This is Niche Gamer Tech. In this column, we regularly cover tech and things related to the tech industry. Please leave feedback and let us know if there’s tech or a story you want us to cover!
With the latest generation of consoles heading into the end of their life cycles, the next generation is expected soon.
With all the recent issues with censorship this last generation, many of our readers have said they want to move to PC gaming – as games tend to have less censorship on PC, or none at all.
While there are many benefits to gaming on the PC, one of the most relevant is the openness of the platform. On the Xbox, PlayStation and Switch, developers have to get the clearance from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, respectively, to have their games released.
Read on for a full breakdown of the benefits of getting a gaming PC, as well as a rundown on PC hardware.
Censorship And You
Localization and censorship has been commonplace for years for different audiences, changing the games from the vision the developer originally had. If Steam won’t sell a game in its marketplace, there are many other storefronts which will. Occasionally, you can even buy games directly from the publisher.
One of the other benefits you’ll see from gaming on the PC is a lack of monthly charges for online play, as there is no PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. Some specific games like MMOs still do charge monthly fees, though this is generally the exception and not the rule.
You also have the famed Steam sales, and companies like Ubisoft’s Uplay, EA’s Origin, as well as some of the other storefronts like GOG have their own sales that, while having improved in the past few years, consoles still haven’t caught up to.
This can be a double edged sword, though generally it’s a benefit. You can upgrade your PC as often as you’d like, though the old argument of needing to upgrade your PC every year isn’t really true. It may have been 15+ years ago, but today you can get pretty good mileage out of a new, moderate PC build.
The GPU upgrade cycle has generally been 2 product cycles, i.e. someone with a GTX 900 series should avoid the 10 series and upgrade on the 20 series, and so on. This is generally every 3 years, while CPUs should last 3-6 years depending on how game engines progress, and the CPU you previously had.
Compare and contrast this to say a PS4/Xbox One, where you end up trading in the whole console at GameStop to get the upgraded Pro/X models, or new consoles altogether. You can’t simply open up your original Xbox One, pop the old GPU out, and throw a new one in like with your PC.
Unlike consoles that have issues with backwards compatibility, games on the PC work all the way back to the 80s, albeit with a bit of fiddling depending on how far back you go. As a general rule though, anything made in the past 20 years should play without too many issues.
You want to play the first two Fallout games? You got it. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind? You got it. The original Starcraft and Command and Conquer games? That too. For the titles that do require a bit of help though, GOG specializes in updating games to work on modern hardware.
As for accessibility, well this is probably the best reason to get a gaming PC. Your input devices (read controls) can be totally customized to whatever you’re playing.
Keyboards, mice and “keypads” like the Razer Orbweaver, while not forgetting Flight controls, race wheels, and VR along with more familiar inputs like the PS4/Xbox One controllers contribute towards an experience that allows much more flexibility than what’s seen on consoles.
You also have a wide variety of options when it comes to the display you play your games on. A variety of resolutions and display sizes can be used on a gaming PC, and the games will run native at that resolution, as well as refresh rate.
To put it in the simplest explanation, possible refresh rate is the amount of times your screen refreshes the image per second. Though it’s important to remember that the monitor refresh rate doesn’t matter if the PC isn’t fast enough to keep up, so the monitor is only the cap on the maximum frame rate you can visually see.
Lots of ‘gaming’ grade monitors today have a refresh rate of 120HZ+ and can get up to 240Hz on the high end, though how important this is to you varies greatly on how much you care about frame rate.
Typically, the people who find the most benefit from high refresh rate monitors are those who play lots of action games or eSports titles where reaction time and adjustments are incredibly important. Something like a turn based JRPG doesn’t tend to get a huge benefit.
Finally we have VR headsets which you can use to play Beat Saber, Superhot, Elite Dangerous, and all those pervert games you weebs play in your basements.
Unlike consoles, you have a variety of controller and headset combo to choose from, with higher end ones like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, as well as cheaper alternatives like the Lenovo and Acer mixed reality headsets.
For the hardware itself, or the guts of the PC, lets organize them by most important parts:
- GPU – The GPU is short for the Graphical Processing Unit. Like the name implies, it handles all of the graphical processing for the games you play; things like textures, lighting, tessellation, and many other things fall entirely on the GPU. If you like to play the most graphically-intensive new games, the GPU should be the most expensive part in any gaming PC, though there are exceptions to this rule.
- CPU – The CPU is the Central Processing Unit, and it handles all of the AI, Draw calls and Physics among other things for the games you play. It also handles just about everything else you do on your PC, so if you intend to do more than game on it, a beefy CPU will help with that. Having issues with Discord lagging in-game even though your internet is fine, or needing to close all of your background applications before playing games is probably the CPU.
- Motherboard – Next up is the Motherboard; it’s where everything in your computer is plugged into. Your USB ports, amount of storage devices, RAM capacity, and graphics cards you can use, as well as CPUs you can upgrade to all depend on the motherboard.
- RAM – The amount of Memory for your system. This is different from the memory on your GPU, but is still very important as it moves the data from your storage to the GPU. 16GB is generally accepted as the sweet spot, though sometimes 8GB is acceptable. You always want to use at least 2 sticks of the same size and speed. Usually buy them in pairs. 32GB+ of memory is unnecessary for just gaming, though if you do edit a lot of large videos or do heavy compute workloads it may be worth it.
- Storage – Storage consists of the hard drives (HDD) or solid state drives (SSD) in your system that store all of your data. Putting your games and operating system on an SSD will allow them to load faster, though they have less capacity per dollar than your standard HDD.
- Power Supply – The power supply is important, and as a general rule I always say the power supply and case should be about 10% of the budget each. The Power Supply Unit (PSU) is the thing that, obviously, supplies power to your PC. As a general rule, don’t buy the cheapest power supplies available, and stick to brands like EVGA, XFX, Corsair (on the $70 range and above), Thermaltake, Seasonic, and Cooler Master.
- Hardware Case – The case is mostly a preference thing, and can be up to you; just make sure to check specific reviews on the case if using something we didn’t recommend as we will be doing PC build guides in the future.
One of the questions you may ask is exactly what kind of value you get in buying a gaming PC, either pre-built off the shelf, from a boutique builder, or building it yourself – and the answer varies from PC to PC.
Generally, a well thought out PC can last around 2-6 years without needing any upgrades depending on the person and the games they play. However, the main benefit is the ability to upgrade parts of the system, like keeping the case, cooling, storage, and memory, while upgrading the CPU and GPU.
And for those who are worried about building the PC themselves, pre-built PC’s have come a long way and prices have come down. It still is cheaper to build your own, but those who don’t want to put a lot of time or thought into it can pick up something decent for under $800 to $900 now.
Editor’s Note: Niche Gamer occasionally provides links to stores or product pages that include affiliate links that directly contribute to the Niche Gamer budget monetarily. All Amazon Product links above are affiliate links