I think I get why people like building PCs now

I’ve never really been much of a PC gamer. I wrote about why not too long ago in my ill-fated ‘review’ of Hand of Fate 2. In a nutshell, we had a crappy family PC that never worked properly when I was growing up, and ever since then I’ve generally regarded PC gaming as a bit of a faff, and not really worth it when you could buy the same game on a console and have it just work with no effort required. That’s perhaps too simplistic an argument, but I’m sure you get the gist. I cleave to consoles, even if I sometimes flirt with PCs. Nothing heavy mind you, we never take it further than first base.

But this week I ended up doing the equivalent of a full-on marriage proposal by buying my first ‘proper’ gaming PC. It was an act of necessity. I’ve been doing PC game reviews and previews for Rock Paper Shotgun, Kotaku UK and PCGamesN for a while, and so far I’ve just about been able to coax these games into working on my decent-ish work laptop. However, this week I got sent a game to preview that just wouldn’t work. It barely stuttered into life on my woefully underpowered PC, and then wheezed along before finally crashing. “OK,” I thought, “I really need to get a proper gaming PC, because I can’t actually do my job without one. At least I can claim back the tax.”

There followed lots of hand-wringing and eye-widening after seeing just how much a gaming PC would cost. Seriously, these things are not cheap. Even building one yourself that’s the equivalent of a current console would easily cost more than a PS4 or Xbox One (although feel free to correct me on this, PC nerds). To get a top-of-the-range rig, you’re looking at thousands of pounds.

But I didn’t really have much of a choice – I can’t actually do my job without one. And I need it right now, which means building one from scratch is out of the question. So after much frantic research and dithering over graphics-card specs, I finally found a bargain-basement HP Omen desktop PC from Argos for £650, about £250 less than the RRP. It won’t set the world alight, but it will do the job: Intel i5 processor, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card, sorted. It arrives on Monday. I reasoned that I can always upgrade the components over time if I ever get a game I can’t run.

An HP Omen desktop. It’s so incredibly ugly for something so expensive.

And then I found myself beginning to obsess over the upgrades I could get. “I wonder how much 16GB of RAM is?” I thought. “I’ll just have a look…” Before I knew it, I’d spent an hour poring over back issues of PC Gamer, appraising the recommended PC builds and perusing the internet to compare prices. And that’s when I suddenly realised why people like building PCs – because it’s a game.

We know it’s a game because someone made an ACTUAL game about it – the improbably popular PC Building Simulator. Constructing a computer has all of the endorphin-releasing activities you’d find in something like an Assassin’s Creed title: a compelling objective (build the best possible PC), engrossing side quests (where to source the highest-quality components for the lowest price) and, most obviously, the element of collecting (fill your big black desktop with loads of bits). There are even puzzle elements (how do I put all these bits together?) and levelling up like in an RPG (Congratulations! You are now a level i7 1080Ti mage!).

I get it now. I GET IT.

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