One of the oldest debates in the history of gaming is over which is the superior platform to game on: PC or console. Two of our writers have decided to add their own thoughts to this long-running argument. Sean Engemann is here to defend the honor of his beloved consoles, while Becky Cunningham makes a case for the PC. Who do you feel makes the stronger point? Let us know in the comments section.
Sean "I'll Take a Console Any Day" Engemann:
There are many points of differentiation between gaming on a PC and gaming on consoles, but let's start with your physical connection to the system: the controller. Everybody has their preferred controller type, and some become so attached to it they swear it has been molded specifically for their hands. Then they are dared to test out a first-person shooter with the keyboard/mouse combination, and suddenly the controller is collecting dust. This will be my only miniscule concession to the PC: After plenty of tests, the keyboard is proven better for several types of game, and being able to set dozens of hotkeys makes even a 16-button controller seem like a child's toy. Sure, you can buy a keyboard for the PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360 (if you can call the Chatpad a keyboard), but how many people honestly own one and use it frequently?
But PC control options fall short when it comes to the peripherals. Sony, Microsoft, and especially Nintendo design specifically for their consoles, which means good luck finding a Wii Balance Board or Sony Move system that is compatible with your PC. And although I've seen motion input devices usable for your tower or laptop, it has a long way to go before it attracts a steady gamer base, especially when just the controller systems average $150 or so.
The price difference is possibly the biggest detail I can use for a nice, fat checkmark on the side of consoles. If you're a gamer looking to get the best graphical quality out of a game, naturally you'll look to a PC. However, your eyes are almost guaranteed to be bigger than your wallet. A low-end gaming PC will cost no less than $800, with high-end custom units well over $2000. Also, if you go the economical route, you'll need a good video card (upgraded every couple of years), a solid sound card and speakers, and probably some extra RAM down the road. And remember, the visuals are only as good as the monitor they're displayed on, so an HD monitor purchase is a must. Even with a barebones tower around the $800 mark, you're still two-hundred dollars over the launch price of the 60 GB PS3, and you certainly won't be able to play Crysis 2 with the highest settings. Strictly looking at the hardware, if you don't have a current generation system or a PC (although, what gamer reading this doesn't?), you could buy a PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii for the price of one low-end gaming PC.
Consoles are also less burdened with technical issues. Of course, everyone's had their share of gripes, from the PSN outage to the Red Ring of Death, and even software crashes from unanticipated programming errors in the final product. But how often does your PS3 or Xbox 360 run comprehensive security scans that reveal hundreds of instances of adware, or cause major lag from gargantuan operating systems? That fact is, even gaming PCs are multipurpose devices, and seeing a crammed processes tab in the task manager is as expected as seeing a swarm of flies on a pile of manure. Let's face it, when Skyrim comes out in November, those who've purchased a console version will have already slain their first dragon before PC owners have even finished installing the game.
And gone are the days where a final console copy truly is "final." True, patches are more readily available for a PC, but they're certainly not exclusive, thanks to every current console allowing online access. A console game that has issues at launch is much more likely to be fixed than in would have been in past console generations.
Now let's take a look at the social environment of both sides. If you're one of the players among the throngs of World of Warcraft fans (or expecting to join the ranks of Star Wars: The Old Republic when it launches), you may have a guild full of friends with whom you tackle instances every night. But how many of them do you share a bowl of chips and a barrel of Red Bull with? It may feel like they're in the same room if they're using Ventrilo or TeamSpeak, but you'll never be able to look them in the eyes or slap their hands away from your soda. If you've got good friends, it's exceedingly more fun to have them over for some pizza and a few (or more) rounds of MotorStorm: Apocalypse, Gears of War, or Super Smash Bros. Brawl, depending on your system. You may feel some personal connection to the gaming world by creating some new mod for Civ 5, or just spent eight hours claiming victory against a bunch of unknown players, but in the end, you're still just playing with yourself.
Finally, the games. The list of games exclusive to the PC world is shrinking every year, and more often we now see console games that eventually end up on a computer, not vice versa. Granted, some PC games will never see light on a console, mostly due to technical and input limitations, but consoles are by far more blessed with exclusivity. Even games like Halo, published by Microsoft, have remained firmly planted in living rooms rather than computer desks. And forget about your favorite Nintendo icons jumping off of their platform and onto your PC, because that's simply never going happen. (Unless you're a shady emulator hawk, but emulating Nintendo games just isn't the same. In most cases, it's not exactly legal, either.)
All in all, there are several things you can only do on a computer, but if you're looking for the quickest and cheapest way to get your gaming thrill and enjoy having your DualShock decked out with a sweet skin to flaunt in the face of your friends, a console is by far the obvious choice for you.