There have always been the great rivalries throughout history: Coke vs. Pepsi, Jordan vs. Bird, and in the world of gaming...PC vs. Console.
I can honestly say it’s hard to remember a time before this was such a big issue, but I can. During my early teenage years, as the early generations of consoles were just starting to hit the market, all anyone could talk about was Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. Before that, it seemed like everyone just had a Nintendo, and the back and forth arguments regarding which console was better didn't really seem to ramp up until the 16-bit era (at least, as a kid, that's how I remember it).
Of course, console rivalries are nothing new, dating back to the days of Atari and Intellivision. What I do remember, though, is that it was a time when the merits of a PC-based gaming system weren't really on the radar. Naturally, there were the fans of the Commodore 64, which for many served as not just a gaming console, but their first word processor and home computer. Problem is, it didn't last. The home console as a "gaming device" is what survived the fabled crash of the early 80s, and systems like the Nintendo and Master System are what would rise from the ashes to capture the world. It wasn't until years later that the advent of CD-ROM really blew up this debate. A few years before consoles such as the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation came along, I can remember starting to take notice of titles such as Star Wars: Rebel Assault, and I'm sure folks reading this article could go on for hours about just how much fun they had with other LucasArts games such as The Secret of Monkey Island (among others).
Now, gaming has come a long way since then. Technologies have advanced and allowed gaming experiences on both the PC and console sides to grow and expand in new ways. So why is there still such a huge divide among these two communities, almost like some weird episode of Family Feud?
For years, consoles have been the trend setters when it comes to things like graphics. Now, right off the bat, I'm bound to get a wave of hate mail from people that say "graphics don't make a game...you suck." While I agree with the graphics part (with the "I suck" part...less so), you simply can't deny its importance any longer. Now, I'm a lover of the classics, and I dig a good 8-bit romp as much as anyone, but technology is what's allowing us to have experiences in gaming that are truly immersive. It's letting us live in the game world almost from the inside out. As much as I love a good game of Pitfall, can you honestly say you've ever felt immersed?
Over the years, console technology has been able to shine, especially during the consoles’ initial launches. Each generation of console hardware always outmatched anything on the PC front at the time. If you wanted the absolute best-looking gaming experience, in most cases, it would be found on the consoles. Typically, new console hardware runs about 1-2 years ahead of current PC technology, thus forcing PC gamers to play catch up. Not to mention, one high-end PC would cost several hundred dollars more to build in order to compete with a console, which is much more modestly priced.
We now seem to have reached a point in the technology cycle where this is no longer the case. PC gaming has become so advanced and affordable; the consoles are just not that far ahead anymore. In fact, many in the industry believe that PC has now closed the gap so much that desktop gaming will now always outshine what you find on the new consoles. One of these "someone’s" is NVIDIA’s Senior VP of Content and Technology Tony Tamasi. In a recent interview, Tamasi touched on exactly why he feels this way. He says: "By the time of the Xbox 360 and PS3, the consoles were on par with the PC. If you look inside those boxes, they’re both powered by graphics technology by AMD or NVIDIA, because by that time all the graphics innovation was being done by PC graphics companies. NVIDIA spends 1.5 billion US dollars per year on research and development in graphics, every year, and in the course of a console’s lifecycle we’ll spend over 10 billion dollars into graphics research. Sony and Microsoft simply can’t afford to spend that kind of money." Essentially, he's saying that R&D is just pushing the PC ball down the hill faster than the consoles can, and the momentum is just overtaking them.
I don't know exactly what the gaming landscape is going to look like twenty years from now. It can't be denied that, like it or not, technologies are going to push us forward in how our games are "experienced," rather than just played. The further we go down this path, the further we separate ourselves from our classic roots, when a two-button controller and a 13" TV with rabbit ears was all you needed.
Of course, there is the one giant elephant in the room we've yet to discuss. The divide between PC gamers and console gamers seems to be much more than just technological; it's also cultural. I recently had a brief conversion with a friend about this very issue. I'm not quoting him exactly, but let's just say that "entitled" and "douchebag" were some of the words he chose to describe PC gamers. Could I argue with him? Well, not really. Frankly, my experience has been that PC gamers have a different sensibility than your average console gamer. Right or wrong, that's just been my experience, as I'm sure it has been many of yours. However, as much as I have loved the consoles over the years, I'm hard-pressed to categorize myself as just a "console guy." Some of the most fun I've ever had in gaming has been on the PC. I can't tell you how many nights I spent in the darkness of my living room, with just the glow of my monitor and the sound of "CAPTURE THE FLAG" ringing out from my headphones as I played yet another late-night game of Halo CE. Between that and the PC version of Alien vs. Predator, I played the PC to death in the late 90s, and I can honestly say I'm torn.
As humans, there is something about our brains that loves segregating things into groups. Inevitably, even if you like both, you'll find yourself falling into one of two camps: Team Console or Team PC.
I say...can't I just play for both teams?
Why are you giggling?