I spent the evening at a friend’s house yesterday (which is why I didn’t post anything ), and he was keen to show off Halo3 and his gaming collection.
It’s an interesting setup. He has a U.S.-model Xbox360 and a Japanese-model Wii and a few other consoles and computers of various and sundry origins, all rigged through his home wireless network — almost like a scale model of the entire Internet. He’s not a network fiend, he just has a lot of toys, and they all play well together.
I tried my hand at Halo3, and I have to admit that I am a pathetic wimp when it comes to console gaming. I was way too much of a newb to enjoy it fully. It took me half the time I spent there just getting used to the controller. I needed a mouse and my wasd key layout. I could strafe … sort of … but I spent most of my time trying to figure out why I was looking at the sky. So many buttons and combinations. I had no sense of accuracy whatsoever, and after a while I just started shooting at anything that moved.
In all, it was a little bewildering.
Visually though, it was very impressive. There is detail in there that I haven’t seen since I owned a high-end Dell laptop, and probably won’t see again for a decade or so (because I won’t buy another high-end laptop ). The battles were fierce and the AI was very challenging (for me at least). The last time I played a game that required that much forethought, I was borrowing my brother’s high-end HP laptop to quell my Half-Life 2 addiction.
It’s not enough to make me a console gamer, but it does reinforce my opinion on PC gaming.
I do play PC games — open-source Linux games, on a machine that was obsolete in 2001. I still play Tribes from time to time, and Warzone 2100 and Neverwinter Nights … yes, all games that were popular back when wireless networks were expensive and 1600×1200 was an ungodly resolution.
So I admit that I’m technically lost in the eddies of PC gaming, and my opinion might not be worth much for that reason. On the other hand, I play games from time to time because I enjoy them and I have a personal history of gaming that goes all the way back to Pong. (Yes, I played the original Pong. Impressed?)
But I really don’t think PCs are the proper gaming platform any more. It takes too much money and too much effort to keep up with the technology in PC gaming. That same high-end laptop I bought almost exactly two years ago was obsolete — and I mean obsolete like, Dell didn’t sell them any more — only three months after mine arrived on my doorstep. And only a few months after that, Dell went to dual core across the board.
So I’m always impressed when someone sinks a serious amount of money on a gaming PC. The technology doesn’t hold to cutting edge, and the value plummets as soon as the plastic is broken. Part resale values arc down so quickly, it might as well be a vertical drop.
Consoles, on the other hand, seem to have a longer staying power. The technology holds at a common level and the games are written to that. I might be wrong, but I think a strong console is a better value than trying to ride the technology arc for PC components.
Let me put it this way: If I was going to buy a gaming system, I’d definitely buy a console over a PC, first because they’re cheaper, but second because I’m not enthused by upgrading over the next half-decade. Keep dumping more money into a PC that can’t play the new games in two years? I think not. Invest once in a system that will be a standard for 48 months, and then sell it off to get the next generation? Now that’s more like it.
Again, the last console system I owned was an Atari 2600, unless you count the secondhand Genesis I found in a thrift shop five years ago, refurbed and sold for $75 on ebay. So I might be way off course. But I do know that if someone wrote me a blank check and told me to buy a gaming system, mine would be a console.
And now I’m going back to playing Astromenace on my lowly 1Ghz laptop with the 64Mb Geforce 440 Go — my much-loved Arch machine. Good night and good luck.