Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Story Time: MegaWestgarth and PC Gaming





Picking up our new GPU (GTX 750 Ti) from the post office was remarkably memorable. Everyone jokes about the elitist "PC Master Race", but as I prised open Amazon's cardboard envelope and saw Asus' overly dramatic packaging, I really did feel as if I were starting something special. You see, graphics cards have been the stuff of dreams for as long as I've known about them.

The vast majority of my gaming has been on consoles and hand helds. From the Mega Drive, to the GameBoy Advance, to the Xbox 360, there's always been something available to me that required no technical knowledge to start up and play. PC gaming on the other hand was a befuddling minefield of system requirements, patches, and general sense of hit-and-miss regarding whether or not a new game would work.

For two or three years around the turn of the millennium I played almost exclusively on the PC. My parents had finally moved from Windows 95 to Windows XP, buying a new computer in the process. I can't recall what the exact specs of the computer were, or if I ever even looked them up, but I was able to enjoy a few years of hassle free PC gaming, devouring titles such as Age of Mythology, Dungeon Keeper 2, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life and Deus Ex.

But then Sim City 4 came out, and Grand Theft Auto 3, and a host of other games that I rushed home from the shop, only to find that they wouldn't run on my parents' PC. With no money to buy my own computer, and absolutely no knowledge of how to upgrade the one we had, my journey into the realm of PC gaming was over.

Friends of mine, however, were less willing to give up on the promised land of PC gaming. During my first year at sixth form, around 2004, my good friend had gained enough knowledge to build his own computer from scratch – complete with a transparent chassis and a bright blue LED thermometer. It was super cool, apart from the fact that it ran Windows ME.

At university another good friend took an old Windows XP computer apart and put it back together before my very eyes, pointing out the various parts that made it tick. He later took these same parts and arranged them in a desk draw, showing that it would still work. A "desk-top" computer – it was funny.

Then my parents' second Windows XP machine gave up the ghost, and my brother and I took that apart, carefully examining its inwards. Then we took apart a broken laptop. Then I took apart an original Xbox. And then in the Netherlands I bought a few cheap, second hand Windows XP machines and cobbled them together.

Now, in the autumn of 2014, I sit at home with the computer Emma bought herself, with the new GPU we went halvers on, playing games at performance levels unattainable by the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And with the configurability of modern PC games. This set up will likely outlive the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. And if it doesn't, we know what to do.

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