Console Gamer till I die?

The first thing I’d like to do in this article is shamelessly plug the recently launched CG forum, which you can find at www.soapboxgamers.co.uk or by clicking the ‘forum’ link at the top of the page. There is a reason; this was originally going to be a post in said forum, until I realised I had too much that I wanted to say (as is, unfortunately for those that know me, so often the case). The second thing I’d like to do here is mention what I originally said in the forum, which has led to this article. Sadly for me, telling you this will have the side effect of making you hate me. Are you ready?

I really liked Deus Ex: Invisible War.

Perhaps I’m squinting through the rose – tinted monocle of nostalgia; but I remember Invisible War as being a game with an excellent script, interesting moral choices, the ability to be as violent or as non-confrontational as you liked, and as being set in an atmospheric future dystopia. So far as I can tell however, everybody else on the planet hates it. Perhaps in the foolish days of my youth I existed in a chocolate hob nob fuelled sugar rush haze, which warped my perception of reality. That would certainly explain why I spent two years married to a washing machine.

To make matters worse for my reputation and I, I foolishly blurted out my opinion that Invisible War is even better than the original Deus Ex. This is a statement I now retract, but for a reason that may well make you spit at your monitor in disgust even more; I never finished the first game. Please, please, let me explain.

I wrestled with the WSAD – mouse combo for months about five years ago because, at the time, I discovered several PC FPS games that interested me that my Babbage – esque PC could just about cope with. The most famous, and easily the best, of these games was Deus Ex. Deus Ex was in fact the reason I carried on trying to use a keyboard and mouse to play videogames for so long. I liked what I heard and, when I fired up the game, I certainly liked what I saw. I do not dislike Deus Ex. I played more than enough to realise here was an incredible game, whose release (years before I first played it) was an important moment for the videogames industry. The problem for me was, I was playing it on a PC.

The first thing I did after installing it was look for a gamepad control option which, much to my distress, did not exist. Or perhaps it was there, and my gamepad wasn’t compatible. I’m not sure; my washing machine wife was moaning at me to do the ironing at the time. The point is: I had to play using the WSAD – mouse combo, which I still hated.

My ex - wife, Michelle

Perhaps I just can’t get over the fact that keyboards and mice were never designed with videogames in mind. I tried though, I really did. With several games, over a long period of time. Nonetheless, to this day, playing any kind of action game with that setup feels awkward and unnatural to me. Like pretending to drive a car with a dinner plate for a steering wheel and an umbrella for a gearstick, making preposterous ‘brrm brrm’ noises with my lips all the while.

Early on in the game, I was trying to sneak past security somewhere. Fumbling with the controls didn’t make me very stealthy though, and I was soon caught. I had some pretty damn ineffectual weapons at the time (a pistol with one clip and a half eaten cheesestring. Possibly.) and soon found myself trying to weather a storm of bullets. To add insult to injury, the game quickly decided that not just one but both of my legs had been ripped to shreds. There I was, the hero of the adventure, crawling around helplessly like Ironside tipped out of his wheelchair. Here however, Ironside was up against an 8ft tall robot with twin Gatling guns.

I gave up on the game soon after that.

A year or two later I picked up the PS2 version of the game, and got considerably further before my attention drifted away from it. Now come on, don’t look like that; can you honestly say you’ve never failed to finish a game you were actually really enjoying? If so, then kudos to you. Also, you’re lying.

Perhaps those who are solely or primarily PC gamers have a different mindset? Half – Life, for instance. Another legendary game that I braved what I considered to be a ridiculous control method for. This time however I didn’t enjoy it all that much, which is why I eventually gave up on it. Yeah sure, it’s got some great ideas and some clever moments. Overall however, I found it a little… boring. There, I said it.

How do you people play Modern Warfare with these things? Seriously?

Nonetheless, I tried Half – Life 2. In fact, I completed it. This is because, as you may already have guessed, I played it on a console. The first console version to be released, in fact, on the original Xbox. A good game, an atmospheric game. Definitely not the second coming of videogames that many assert it to be however. I also can’t let the subject pass without saying this: I don’t care how many times people say the Half – Life games tell a good story without cut scenes, because they don’t. The Half – Life games tell their stories as coherently as a drunken preacher screaming about the end of the world. You can certainly see the overall picture, but a lot of important details are missing.

