So you’ve been envious over PC gaming, the culture, the experience and the many advantages? You’ve decided that your going to switch to PC gaming for the first time? The options you have will overwhelm you. Where do you start? What do you buy? How do you set it all up? What about software & updates? Tweaking & Tuning? So many questions, but wouldn’t it be great if there was a one stop guide to find all the information you need?
Professional PC gamers agree it is a bit more complex than regular console gaming. There are more hardware options to tweak your performance, depending on how much time and resources you want to commit to it. ‘The Glorious PC Master Race’ as some may say is more than just elitism. It’s a culture, it’s about fine tuning your experience, and opening up a world of opportunities. So let me welcome you into our world…
It’s all about the Gaming Experience.
Different people have different interpretations of PC gaming. Some may begin their PC gaming experience with mild games like The Sims, while others choose PC gaming to explore the pro-level challenge, fast-paced nature of competitive gaming in FPS/RTS genres. It’s a matter of choice. And PC Gaming gives you choices in abundance.
If poker and puzzles thrill you, a moderate PC gaming experience is all you need to be satisfied. An average PC should be able to handle that with ease. Those searching for high-end games in the category of Battlefield V or Star Citizen, a more dedicated gaming computer should be your prime objective. This would mean getting a PC with the right specs to handle such load.
To Customise or not to Customise…that is the question.
Picking the parts to custom build a machine sounds like an awesome idea on paper, but if you have never built a computer, how will you avoid many pit falls and hurdles that could potentially destroy hundreds if not thousands of pounds worth of technology? Building your custom PC without learning about the hardware & resources needed for a great gaming experience is like going into a battlefield without learning about the enemy first. It may turn out that the weapon you have is not the right one to face the enemy. Don’t enter a gun fight with a stick!
Take the time to learn about the memory/RAM, processors, graphics cards, and so on. There is an abundance of resources widely available to you. YouTube has some great videos that will help you get started, with my personal recommendations to look at being Linus Tech Tips & Jayz Two Cents. Both these channels offer expert advice in an unbiased format (most of the time), and provide helpful tips, guides and suggestions.
The Budget for War
You will have to decide between a few things. How much space do you have? Some of the most common forms of Gaming PC’s will come in a Mid-Sized Tower case. These are somewhat larger than any console, so ensure you have the room, and if you’ll be using your PC as a regular Desktop with a desk, monitor and peripherals, or to replace your console connected to a TV. If the latter is the case (to pardon the pun!), you can build a smaller ITX Form factor case that won’t look out of place in any Home Media setup.
Secondly, to build yourself or to buy pre-built? Well, it’s no secret that by purchasing a pre-built PC you’ll be paying additional taxes, labour charges and premiums. In short, you’ll save money building it yourself, however at the cost of time to build and time to research. The building process isn’t all that difficult, but ultimately the choice is yours to make.
Then if your looking for something portable (see, PC Gaming covers everything!), then a Laptop is more suited. But beware, costs are higher, they degrade far quicker, and you’ll be stuck in terms of hardware with very limited upgrade options. As I don’t see a Gaming Laptop as a replacement path for Console Gaming, I’ll be skipping over this one.
My recommendation for your first gaming PC should be around £650-£850. Just know that buying a PC gets you more functionality and options than consoles. Buying a pre-built PC is a relatively simple and easy process with great choices from both Scan or Overclockers. However, most PC players will tell you that building a PC is the best way to go if you’re looking to maximise every pound spent on your shiny new rig. I have always built my own PC’s from an early age, so buying a pre-built just isn’t an option for me. There’s nothing wrong with buying a pre-built PC; especially if it’s your first one.
So, what about PC specifications?
When it comes to purchasing a console, life is pretty simple…HD or 4K? PlayStation & Xbox both have varieties of their consoles tailored to both (PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One S, Xbox One X). PC’s aren’t really that different. When choosing your specifications, it’s very easy to get totally confused with statistics, benchmarks, figures, and reviews. But it all boils down to how you want to experience your games. If your satisfied with 1080p HD at 60fps (similar to consoles, but slightly smoother framerates), and you just want to experience the more vast library off Games available, then things become simpler.
If, however, your goal is to reach the dizzy heights of 100+ fps whilst competing in competitive gaming, or to bask in the glorious textures and pixels of 4K gaming, then it will become more complex, slightly.
The very first component you should be looking into is your Graphics Card, as this will be the single most defining factor to your gaming experience above all else. Now, yes the other components are extremely important, but the Graphics Card or GPU is of the uttermost importance here. Below are my recommendations;
- Budget PC Gaming: GTX 1050/GTX 1050ti or Radeon RX 560/Radeon RX 570
- Mid-Range Gaming: GTX 1060/GTX1070 or Radeon RX 580 / Radeon RX Vega 56
- High-End Gaming: GTX 1080 or Radeon RX Vega 64
Now before the masses come to slaughter me here, these are just baseline suggestions. It will depend on the games, what your running in the background, and how you play those games. See, that’s the beauty of PC gaming, games can be tweaked in countless ways and played in many configurations. My article here on Graphics Cards will help you get an idea. Having the latest and greatest card isn’t always the best option. If money is no object, people would be telling you to get the Nvidia RTX 2080, but I’m telling you don’t. Why if it’s the fastest card on the market? Well, you will realistically see around 5% improvement across the board, and you will pay over double the price for that. It does also include new Ray-Tracing technologies, but these are not implemented in Games yet, in fact at the time of writing this, only one game fully supports it. By the time this new tech becomes the norm, we WILL have a new generation of cards with updated tech, so would it not make sense to buy that new card when it becomes available with newer tech and probably at a cheaper price?
