Monday, July 11, 2011

Welcome to the Master Race - why I've fallen in love with the gaming PC

I could feel her purr at my touch, my hand softly sliding over her shiny ebon skin. It was the purr of a lioness, powerful yet graceful. And she was at my beck and call - after all, I had created her.

"Frostmourne", I had called her, her shiny blue leds  giving out an aura of cool. After the final upgrade, a new, huge, cooler, I slid her side closed and listened to her hum as I pressed the power button.

A bit later, there I was in the Nevada Desert, post-apocalypse. I was in awe the moment I entered the wasteland with max graphical settings on. Crisp scenery as far as the eye could see, nary a frame dropped bellow 60. Yes, I thought, this is how God games. On a PC.

And after an hour of play, my Frostmourne decided that it was about time to show she would not be wielded so easily. She reset.

Now the true game was on. A game of assembly and disassembly, of benchmarks and running temperature and voltage monitors, of firmware upgrades and memchecks. Arthas had gotten to know this truth as well: power has a cost.

It would be much simpler - and weak that I am, I have sometimes considered it, it shames me to admit - to just game on a console. Just put the DVD on and play without a care in the world, slouched on the sofa.

Why do we do it, then, the PC faithful? Why do we proclaim the PC to be the One True Game System, and suffer her quirks, her bugs, her restrictive DRMs and her endless technical taunts?

Because, harsh mistress that she may be, we love her. We love both the power and the quest for it.

Yes, it goes beyond gaming at resolutions that the console crowd barely dreams exist, with triple-digit framerates and true hi-res textures. It goes beyond the rich indie scene that gives that unequaled sensation of being at the frontier of the medium.

It goes deeper, near the gear-head that gets elbow-deep in his car's engine. It's about fighting the machine, taming the machine, knowing that that silky smooth framerate was hard earned through dozens of purchase decisions, optimization and tests.

It's about getting to know how to setup your fans to create maximum airflow in order to cool off that monster of a graphics card that you just overclocked and no, no sane person would put water anywhere near inside a PC so thankyouverymuch give me the biggest air cooler you've got.

It's about the challenge, the taming. It's about earning your system, not merely paying for it.

My Playstation 3, she sits in a corner, booted up for the odd exclusive that always leaves me thinking how much better it would be on the PC. Same with the Xbox and the Wii.

Now Frostmourne? The frost bites every now and then, aye. But the way she purrs under my grip...

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