I started out as a console gamer, playing games like X-Men and Sonic Pinball on the Sega Genesis while still answering questions like “How old are you?” with my fingers. Back then my dad wouldn’t let me play Pitfall because it was “too hard”, which was probably true.
Over the years I naturally progressed into the Playstation and PS2, falling in love with RPGs like Breath of Fire IV and Final Fantasy IX until the 360 and PS3 generation kicked off. At the time the PS3 was nowhere to be found, cost about $500 and, even though I already had a job, I was spending my money faster than I made it. I didn’t have the cash or patience to continue my Sony fanboy-ism, so I got an Xbox 360.
It wasn’t long until I was hooked to online multiplayer thanks to Gears of War and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I quickly switched camps, becoming an exclusive 360/Xbox Live gamer at the time. My love of RPGs was largely replaced with an intense desire to curb stomp every person I could find, but I also still kept up with franchises like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls and even played lesser known or praised titles like The Last Remnant and Lost Odyssey. If it came out for the Xbox 360, and wasn’t a kids game, I probably played it, and that was all I knew about gaming for a few years.
This changed after I ended up out of the house at 16. Metal Gear Solid 4 was coming out soon and I had to get my hands on a PS3. For a couple years I got caught up on my PS3 backlog, playing everything from Killzone 2 to Demon’s Souls and Resonance of Fate. My console bias was gone, but I remained a console gamer at heart.
An Introduction to PC Gaming
My first real introduction to PC gaming actually came well before my teenage years.
When I was around 10 or 11 my grandfather gave me a really old laptop that was on its last legs. It didn’t have much besides Microsoft Word – which is rather ironic considering the thousands of hours I’ve spent on the program since – and it certainly wasn’t spec’d for gaming, but that didn’t stop me from seeking out something to play on it.
I ran into the problem every first time PC video game buyer runs into – specification requirements. I didn’t have anyone who really understood gaming requirements or how they worked. The only lesson I got was a warning by a Gamestop employee who told me it was possible to buy a PC game that my laptop couldn’t run. I gave him the usual deer-in-the-headlights look as he asked about my laptop’s RAM and CPU, but his gibberish wasn’t going to dissuade me. I wanted a PC game and I wasn’t leaving without one.
Seeing my determination and choosing not to be a complete jackass, the guy recommended I buy a game on the lower end of the requirement spectrum. He directed me to a bargain bin where I spent an exorbitant amount of time looking over each and every box, starring at the hieroglyphics listed under “system requirements” as if maybe I’d understand it after the hundredth time.
Funny Sidenote: I wasn’t with my parents, who would’ve dragged me out of the store with nothing after hearing the employee’s warning. I was actually with my new uncle, who had recently married my aunt and was clearly looking to earn brownie points with the family by acquiescing to everyone’s requests. I noticed this and took advantage of it, eventually getting him in trouble when he let me buy an M-rated fighting game, but that was after this instance.
I wound up getting Baldur’s Gate II. (I wouldn’t realize just how perfect a choice that game was for almost a decade.) It had a big box and massive booklet inside. What could go wrong?
Luckily the game ran fine and I proceeded to progress through the greatest – albeit hardest – RPG gaming experience of my then short-lived lifetime. It was unlike anything I’d experienced on consoles, with enough depth to drown me in. It’s still one of my favorite RPGs of all-time and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great game to sink their time into.
Fast Forward to my Freshman Year of College
Unfortunately my little laptop couldn’t run much else and I went back to my console ways rather quickly. I never even considered PC gaming again until I ended up rooming with three computer majors during my freshman year of college.
One of them was your stereotypical PC gamer, a shy-ish recluse who spent most of his time quietly in his room. He wasn’t anti-social by any means though, and all four of us got along rather well. He showed me his computer set up, which had all the LED fixings and whatnot imaginable, and I instantly wanted one of my own.