I won’t touch too much on the hardware, as I’ve stated, there is far too many good resources out there, and I feel your time is best served with the other topics of interest in making your switch.
So where’s the PC Games Store?
Unlike consoles that each only have one dedicated digital storefront. Buying games on PC is a different experience with several platforms to chose from. Steam is the biggest and most popular platform for PC games along with sites like GOG. However, most third-party publishers also have dedicated platforms like Ubisoft’s uPlay, EA’s Origin, and Epic Games’ own launcher. Microsoft unveiled a couple of years ago that all first-party titles will be playable on Windows 10 PC’s via the Microsoft Store. Battle.net houses all of Activision-Blizzard’s games like Hearthstone, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and Destiny 2. Then to top it all off, there are several key site that also sell digital game keys and/or passes, however the shady practices some employ and the whole grey area of there existence would lead me to advice you to steer clear from those.
I feel that consoles have the edge when it comes down to a single platform for all your gaming purchases but PC games have amazing sales often. My only criticism with buying games on multiple platforms is maintaining and keeping track of all those accounts. I would suggest storing passwords and account details using Password Managers.
So once you have your shiny new machine, be sure to install all the gaming clients you require (these would be EA’s Origin, Ubisoft’s uPlay, Steam and so on). These act as not only your game libraries and launchers, but also your digital storefronts. Once those are installed and you have created your accounts, I would recommend you to ensure that you store the details in a Password Manager as mentioned above. I have tried many password managers, but my utmost respect goes to Dashlane Password Manager for its ease of use, amazing feature set, and ability to sync across an array of devices all whilst not charging a single penny for the service. Check it out here.
Optimising & Tweaking
One of the biggest things that scares most console gamers away from joining the PC realms is the fact that it isn’t really plug and play. You will have to setup the games, the system etc. In reality though, things have improved somewhat, with Windows 10, updates are streamlined as service patches done in the background, to some extent even the drivers are handled this way.
Drivers I hear you say? Well, drivers are small files and/or applications that communicate with the operating system (Windows 10 in most cases) and the hardware components. They kind of ‘drive’ the system along. The thing is, these will need to be updated regularly, to stop security exploits and vulnerabilities and to ensure smooth and hassle-free performance.
Avoid the urge to download a one-click fix-all application that claims to keep drivers up-to-date as this is rarely the case, and you’ll probably end up with some form of malware or infection within the system. It really isn’t all that difficult though, your motherboard will have a single application that will notify of update and guide you through the process as and when they are available, windows updates will automatically take care of most of the other stuff. So, the only real concern would be your Graphics Card drivers, that said, once you have gone to the specific website for your card, Nvidia or AMD, and downloaded their software, automatic update notifications will alert you to the presence of new drivers also.
You can enhance your PC gaming experience with the right set of accessories, including mouse, keyboard, headsets, game-pads etc. Different accessories fit into different kinds of games. For example, first-person shooters are better with a gaming mouse. It will take some getting used to sure, but it’ll be hard to look back after. It’s faster, more precise and less fatiguing. Racing games, some third-person games or open-world games, I still enjoy using a controller/game-pad however, so don’t be ashamed of keeping one on your desk or close-by. The whole PC gaming experience is about tailoring to your needs.
For a better picture, get a good monitor. If you want to hear conversations better, get a gaming headset (don’t use speakers, trust me, try a decent gaming headset, and thank me later). There is a hardware designed to enhance whatever part of the gaming experience you desire.
There are games that are just better with a game-pad – irrespective of what the fans of mouse and keyboard will tell you. Almost all PC gamers love the Xbox game-pad, but there are lots of options in the market. Most games support game-pads but if you happen to come across one that doesn’t, use some software such as Xpadder to make it work universally with keybinds and/or mouse clicks.
Start modifying your experience
PC Gaming has always been the home of modding. Modding is the art of modifying game code or assets to alter appearance or functionality. Whilst some mods haves appeared on console, it’ll never match the sheer amount of available incarnations on PC, with some even going as far as totally converting a game into a completely new setting, genre or more.
Mods are everywhere, and if your not happy with a part of a game, change it! Or, if you’ve finished a game and want a new challenge, mod it! Choice is the name of the game here, and PC gaming has it in buckets. So many mods to choose from, and a quick Google search of your favourite game will throw up several solutions and guides to install these.
The end game
By now, your probably well on your way into your PC gaming life, and enjoying the many benefits of gaming. You’ll be looking into upgrading your machine soon, or maybe looking into rare gaming opportunities, new hidden gems, what to play next? Maybe, your looking into being the next big content creator, starting a community, becoming an esports player. Whatever it is, be sure to follow my blog and its socials channels, even register on my Gamer’s Club email list and you can stay up-to-date with Gaming & Technology news, reviews on games, updates in the world of gaming, spotlights on small UK content creators, and even free giveaways!