15 Reasons PC Gaming Beats All

How about an epic PC versus console gaming smackdown, in the tradition of end-of-year numbers lists?

I spent part of 2008 taking polite shots at PC foibles like Microsoft's halfhearted Games for Windows initiative, the functionality and game support travesties that plagued Vista for the better part of 2007 into 2008, PC gaming's dwindling stable of A-list exclusives, and the short-term-gains mentality that's increasingly dropping eggs in low-risk baskets labeled "World of Warcraft" and "The Sims."

So here's my last minute about-face defending the PC as a viable games platform, and a friendly rejoinder to Techradar's "12 reasons console gaming beats PCs."

1. PCs are scalable. Sure, it's a glass half-full or half-empty proposition, because component upgrades often vandalize (and scandalize) your wallet. Question is, would you rather have a platform that can play nearly anything, past to present, contingent on do-it-yourself propensity? Or be locked into a restrictively governed molding that's only changed out once every half-decade or so?

2. PC games are endlessly manipulable. Another "your mileage may vary" point, because tinkering's not for everyone, and plenty of people just want something that works. On the other hand, if you've only played Far Cry 2 on a console, you've been prowling around in visuals that only shadow the game's tricked-out PC sibling. And while stuff like NVIDIA's PhysX is accessible on NVIDIA-derivative consoles, don't expect Mirror's Edge to ever look as gleefully dissolvable on a PS3 or Xbox 360 as its physics-enhanced PC version. Also: Two words = mod scene.

3. PCs ape consoles in emulation. Here's a point often missed. PCs can be nearly any past-tense console, by hook or by crook. Miss stuff like Rare's Wizards & Warriors? The original tag-team Mario Bros.? Mega Man? Berzerk? No need to track down a moldering Atari 2600 or original NES, or Edward Stratton III's original Tempest arcade box. Just find an emulator and a stack of ROMs, or a Flash or Java site like PlayNES.net running scads of these in ostensibly legal emulation (including save-state options!) and you're golden.

4. PCs can be anywhere. If you're living in the 1970s, you think computers still hunker in lightless basements, or converted linen closets, or musty shag-carpeted attics. I've never parked my PC anywhere other than a desk/armoire/piped-and-fluted-hybrid in a living room within cabling distance of my Dolby-fied flat-screened piece-de-resistance. Swapping between a desktop LCD and your larger living room variety is a snap, not to mention that doing so offers more audio/video playback options than any of the console manufacturers.

5. Keyboard and mouse beats all. We've yet to see an interface as intuitive and broadly commanding (and that's including Nintendo's vaunted Wiimote and nunchuk).

6. PCs do gamepads, surprise! Take that, all you blinkered QWERTY mockers. Got an Xbox 360 controller? Plug it into your PC and games like Dead Space and Gears of War adapt instantly. What's more, I dare anyone to invoke a console's comparably foggy web browser and tap out a response to this point, cycling through detached-panel ASCII symbols and frantically pulling triggers, one tedious sequential character at a time.

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