The concept of “Us vs Them” is one that I’ve discussed here many times before. Something about the human brain makes it impossible to avoid dividing up the population into people we agree with and people who are wrong. Naturally this would happen in important areas like politics, sports, and sandwich construction (MUSTARD GOES ON THE BREAD, NOT THE MEAT!), but there is a bizarre prevalence in the world of gaming, too. Worse, it doesn’t only happen along the usual “Microsoft\Sony\Nintendo” party lines. There is an oft overlooked 4th entry in this conflict, and it views the others as a united front against it. I speak, of course, of the PC Gamer.
Unlike the general “my team is better than your team” animosity that drives console fanatics, the PC gamer is more of the view “your teams are ruining my sport.” Make no mistake, as far as the PC gamer is concerned, the world of video games belongs to him, and all of you console rabble are trespassing on his land. He was there first, and he is the only one who knows how games are supposed to be played. Unfortunately, because computers require a fairly high level of know-how, and have a much shorter hardware cycle, they quickly fell out of favor. The general public would much rather spend their entertainment dollar on something they just have to plug in to their TV, rather than purchasing a mysterious pile of components that you have to smear thermal paste on and install drivers and do scary things with screwdrivers to once every six months. That means that more people bought consoles for the purposes of gaming, which meant more games were SOLD for consoles, which meant developers started to focus primarily or exclusively upon consoles. That works out great for the console owner. Not so much for the PC enthusiast.
There is some validity to the “you are ruining it for us” complaint. Consoles, since they don’t get upgraded twice a year and don’t cost an arm and a leg, quickly fall behind PCs in terms of raw power. Since they can’t handle the huge poly counts and massive textures, developers simply turn down the detail and scale down the environments. Sure, they could boost those numbers back up to where they belong when releasing for the PC, but since such a small slice of their sales are on the PC these days, why bother? This creates PC ports suffering from so-called “consolitis”. Menus that ignore the presence of a mouse. Buttons that cannot be remapped. Textures that look like crap. Frequent, teeny tiny loads that completely disregard the fact that you’ve got 16 times the Ram to play with now. The PC experience has been effected, no doubt about it.
A less tolerable aspect to the PC vs Console rivalry is the exceedingly high horse that the PC gamer too often rides. Since PCs are harder to use, and cost more to maintain, hardcore gaming prior to console domination tended to attract a very similar type of person. Someone with a larger than average gaming budget and a greater than average technical prowess. The lower priced, easier to use consoles opened the floodgates for basically anyone. Many would see this as a good thing, but an irritating percentage of PC gamers are the very definition of elitist snobs. “How dare these penniless idiots start enjoying MY preferred distraction,” they proclaim, their monocles rocketing across the room.
I tend to try to avoid the major rivalries. I can straddle the gaming issue fairly well because, for one, I’m a reviewer and I have to maintain at least a SEMBLANCE of impartiality. Aside from that, I own and play games on all three major consoles and the PC, plus a few handhelds. Based on pure gaming hours, though, I would have to be considered a console gamer, while back in college I was a PC gamer. Those friends of mine who have remained devoted PC players bemoan my shift, characterizing it as a betrayal. “Why did you go to the dark side?” The thing is, for me, gaming is a pastime, not an ethos. In the same year I plopped down $2000 for a PC and $400 for an Xbox360. The PC now needs a good $500 worth of fresh parts in order to be able to play the latest games reasonably well. The XBox just plays them. The move was a strictly a budgetary decision. I made the selection that allowed me to continue to enjoy my favorite pastime once the other bills started to pile up. For me, gaming is a hobby, an interest, even a passion, but it isn’t a philosophy or a religion. A game is a game is a game, regardless of the platform, genre, or controller. Some are better than others, certainly, and certain platforms cater to certain needs, but in the end they are all still games, and we are all still gamers. Try to remember that that makes us the same, not different. If we must draw a line in the sand, let’s just gang up on tabletop gamers, those dice rolling, chart making weirdos…*
* I kid, of course. I love my monster manual toting brethren.