This was around the time running Crysis on Ultra was the wet dream every PC gamer aspired to, which is exactly what I wanted. However, despite having recently landed my first four-figure paying freelance client and getting a substantial sum of money back from student grants, I didn’t want to spend $1500 to $2000 on a PC.
That’s when my roommate brought up the idea of building a computer from scratch. He proceeded to teach me the ins and outs of buying computer parts, what all the technical mumbo-jumbo meant, how to find the best deals, and when all the parts came in he helped me build the monstrosity.
After my computer was built, my resident computer hardware professor and another one of my roommates started teaching me about torrents and how to crack software, ensuring I’d never have to pay for a PC game or program ever again. Coupled with my flagrant use of Gamestop’s “return any used game in 7 days for a full refund” policy, which I used to play everything I wanted for a one-time payment of $50, I spent a year-and-a-half playing everything without paying a dime. (We won’t talk about all the free music and movies, or how the four of us digitally put all the pirate gangs in Somalia to shame.)
I ended up with a system crashing virus within a month, but I took each setback in stride and learned a bit more about computers with each new virus, bug or system crash. I learned more useful information living with computer majors for a few months than I did from classes the entire time I went to college.
My Real Birth as a PC Gamer
Despite the whole experience, I still wasn’t what you’d call a PC gamer. I was still playing more on consoles than on my PC, which was largely used to watch movies and play ports of console games when I didn’t want to wait for a used copy to show up at my local Gamestop.
In all honesty, I became a PC gamer last year. I had this crazy idea to get into Twitch streaming and YouTube content creation as a way into games media, which was fun until I lost my job and couldn’t afford to make ends meet. I had to get rid of my desktop and no longer have a decent internet connection with which to stream.
But I really got into PC gaming during the last year and a half. Being able to pick up popular titles for anywhere from 50 to 95% off blew my mind during the holidays, and I’ve discovered a massive catalogue of PC-only games and an Indie scene I never knew existed.
Once again I find myself stuck with a laptop. It’s much more powerful than the laptop my grandfather gave me as a child, but it’s still heavily limited by the GeForce GT 745M GPU despite having an i7 processor.
Luckily there’s a huge backlog of old school games I’ve never experienced, many of which still stand up today. Last year I played Portal, Half-Life and the sequels to both games for the first time, thoroughly enjoying my experiences with the older titles. In fact, I liked the older games more than most of the newer titles I played during 2014 and throughout this year.
My PC Experience Moving Forward
Today I picked up System Shock 2, SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition and Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Bioshock franchise ever since having my mind blown by the original game’s twist. For years I’ve heard about how System Shock 2 is the spiritual predecessor of the franchise; for $2 I’ve decided to find out if it’s true.
The first Deus Ex game I ever played was Deus Ex: Human Revolution a few years ago. I had a lot of fun with the game, but all I’ve heard from Deus Ex fans is how it’s nowhere near as good as the original. Deus Ex is a substantial part of gaming history, so I figured I owed it to my gaming cred to find out first hand if the original really outshines its heavily updated counterpart.
SanctyaryRPG was recommended to me by a gamer I recently met, whom I may or may not have interviewed for an upcoming article (hint, hint). It’s a text-based RPG, but it also features some of the best ASCII art I’ve ever seen. Intrigued by the orange scythe picture on its Steam store page, and gameplay from a unique genre I haven’t really experienced much over the years, I decided to pick the game up. Oddly enough, it actually cost more than System Shock 2 and Deus Ex combined.
I’m going back to basics, playing the older games I missed out on to further educate myself on gaming history. Many of the games from yesteryear may not compare to the visual masterpieces we’re inundated with today, but a lot of them still feature solid gameplay that puts many newer games to shame.
There’s a lot to learn and experience from the games of yesteryear, especially for fans of the industry as a whole and those looking to get into game development or design. As a relatively young PC gamer, and one that’s super strapped on cash to boot, I intend to experience everything that the old school titles have to offer. Maybe you should think about doing so too.
(This article was supposed to be 500 words or less… Hope you enjoyed it all the same. Thanks for reading.)