Your Gaming PC Primer
The most expensive, versatile and powerful gaming option is, of course, a gaming PC. Despite repeated predictions that the platform is dead -- and admittedly, it does seem to be a bit past its heyday -- there are still plenty of games available, and the things a PC does best (online play, mouse interface, etc.) still make it a platform to watch.
Being a PC gamer takes commitment. Instead of replacing your machine every three to five years or so as with a console system, a PC needs plenty of upgrading to stay current. That's the tradeoff and the price of living on the bleeding edge of gaming technology.
If you're looking to upgrade your PC, take a close look at the system requirements for the games you want or enjoy playing. Buy the best components and upgrades you can afford that exceed the recommendations. Buying the best you can afford also buys you a little more time before obsolescence catches up with you. Be wary of cheap deals and cheap PCs, and for now, avoid Windows Vista. It will eventually become more important, but for now gaming is more stable on Windows XP.
The best way to avoid problems is to update your video drivers as often as possible. Most people should stick to the latest complete drivers and avoid unfinished beta drivers. Bear in mind that PC game fans are tinkerers, and because of all the non-standardized hardware available, bugs and the need to troubleshoot are always a possibility on a PC gaming system.
A gaming PC requires a powerful video card, plenty of RAM and a fast processor. The numbers for these change all the time so, again, it's best to keep an eye on games' system requirements and upgrade as your PC ages. Next, it's a good idea to invest money in a big flat-screen monitor. After all, you'll be staring at the monitor all the time. Also, some gamers swear by fancy gaming mice and other gadgets; we recommend a gamepad for sports games and using the mouse and keyboard for everything else.
World of Warcraft: The biggest and, arguably, the best massively-multiplayer online role-playing game ever made is something any gamer with an interest in fantasy, MMORPGs or just the concept of a virtual world needs to check out. World of Warcraft, for thousands of people, is the main reason they own a PC.
MS Flight Simulator X: Always a top-seller every time a new edition gets released, Microsoft's pilot simulation game proves that there are a lot of people out there who wish they had a pilot's license. With state-of-the-art realism and graphics, and exquisitely detailed cities and airports, MS Flight Sim X is an impressive piece of wish-fulfillment.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare: One of the best games in 2007 and easily the best game in the series, the game tackles heavy subjects and brings the thrill and terror of modern warfare home to your monitor.
BioShock: Available only on the PC and Xbox 360, BioShock is easily one of the most innovative and polished games ever made.
The Sims 2: The Sims really came to life with this sequel and remain the most enchanting virtual dollhouse with which you can play.
Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword: The PC does deep strategy better than any other platform, and Civilization IV is the king of 'just-one-more-turn' addictive gameplay. Beyond the Sword is an expansion pack (the original game is required) but it adds new scenarios, civilizations, technology, balance and rules.
Sam & Max: Season One: With all six brilliant mini-episodes in one package, Sam & Max: Season One marks the return of the legendary duo of underground comic and PC gaming fame. Solid, funny, noir-based adventure gaming in the original episodic releases marks the exciting debut of a new way for budget or niche games to survive in a crowded market.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock: Finally PC fans can rock out with Guitar Hero. It took them long enough!
The Orange Box: Half-Life 2, the Episode One and Two expansion packs, Portal and Team Fortress 2 -- wait, this game offers three enormous first-person shooters, one of the most innovative games ever, and one of the best multiplayer games ever made? All in one package? Color us orange.
Peggle: It's a cheap independent game from Popcap.com, but it's also an impressively addictive time-waster. Basically you shoot a ball at blue and orange pegs. The goal is to hit every orange peg before running out of balls. Even though the game offers no real strategy aside from aiming, it feels so good when you complete a board, Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' starts playing and fireworks go off!
You might hear a lot about how the PC is 'doomed.' Don't believe it. If anything, the consoles are getting more PC-like. Eventually we'll probably see some sort of merging, and we'll get all our gaming from the same device. Until then, remember this: The PC is where the hardcore, dedicated, obsessive, true gamers are. The few, the proud, the PC game players.