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About a year ago, a brand new copy of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones was gently whirring away it's installation sequence in my drive. I was looking forward to finally concluding a series that I had started so many years ago. There, finished. Just need to restart the PC and... What the?

A few seconds after booting back in, Vista was telling me my PC was now infected with a malware program referring to itself as "Starforce". Unknown to me at the time, Two Thrones came with Starforce copy protection, which was now attempting to gain ring 0 access to my PC so that it could perform lewd and unsavoury acts with my drivers.

So Vista canned it.



Now as far as I'm concerned, Vista was in the right there, and if anyone, it's Ubisoft's fault for using Starforce in the first place. But not for the first time, that thought pinged through my head again. The same thought that you always get when you've spent your money on a new game, only for it to refuse to run and forcing you to spend the next two hours wrestling it into submission with a figure four choke hold.

Why bother? What possible reason is there to put up with this kind of abuse?

A quick glimpse at the PC gaming scene of late can give you any of a hundred reasons NOT to be here, and certainly if you were thinking of jumping in for the first time, barriers to entry that are so steep that they've doubled over in a pretentious little loop-de-loop.

Looking for issues of contention doesn't really take much time.

  1. The fact that PC gaming is always going to be more expensive, at least at the outset, than owning the console of your choice.
  2. The near constant technical issues that everyone runs into at one point or another, which do anything from prevent game saves because you're on the "wrong" OS to enacting anti-piracy measures on the game you just bought.
  3. The near constant technical issues that everyone runs into at one point or another, which do anything from prevent game saves because you're on the "wrong" OS to enacting anti-piracy measures on the game you just bought.
  4. The need to understand technical jargon and hardware naming conventions so obscure that they can only be linked to logic via the perverse geometry of an M.C. Escher painting (I'm looking at you Geforce 4 MX, don't think I've forgotten)
  5. The shifting of genres as more become available natively on the console market.
  6. Playing at a desk when you could be playing on a couch.
The Borg would find it tiresome to deal with this crap.



Now before I head too far into my tirade, let me step back a bit and say that the situation really isn't as bad as I make it out to be. A good gaming PC won't set you back much these days (especially factoring in that you need a PC anyway), and despite occasional cries of foul play, it is in fact very easy to plug your PC into a TV and stick a gamepad on it.

The truth is if you've been a part of PC gaming for a while now, you can't help but have noticed that things are actually a lot better than they used to be (That most of this generation don't even know what it means to manually configure an IRQ is something we should all be grateful for). As the platform has become more and more at home with being a hardcore games machine, frustrations have been getting ironed out, by developers, OS makers, and hardware manufacturers. Eventually, all problems dissolve with time.

At the same time, for all its flaws, there's a lot going for PC gaming that just can't be had anywhere else. The back catalogue is something measured in decades, and is becoming increasingly re-accessible via services such as Steam, Gametap and GOG.com. Meanwhile in terms of performance, for most of the console cycle a decent spec PC is always going to be able to deliver richer graphics and smoother gameplay. But there's one thing that's always stood out in particular for me. The PC is still the last truly open and independent platform. Anyone can have a crack at it, anyone can do something with it. Everything's a variable, and it's all up for grabs.

The range of the platform has always been impressive, being just as comfortable with the blockbuster mainstream as it is with the budget indie. It's possible for truly brilliant people to conduct crazy experiments in gameplay with games like Dwarf Fortress and Spelunky. There's even space for geek appeal games like ArmA and King's Bounty, titles which have no hope of ever breaking the mainstream and selling multiple millions, but that doesn't matter because they have the right budget and enough of an audience to make the profit. And despite the impressive work that's been happening with XBLA and WiiWare, the PC still hosts the most vibrant and inventive indie scene imaginable.

You can modify Crysis to look twice as beautiful as it does now. You can install a hundred mods for Half-Life, play Resident Evil 4 with a Wiimote, and run Doom in a Java engine. You can even make a complete game out of the Bethesda title of your choice.



As a games platform, it's not too harsh to say that sometimes the PC can be an unregulated, unmitigated mess of a system, but that's also part of why it works. There's no barriers and fences, no hard and fast rules. You get no promises, good or bad. This friends, is the Wild West, where the buffalo roam and the deer call home.

And just like home on the range, you're always going to be facing new challenges. There will always be snake nests to cautiously sidestep, and cliffs to cautiously not-fall-off-of. But sometimes, just sometimes, you'll get to see something that's never been seen before. And you'll get to be there before anyone else.

In time, problems turn into solutions, and while we like to complain, the truth is that being a PC gamer is easier now that it ever has been. We're at that wonderful phase of the console cycle where anything released is going to be easy to play on a modern PC. And I'm on my way to roam the wastes of Post Apocalyptic DC and try out a new radio station mod.

So here's to the wild frontier, and the imperfect, infernal machine. Now grab your shotgun and go see what's out there.

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dd.gamer.latest.comments


By Paul Martinez
in Left 4 Dead 2 Survivor Sig Concept on 2009-12-19
I like it, its very cool. I'd like to make this kind of signatures, but I can't find a "guide" to make them. Out of that, awesome.

By RandomEngy
in Left 4 Dead 2 Survivor Sig Concept on 2009-12-19
Yeah that would be good as well.

By Storm
in DiRT 2 Reviewed on 2009-12-17
It's the best racing game of 2009, and probably the best engine of the year too.

By AlabasterSlim
in Left 4 Dead 2 Survivor Sig Concept on 2009-12-17
What about #5 or #6 with white guns, and "infected" instead of "zombies" I like the spacing of the guns better in 5 and 6. You can see the progression from Pistol, T1, T2 and Melee a lot better. ...

By RandomEngy
in Left 4 Dead 2 Survivor Sig Concept on 2009-12-17
I like #3 the best. The white colored weapons stand out well against the dark background, and "infected" is a better term, plus the closeup shot of Ellis is pretty nice.

By AlabasterSlim
in Left 4 Dead 2 Survivor Sig Concept on 2009-12-16
I personally like the last two (which are the same with a different campaign played) best.

By Storm
in Left 8 Dead 2: Is It Really Happening? on 2009-12-14
This Press Release guy sure knows a lot about L4D

By AlabasterSlim
in 10 Video Games to Cross Off Your Child’s Gift List on 2009-12-14
You make a good point Stephen. When I wrote that comment I was thinking more about my 8 year old nephew. I don't generally believe that someone under the age of 13 has the maturity to deal with a lo...

By Steven
in 10 Video Games to Cross Off Your Child’s Gift List on 2009-12-14
Hello, AlabasterSlim. My name is Steven. I am thirteen years old. Assassin's Creed II Borderlands Brutal Legend Modern Warfare 2 Left 4 Dead 2 I played all of those games in the past two we...

By AlabasterSlim
in 10 Video Games to Cross Off Your Child’s Gift List on 2009-12-11
I also wouldn't let children under the age of at least 13 near any of those games. Some of them even longer.

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