Video games are a very popular past time among all ages. With the Next-Gen consoles just being released, we’re seeing a surge in the gaming market more than ever. Many people think they are limited to just the new Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or Wii U, which is entirely not true. Computer gaming is just as readily available to consumers, especially with the help of your favorite technician at your local computer store.

One of the major complaints against computer gaming is actually putting together a quality machine. This may seem very daunting at first, especially given all the choices you have when it comes to picking the parts. Sure, you can start with a pre-built computer and add on to it, but this often means wasted money. Pre-built computers are perfect for your typical home user and businesses, but not for gamers. It’s more popular to build your own from scratch. If you go pre-built, you will more than likely end up replacing a majority of the parts anyways and be left over with half a computer sitting in a box. So as a word of advice to start, if you want to get into computer gaming, consult with someone who can help you build a system from scratch. It is often cheaper than going with a pre-built manufactured computer and then upgrading it to play games.

I want to dive into some of the benefits of gaming on a computer before I go into detail about them a little more. I also want to squash a few complaints I hear constantly about gaming on computers.

  • You never really have to worry about backwards compatibility. Almost all of the games I’ve ever purchased for the computer will still run on my system today. There are often patches or work -arounds that will allow the few pesky games that don’t want to run normally to run properly, or the developers released a new version that is compatible.
  • You can build a computer today to run all of the latest games, and in a few years when technology has advanced further, you can upgrade your system, instead of buying a whole new one outright. Something console gamers can never attest to and instead are left shelling out a large chunk of change every time a new system comes out.
  • A mouse and keyboard are NOT your only means of playing games. In fact, you can use wired Xbox 360 controllers with your computer or purchase a very inexpensive adapter to use your wireless Xbox 360 controllers as well. Another option is to use Bluetooth to connect your newer PlayStation controllers as well. I personally find the controllers easier to use for some games and the mouse and keyboard on others.
  • Looking for better competition in the new online shooter you’ve been playing on your console? PC Gamers often offer a much higher level of competition, especially in First Person Shooters. Mouse and keyboard offer a much higher accuracy rate than using your traditional controller, allowing players to become better at the games. But don’t let this scare you, there are ALWAYS servers that welcome “noob” players, as the community likes to phrase it. There is a place for everyone in computer gaming, whether you’re trying to play in tournaments, or just looking to kill a Saturday afternoon.
  • With the big push of computer games to all switch to online based markets, you no longer have to keep a large stand of game cases nearby. Gaming clients like Steam and Origin offer an awesome interface that groups all your games together in one program. These also offer a similar friends list and chat environment found commonly on consoles. For those of you that like to admire this large collection of games, it is still possible. Just check out this screenshot of a user’s Steam library! If this doesn’t please you still, almost all computer games are still available in physical hard copies.

  • Ever play with that annoying group of kids that doesn’t stop talking? Or you keep joining games where you are clearly under-skilled and continue to lose? These make video games very frustrating. With computer games, you can purchase your own server, allowing you to control who plays on your server, the rules, map changes, game modes, everything. No longer dealing with a poorly designed matchmaker that doesn’t pair equally skilled players all the time.
  • MODS! One of the biggest advantages computer games have over consoles. A large amount of games support mods, which can do things from change the actual physics of the game, or modify the visuals. There are minor mods, and major mods. Arma II for example has a major mod called DayZ, which transforms the game from a military FPS, to a survival FPS with zombies. I’ll show what mods can do to a very basic game like Minecraft. The screenshot on the left is Minecraft with no mods, and the one on the left is just after 2 visual mods. I’m sure you can spot the difference.

Well, how much do I need for a gaming computer?

  • This question is usually anyone new to building a gaming computer’s first concern. To be 100% honest, you can spend anywhere from $500, to upwards of $10,000. It all depends what game(s) you plan on playing, what resolution you wish to achieve, what level of graphics (Low to Ultra), if you want to run multiple monitors, and any accessories you want. I know, you’re sitting there saying “But I can buy an Xbox that will play all the games the same for the minimum price.” While this is definitely true, it doesn’t last long. With computers, there’s no yearly subscription fee, or a new console to purchase every couple years. With that money you save, you can upgrade your system every couple years, and still save money. The most expensive part of computer gaming is the initial investment, which is only as much as you want it to be. You can start out with a decent system that runs games on Low-Medium now, and slowly upgrade it over time to run the newest games on a triple monitor setup all on ultra. Or you can spend a chunk of change now, and be all set for the next few years. Typically, if you start out with a good processor, you will only need to add a little RAM memory every now and then, and a new graphics card occasionally. Your local computer technician can definitely help you figure out this part, and help explain your options to you.

Where do I start?

  • To build a computer, you need several components. This is definitely the most confusing part, as there is literally thousands of choices. We’ll go over the basics:
    • Case
    • Motherboard
    • Processor
    • RAM (Memory)
    • Optical Disk Drive (CD/DVD/Blu-Ray)
    • Hard Disk Drive (Or Solid State Drive if you’re serious about speed)
    • Graphics Card
    • Power Supply
    • Operating System
    • Mouse, Keyboard, Monitor
    • Audio Card (Optional)
  • The confusion comes in when you realize that some parts will only work with certain parts. For example, not every motherboard can handle every processor. There are what’s called sockets, which determine what processors work with which motherboards. Then you need to consider RAM, and that only certain RAM will be compatible with certain motherboard/processor combos. Most graphics cards require a certain size power supply, which then you need to take into count everything else you plan on connecting to your computer. This can be LED lights, extra fans, a sound card, multiple hard drives, etc. This is definitely the most time consuming process, as you have to make sure everything will work together. This is where your favorite local computer technician comes in, because chances are they know this stuff like the back of their hand.
  • Putting the computer together can be a little confusing as well, as certain parts need to be plugged in to certain places. There are many guides available that will walk you through this, but again, a computer technician should be able to do this no problem. You can easily ruin some of those shiny expensive parts you just bought by skipping a step or plugging them in wrong. If you’re hesitant at all, it’s best to let a professional do it.

Here’s two examples of systems built by SNECS, LLC in both of our locations. The first one was a custom $6500 system that was built about a year ago to be a top of the line gaming system. System was built to customer’s specifications. The second system was also a custom system, costing more around the $2000 range. This system is capable of running many games at a high resolution with Ultra graphics. As you will see, you can focus more on high end computing parts or spend a little more to make the system a little flashier. It’s entirely up to you!

This system boasted a Intel i7 39780x Six Core @ 3.5 GHz , Nvidia GTX 680, with 16GB of DDR3 RAM. Again, capable of running any new game at top graphics and resolution.

This system was slightly less powerful with an Intel 920 Quad Core @ 2.67 GHz, 12GB DDr3 RAM, and Radeon HD7770 GPU. This is capable of running many games at high resolution and graphics, and most new games at high settings.

These are just extreme examples of what you can build for gaming. You do not need the top of the line parts, or the flashy lights and fans. They can be added on later as you save some money. If you’re thinking about getting into computer gaming, swing by to your local computer store and pick the technician’s brain for a little. I’m sure they would love to introduce someone into the world of PC gaming!