolute superiority.
But That Was Then, And This Is Now
The Commodore 64 computer is only a gaming historical milestone now, comparative with the Sega series of console, and I accept that. The example of the Commodore 64 however, illustrates the similarities over time on what makes a good gaming platform. The overall attributes across both console and PC, at their core, is a repetitive story through the generations on the want and needs of gamers. It needs to be fun, adaptive, and inclusive at the player’s discretion.
Gaming has transformed from its humble beginnings, into a wider aggregate of inclusion. Gamers can now be recreational, professional or a hybrid of the two. Gaming platforms are also varied in both the plug and play consoles or customisable PCs. Regardless of the platform chosen, the motivation to pick up any game should, in my humble opinion, by a simple constant – I want to play.
With both sides voicing their opposing arguments, neither has distinguished themselves categorically as being the predominant choice. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best, for sure go for it, upgrade and progress. Innovations in technology are moving so fast now that to have any air of superiority on any platform or brand, is rather like a dog snapping at moving cars. Future advancements aside, if you were to use today’s systems as a baseline for technology and performance, I don’t see how the differential of a great game could be the platform it is played on. A great game, is a great game.
The Great Convergence
The opposing rifts between console and PC gaming has mainly been due to the static specifications of a console, compared to the ongoing customisation of a PC. Microsoft has started the next phase in gaming by unifying its PC and console gaming into one Universal Windows Platform. This is not the beginning of the end, but rather a change in the model on how two competing gaming platforms can be interfaced to a greater outcome for us, the consumer.
Lorraine Baines: Marty? Why are you so nervous?
Marty McFly: Lorraine. Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you had to act a certain way, but when you got there, you didn't know if you could go through with it?
This convergence is a logical evolutionary progression. I love the plug and play aspect of my console, but the former ten year lifecycle of a console can no longer be applied. The introduction of PlayStation Neo and Xbox One S, are examples of how console companies have shown their hand in acknowledging that they need to change the definition of a gaming console.
The merging of both PC and console also brings to an end, the exclusivity of console specific games and vice versa. This opens up the opportunity for game developers to reach a wider audience over consistent specifications configurations - "may I have one set of game mechanics please sir?"
Lorraine Baines: Marty, will we ever see you again?
Marty McFly: I guarantee it.
On the flip side, for PC gamers, the adaptability will remain to upgrade your hardware, but it will be consequential to the gaming world as a whole. The conundrum will remain i.e. just because you can upgrade, does not mean that you can afford to. It all comes down to how much you are willing to spend? If the gain does not have a distinct benefit, in my opinion, you are just chasing those cars again.
Both console and PC gaming will have their place for varied reasons of preference, customisation, and affordability. I don’t expect both sides to sit around a camp fire singing Kumbaya. Our choice on gaming platforms however, should not be offensive to others. What I hope in the longer term is that we all acknowledge the synonym that is PC and console gaming, and understand how that correlates to our love of all things game.
Dr. Emmett Brown: Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.