A couple days ago, a friend of mine finished moving to a new apartment. Apart from helping him pack and move some furniture, I was also put in charge of setting up the most important part of the new flat: The Internet. Which is fine – I’m scoring me some karma points by helping a bro and doing something that really does come naturally to me. I ended up having to reinstall some drivers on top of it but overall it was still a simple process for me and an entirely alien voodoo ritual to my friend. Bottom line, he can haz internets.
It did get me thinking, though. A lot of things that are supposedly simple for us tech-heads are like that to “normal” people. Which of course got me thinking about games and that made me ponder: Why is it that the PC gaming industry so newcomer-unfriendly?
If we compare the PC process to the console process, the difference is staggering. In a console, all you do is pop the disc in the drive, wait for an install/update which will happen auto-magically, grab your controller and you are ready to game. This is a process so simple I’m fairly certain a chimp can perform it – all it really requires is putting the disc in the right slot (a skill we know chimps posses) and not getting any poop on the disc (which also explains why there are still no chimp gamers).
By contrast, the PC process is convoluted and even intimidating to newcomers. First of all, it’s rare that you even get a disc these days. It’s usually a product key to Steam or some other digital platform. So now you have a game (supposedly, you never know until you activate the code) but you also need an account, email, all sorts of things you had no intention of filling out. Then your video drivers need updating – but first your OS needs updating and then you need to install Microsoft Visual C++ Runtime and the new DirectX Library which might sound normal to you and me but to someone new to this whole ordeal it might as well be summoning Great Pazuzu, The Devourer of Eons. Then you get a D3D error, and by now you’re about ready to go back to the store, ask for a refund and buy a nice bag of rocks to play with.
Better yet, should you survive this whole process by using Google, calling a friend or asking your new pal Pazuzu, when you start your game it is not guaranteed to run well. Then you need to face the dreaded settings screen (dun dun DUUUUUN!). Let’s be honest here, folks: how many of you know the exact difference between MSAA and HBAO+? Even then, it could be that your computer, which was a top-notch piece of technology back when Communism was a big deal, is simply not cut out to run Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Of course, as a lot of you are going to say, what about the preset options? Surely, if my game runs poorly on “High”, I could try “Medium” or “Low” even. Well, what about your shower? Do you not spend minutes fiddling with the hot/cold balance, to get it just perfect? Of course you do. You’re a human being and you want things to be perfect for you. That’s why humanity invented the adjustable EVERYTHING. In the end, you get your game running to your satisfaction some way or another but by then it’s already 2am and you really need to sleep. The last nail in the coffin comes when you tell another friend about the whole ordeal and he just looks at you smugly and tells you that if you only had a console, it would be much easier. That bag of rocks sounds mighty fine right now, I bet. No registration required.
Where does that get us, then? Well, for one, I think we can all agree that the industry, as a whole, could be more friendly. I’m not saying that options should be renamed to a “Make Sky Pretty” slider and “Make People Less Blocky” toggle but there’s a certain need to simplify. I think we could also agree that certain options should probably be better explained. But we can all agree that that’s enough serious thinking for one day, and we should all spend the upcoming week thinking about an all-chimp eSports league where they play Halo and make lewd gestures at one another.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.