PC Gaming vs. Intent


I don’t play PC games. Ever. I don’t extoll the virtues of Gaben and I don’t have a Steam account. Part of that is an aversion to digital, but the reality is it comes down to developer intent.

However, I used to play on the PC all the time. I grew up on an Apple II, and loved the inner workings of DOS. I fought for games to work with boot disks, worked with sound card types, and became mesmerized by CD-ROM tech.

Then it stopped.

Consoles became a preferred medium. It was instant, it was fast, and PC gaming was littered with me-too strategy games. Back then, PC’s didn’t do action. I remember dreadful ports of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II that looked fantastic, but were barely functional. In the modern day, we’ve come a long way. The PC has become a shining beacon of performance. Call of Duty and Battlefield are popular PC entries, and action titles come to the PC while making a visual mockery of their console brethren. And yet, I still reach for the Xbox 360 controller.

As a critic, I often have to wonder about intent and design perils. I think back to Streets of Rage on the Genesis – the original, not the sequels – and there lies a game with a frame rate halved compared to its Genesis equals. It creates a rugged feel, a little tougher to match the harshness of Sega’s crime-driven world. That’s intent. That’s what the development team could do with the hardware configuration they were given.

On a closed console, I’m getting exactly what the developer designed. I don’t have to worry about visual filters, AA, or frame rate drops. If I see a frame rate drop in the midst of action, the game can be viewed as unpolished, but the blame has one factor. I can’t say the same for the PC. Was the action too heavy for my hardware? Was there a simple glitch with my configuration? Are my settings too high? Is the AA turned too high? Are the shadows straining my system?

On the 360 (or PS3, or Wii U, or any other static console), it’s the programming. I can write about a game confidently, without the worry that something on my end was wrong, or set incorrectly. I don’t need to fumble in menus, losing time as I try to find the best mix of options. The game, on my console, is what it should be. Whether or not it’s the “best” version is irrelevant. There’s no promise I could play the best version anyway.

I love what the PC community does, often times ingenious, and other times a bit disturbing. For every one who puts a controllable, driving horse in Grand Theft Auto IV, there’s another who is ensuring horse anus is properly rendered (?) in Skyrim. It’s often bizarre and wild, certainly making for fun material across the ‘net. For my purposes though, I’d rather leave the game material to those who designed it. If they screwed up, they screwed up. Someone wanted Doom 3 sans gunlight. No amount of community fixes will change that.

Header image: AVForums