Do you think I’m dismissing much – loved PC games, or perhaps just much – loved Valve games, in a pathetic attempt to be fashionable? Well sorry, but I’m just being honest. In my defence in this regard, I’d like to say that I bought The Orange Box before my 360 died (again) and thoroughly enjoyed Episode 1. I thought it held together much better than the ‘proper’ Half – Life games, in fact. I also played and absolutely loved Portal. That game deserves every syllable of praise it’s enjoyed since it was first released.

After giving up on FPS games, I turned to the only genre that it seemed the PC was best at which actually interested me: Point and click adventures. I’ll always have fond memories of solid gold classics such as Beneath A Steel Sky, Curse of Monkey Island, Sam & Max Hit The Road, and Broken Sword. I also enjoyed lesser known but still excellent titles such as Discworld Noir and Toonstruck. Once these games discovered the third dimension and turned into ‘walk and click’ adventures however, they ceased to be the exclusive domain of the PC gamer. The final such game to remain PC exclusive at the time was Grim Fandango. Despite the awkward controls all walk and clicks seem doomed to suffer, I was completely enthralled by this unique world. Pray to the god of your choice that somebody tells Tim Schafer to make a sequel (with a version on at least one console, of course).

The latest instalments carrying the legendary Monkey Island and Sam & Max games can be found across the Wii, 360, and PS3 (though frustratingly, I’ll admit, no one console has all the relevant seasons). There’s even a ‘director’s cut’ of the original Broken Sword available for the DS. The last genre that interests me now has both feet firmly planted in the world of consoles, which is why I haven’t even tried to play anything on my PC for over a year.

Is it even justifiable to class any one game or genre as ‘PC’ or ‘console’ nowadays? RTS games, perhaps. Developers have made an effort to bring the genre to consoles via Command & Conquer, Stormrise, Civilisation, and more. All of these titles have bombed at retail however due to lack of consumer interest and/or inept execution on the relevant formats. MMOs are tentatively dipping their toes into console waters, but have a long way to go before they needn’t fear drowning. These games aside however, it seems to me fair to say that we no longer have ‘PC games’ and ‘console games’; we just have ‘games’. And I think that’s a good thing.

Virtually all major releases hit retail on console and PC simultaneously. If a decent game is initially released as a PC or console exclusive then, so long as it’s a third party title, it will almost certainly cross over to ‘the other side’ eventually. Consider these facts for a moment. No matter what your primary gaming format is, it’s ridiculous to defend it against the owners of other machines – we all like and play the same games.

We're all gamers together. We're all as cool as this guy.

The difference between a PC gamer and a console gamer nowadays tends to come down to what machine you spend most of your time playing on. Looking at it like that I always have been, and probably always will be, a console gamer. Why can’t I just be a ‘gamer’?

Audience participation time, now. What was it in the differences between PC Gamers and console gamers that used to exist that meant I was left underwhelmed by Half – Life and impressed by Invisible War? Do these differences still exist, despite the seismic shift in the gaming landscape? Did I just type almost 1600 words just to defend the fact I enjoyed Deus Ex: Invisible War??

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

10 comments

  1. smith /

    mouse & keyboard weren’t designed with gaming in mind, they were designed with user input in mind (and gaming molds perfectly on that). Plus, that doesn’t stop it from wiping the floor with controllers in first person shooters

    • Krazyface /

      Ooh dear, here we go, THIS is why PC gamers are a dying breed; ignorance will not open your mind my friend.

      • Michael J /

        See, because I am a primarily a pc gamer I find control pads to be clunky and imprecise when it comes to the precision aiming required in an FPS. If you saw me playing modern warfare on a PS3 for instance, you might think i’m a fairly horrific player, but stick me behind a mouse and keyboard and I’m pretty darn good (without tooting my own horn too much..).

