The debate between PC gamers and console gamers (or sometimes just the general superiority complex of high-end PC gamers) has always seemed totally bizarre to me. You’d think that even in a culture that is so aggressive at times towards outsiders, we’d at least be congenial towards one another for the shared love we have of the medium, but no. Gamers tend to be just as aggressive towards one another when it comes to debates within the industry or community, even to the point of arguing over which ‘console’ or ‘system’ is better, regardless of the fact that more often than not they allow us to enjoy the same games and experiences in the same way. The same character traits vested in us that make us wary towards anyone outside the community making commentary about it make us just as judgmental and arrogant towards one another.
The PC v. Consoles debate has always been present, but it reached a fever pitch around the time the latest consoles were announced, and stayed high until well after they were released, before finally simmering somewhat. Most prominent from PC gamers is the argument that the newest consoles are far behind the latest gaming rigs in technical specs, and that technical progress in gaming as a whole has been stymied by developers producing inferior consoles for mass consumption rather than advocating an exodus to PC gaming. Supposedly we would be much farther along in terms of graphics and other technical limitations if those damned console developers would stop, right?
The thing is, based on what I know of the gaming industry from the fifteen-odd years I’ve followed it critically, my opinion is that this argument is not only incredibly arrogant and divisive, it’s unnecessary. Additionally, this type of thinking completely distracts from many of the more legitimate issues within the industry and confuses the issue of why we play and enjoy games in the first place, enforcing a strange utilitarian and hive-mind mentality on the industry as a whole.
If anything, consoles holding PCs back is a wonderful thing for an endless number of reasons, and most importantly, is the reason why the gaming industry is as successful, mainstream (yes, we’re slowly going mainstream now, so we might as well deal with it), and artistically and creatively varied as it is today. It’s one of the reasons why we now have a flourishing Indie scene and games that are pushing artistic and creative boundaries like never before. Hear me out on this before you grab your USB pitchforks and start condemning me, alright, PC gamers?
First off, I want to point your attention to the major argument that console gamers have always rallied towards: High-end PCs are too expensive for most people, and consoles lower the bar for entry into gaming. Now I will honestly agree with you on the grounds that this argument is totally wrong. The financial cost for a higher-end, home-built PC which can then be slowly upgraded over time is far cheaper in the big picture than just buying consoles over and over again as generations shift. There’s both anecdotal and financial data to back up that argument.
BUT – and this is a very big BUT – there’s enough evidence to show that this is a purely modern development, and that at one point that argument was totally true. Just six years ago I purchased a new laptop as a college freshman when my last one finally went down in flames, a new rig which could barely play TF 2 on the lowest settings, in windowed form. I sheepishly used it all through college, playing actual games on my PS3 and 360 while shaking my fist at all those well-off kids and their fancy, high-end gaming desktops. You can probably imagine my surprise when, about one year ago while in the market for another laptop (after that previous one slowly died of digital cancer), I found a decent one, for the same price as I had bought the last for, which was about as powerful as a PS3 or 360. I was shocked to find that I suddenly had a laptop that, while a dinosaur compared to most higher-end rigs, was still capable of playing nearly everything which was being newly released (at lower settings, sometimes, granted).
This personal experience illustrates the very real point I’m getting at, which is that that the entire reason it is more financially feasible to buy a high-end PC instead of following consoles is BECAUSE consoles have ‘held back’ the technical aspects of gaming. Whereas just fifteen years ago consoles were relatively close to gaming PCs in strength, today they are actually really far behind, but PC developers are still for the most part producing PC games at the console tech level. In essence, it’s thanks to consoles holding PCs back that a vastly higher amount of people can now enter into gaming at the PC level, thanks to a re-adjustment of the playing field over several years by console manufacturers.
In tandem with this lowered PC gaming entry-point, consoles themselves have brought in a huge profusion of people into the gaming world in general. Due to the fact that consoles are specifically marketed towards people with little tech knowledge, they come off as a very warm and welcoming way for people interested in games to get their feet wet, without going too deep. The explosive rise of popularity for the gaming industry within the past several years is primarily thanks to this welcoming nature working in conjunction with factors like word-of-mouth, mobile gaming piquing interest, and other minor ones. Thus while PCs drawing in tech people cannot be understated, it is primarily due to consoles, working directly or indirectly, that so many people now call themselves gamers.
That’s the huge point I’m getting at: thanks to consoles holding tech back to lower the cost of entry into PC gaming, as well as acting as an entry into gaming itself, gaming has seen unprecedented industry booms in the past 10-15 years. It’s thanks to consoles in their entirety that gaming is now so massive an industry, and thus why it can now afford to be more creative, innovative, and progressive than ever before. Pretty rad, right? Everybody wins!
As if that major point wasn’t significant enough, there’s one more caveat to consoles’ role in increasing gaming popularity. The gaming industry has been having a major issue lately: ballooning development costs thanks to the incredible price of producing the high-end graphics that we (especially PC gamers) love to see in our mainstream games. Many AAA-titles end up not even breaking even because of the absurd costs of producing such high-end games, and the titles that do must sell millions of copies just to get there. So who do we really have to thank for the rapid evolution of graphics and the money to produce all of them?
That’s right: once again, the console. If it wasn’t for consoles directly or indirectly drawing so many people into the gaming world, turning so many millions of people across the world into gamers, there wouldn’t be any money to produce those graphics. So no, PC-Master-Race kids, PCs wouldn’t actually be more progressive and technically advanced if consoles didn’t hold them back. Simply put, there would no gamers and fans to even pay the exorbitant costs to produce those games, and the slow advance of graphics and technical specs would be even SLOWER without all that money consoles and new gamers bring in.
There’s so much bad blood in the gaming community that just doesn’t make any rational sense. Yes, PC gamers, PCs are more financially feasible over long term. Yes, they make more sense from the standpoint of a hardcore gamer. I agree with all those points, but there’s no reason to be shitting on console gamers. We should be thanking them for bolstering the industry so much, and for helping to make it and the community as beautifully diverse and expansive as they are today. In all reality, PC gaming is the natural endpoint for someone who starts in consoles anyway – the only reason I haven’t traded the laptop in for a home-built desktop myself is because I have nowhere to put it!
Gaming is an incredible medium that I honestly wish everybody could share in, and I’m just happy so many people today get to experience it. Why waste so much time arguing over which console or system is better, or how better tech and graphics are everything (which the indie scene has proved clearly aren’t), or how ‘terrible’ it is that gaming is becoming ‘mainstream’ and so many people are flooding in, when all it does is expose you as selfish and conceited? Make your gaming decisions, let other people make theirs, share the similarities you do have, and stop making the community and industry look bad. There’s something for everyone here, and if we really are as mature and progressive as our games are, we need to act like it.