July 29, 2005

Tell Me About Your Mother

by peterb

Regular readers may recall an article from last summer where I mentioned some PC games I picked up from the bargain bin. At the time I wrote that article, I had started playing through one of them (Myst III: Exile) and was enjoying it.

Shortly thereafter, I stopped playing it. This week, I bought Myst III: Exile for Xbox at The Exchange. I had also bought Silent Hill 3 for the PS2, another game I already owned for the PC.

The reason is simple. I can play the console versions of these games from my couch.

It is impossible to overstate how important this is to me and, I suspect, to many other people. I have never, ever, found a way to integrate PC-based gaming into my household social life.

My gaming PC is in the office. If I have guests or family over and I'm playing a game, then either they're in my office (which is uncomfortable for everyone involved), or they're downstairs talking, and I'm in another room ignoring them. This makes me feel bad.

I tried moving the gaming PC into the living room. Then I had a huge desk in my living room with a noisy PC, and even then I found I was still playing whatever it was with my back to whomever was visiting.

The consoles fit naturally in the media center. They play on the TV, so everyone can easily watch. I can sit on the couch with whomever is visiting and we can share the experience. If no one is visiting, I can lay down while I play the game instead of sitting in a desk chair. I can turn the games on in 15 seconds or less. If I'm playing a game where the developers aren't retarded idiots who put stupid console-style save points in their game, I can shut the game down nearly instantly. Many games on the console are well-suited to in-the-same-room multiplayer, so I can just hand someone else a controller.

This one simple facet of the console gaming experience trumps nearly everything else for me. "But the latest PC games have better graphics if you buy this $600 graphics card!" I can play the console games from my couch. "I don't like first person shooters where I can't use a keyboard and mouse!" I can play the console games from my couch. "You can play user-developed content only on the PC." I can play the console games from my couch.

And don't talk to me about laptop gaming. Yes, some games work in that context. But most don't. And you know it.

If other people feel the same way about this that I do — and I bet they do — then there is one thing that worries me. As the market for PC games continues to shrink, great little Indie game developers may find it harder to make money. But who knows? Maybe as competition in the console market heats up, console manufacturers will be forced to loosen their stranglehold on licensing (OK, OK, I admit it. I don't believe that for a moment, either.) Or perhaps major publishers will simply abandon the PC market, leaving more room for the indies. But somehow, I don't see it going that way.

In a way, this is the "media center" problem in a slightly different context. There's no technical reason why PCs can't replace the DVD players, Tivo machines, and even game consoles at the center of most home entertainment centers. But PC and OS manufacturers' attempts to penetrate this marketplace have met with abject failure. Whether this reflects a lack of commitment on the part of the players, an inability to design acceptable user interfaces, or simply fear of entering a market without airtight digital rights management, I don't know.

But it sure would have been nice to play the PC version of Myst III: Exile from my couch.

Posted by peterb at July 29, 2005 10:09 PM | Bookmark This

The whole "game on the couch" thing is likely the one thing that might pull me into the console audience. My wife and I used to game together - well, at least in the same room. We sat back-to-back and could talk while we each played our own game.

But a console would allow us to play together in our living room from the sofa. The return of the "gaming loveseat" as my wife likes to say.

Posted by Troy Goodfellow at August 1, 2005 10:34 AM

I used to play World of Warcraft on my laptop on the couch, which actually works remarkably well, but it's still a vastly different experience than console games. Your focus is on a screen about 12 inches in front of you, instead of across the room. My girlfriend feels like she's being ignored when I play on my laptop, while she's still part of my world (ie, in my field of focus) when I'm playing on a console. One day, when I'm independently wealthy, I might try using the TV as a monitor, with a wireless keyboard and mouse, but I suspect that's a better idea in my head than it will be in reality.

Posted by Jason at August 2, 2005 09:44 AM

I have my computer hooked up to my tv, and use a wireless keyboard and mouse. I still prefer the xbox or ps2 because their controllers are much more comfortable for an extended period of time. Plus after hours at work, the last thing I really want to deal with in my free time is a mouse and keyboard. Plus, as has been mentioned here before, I don't have to deal with configuration issues or outdated drivers or stupid copy protection. And the surround sound is better on xbox.

PC games are kinda fun on the big screen, though admittedly my machine is out of date enough that I'm mostly limited to indie games. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing; I just wish more PC titles supported widescreen resolutions (1280x720) or don't just automatically assume everyone's running with a height of 768.

Posted by Adam Rixey at August 2, 2005 08:01 PM

I am a former PC-mad gamers who has converted to consoles. This is what i like about them, besides what you list.

1) no headaches. Every time i want to buy a PC game, i have to ask myself "what kind of CPU, etc. do i have again? how much ram, etc.?" Its a giant headache and very often i discover that games that are supposed to be compatable with my computer are not really. And i find old games from less advanced computers don't work right. with my playstation 2, all i have to do is make sure it is for the playstation 2. that is it.

2) no more of the obselescence game. Right now i am writing this post on a computer old enough to have Windows 98 on it. Its horribly, horribly obselete, but it does all i need it to do, word processing, web crap, etc. Buying my playstation 2 was a nice cheap way to be able to play the latest games without plunking down a few thousand dollars. Of course eventually i will have to decide whether i want the PS3 coming soon, or the X-box equivalent. But that took years to happen. PCs start to have obselete in about 6 months.

3) no more control headaches. Every single game on the playstation 2, from Spiderman 2, to Need for Speed Underground, to NBA Live, to Grand Theft Auto, to Hitman 2, to Final Fantasy X, all use the same damn controller, which btw is an ergonomic wonder.

4) No more program crashes. For instance, i can't get the sims on my computer to work right. it crashes every time. So finally me and my wife said screw it and go "The Sims: Bustin' Out" for PS 2. Its more primative in some ways, but its also zero headaches. I mean am i the only one who notices that with each new iteration of windows, the system becomes less stable, not more stable? Of course once in a bloodly blue moon the Playstation freezes, crashes, etc. We are talking about once a month, at most. at most! see if anyone can go that long on the PC without a crash?

Posted by A.W. of Freespeech.com at August 4, 2005 12:15 PM

I buy multiplayer games (racing, sports) for XBox and single player games (FPS, RPG) for PC. When I play a single player game, I don't want to take over the TV for anyone else who wants to use it. Also, I don't want my colleagues who share the duplex with me to see how much time I spend playing solitary video games. :-)

Posted by DSD at August 4, 2005 01:21 PM

Actually, Microsoft has a deal with indie game developers Pom Pom Games to have content for the Xbox 360. I think technically, that means that they are no longer indie... but whatever. If an open-source console ever became popular (or at least open-SDK) then true indie games WOULD have that chance to flourish on consoles.

Posted by Finster at August 4, 2005 02:38 PM

I use a cordless trackball and bought a projector. I game on it with my media center PC,sitting in my LazyBoy. 6' wide Diablo,uh oh I'm gonna burn for sure.

Posted by Spudly at August 4, 2005 05:21 PM

I still like the games I have for the pc better than the console. Of course, I was born on console games and I will never be without one, but just after I got my first PC and Half Life the SNES and N64 collected dust until I had the urge to experience FF7.

The controller and the streamlined (simplified) interface gives consoles big benifits. There is a few other things I'm forgetting about the benifits of consoles, but the feeling of sitting on a couch doesn't draw me away from the PC.

Posted by Josh at August 4, 2005 07:32 PM

"They play on the TV, so everyone can easily watch."

I fail to see this as an advantage. Watching someone else play most games is about like watching paint dry. Meanwhile, no one can watch the interesting TV program that is on.

P.S. No tags allowed in comments at all? Cheapskate.

Posted by Craig at September 8, 2005 05:08 PM

Please help support Tea Leaves by visiting our sponsors.

November October September August July June May April March February January

December November October September August July June May April March February January

December November October September August July June May April March February January