        I don’t disagree with Smith in some respects, I think if you ever had a cross platform shooter that pitted PC gamers against console users, the pc gamers would win every time, because of the way you can tailor sensitivity to your mouse and map the controls across a huge selection of mouse buttons and keys.

        It’s mostly I reckon a matter of which control system you’re more familiar with, or were ‘educated on’, although obviously both different types of control have genres that they feel instantly ‘native’ to (Mouse&keys RTS, RPG, Gamepad- Driving, platforming etc).

        • Michael J /

          A further quick PC perspective rebuke to another point in Lukes article is, while you thought Half-life 2 was overrated, I’m still puzzled by the success and acclaim of Halo and Gears of War! (although to be fair I’m puzzled by a great many things).

          • Luke K /

            As a matter of fact, I played and finished the first Halo but didn’t think it was any better than ‘okay’. I was so unimpressed by Halo 2 that I gave up on playing it despite getting about three quarters of the way through the story. So there. 😛

            My last 360 died before I decided to buy Gears of War 2, but I did get through the first one. A good game, but again, not nearly as good as its diehard fans claim. In my opinion. I can’t comment on the online modes of any of these games, as I never signed up to Xbox Live.

  2. Anthony H /

    I honestly think that a mouse and keyboard do trump controllers when it comes to FPS accuracy. These comments reminded me of this article I read a week ago: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=256749

    Basically it says one of the reasons why there isn’t a great deal of cross platform, PC versus 360 multiplayer games is that the ol’ mouse and keyboard are actually more accurate. I definitely find them easier to use. I’ve also noticed that a lot of console shooters have a degree of auto aim with them (I know you can turn it off, as you can turn it on in a lot of PC games).

    I’m not looking to start a fight here, but I do think that the mouse and keyboard are best for shooting people in the face.

    On another note, you dislike the majority of Half-life games apart from Episode 1. What’s wrong with you? If I had to label a weaker chapter, I’d definitely say it was Episode 1 with the others trouncing it! :p

    • Luke K /

      The only way we can truly settle the ‘WSAD vs joypad’ argument is to have two sets of equally skilled players fight each other with their control method of choice. The only cross – platform game I can think of is Shadowrun, which nobody bought because it was crap.

      If somebody releases a PS3 vs PC FPS game I’ll happily take you all on! WHO WANTS SOME??!!??? etc. Heck, I’ll even admit defeat if it comes to that without swearing any more than usual.

      The EagleEye mouse/keyboard adapter for the PS3 could, if it works properly, go some way to settling this argument. In fact we will, fingers crossed, be reviewing it.

      Come to think of it, aren’t there a few such adapters available for the 360? Anybody willing or able to share some (truthful) experiences…?

  3. Playing on a sofa in the living room beats hunching up at a desk in an office chair. Consoles win on the comfort factor.

    • Keller /

      As much as I hate bullet points, here goes.

      1. The keyboard and mouse setup is preferred by PC gamers for a reason, it is precise and versatile.
      2. If you don’t like the keyboard and mouse, use a controller, PC’s can use any input you like.
      3. If you don’t like sitting at a desk with a monitor, hook your computer up to your TV.
      4. PC stands for Personal Computer, which means you configure it to perform in any manner you desire.

      Ignorant console gamers don’t seem to understand the all of their go-to complaints about the PC are baseless. If you want a legitimate list of complaints, try some of these:

      -There aren’t enough games these days.
      -Upgrading my system or deciding on a new deck is too complicated and expensive for me.
      -Playing split-screen is generally not supported by developers.

      We are all allowed our opinions, I’m simply tired of fallacies being touted around as compelling evidence.

  4. steven g /

    I loved playing on Amiga, as having a computer does not have to mean you have no joypad or joystick (remember those?). I loved playing the microprose games and felt that the keyboard allowed much easier control of tanks, planes and more gameplay options.

    However PCs are not like Amigas and the amount of setup they needed was annoying and disturbing when all i wanted to do was switch it on and PLAY. Now my favourite place to relax is my sofa and I love my 40 inch tv screen and hence the console wins everytime.

    What Id like though is more games which support keyboard and mouse on my PS3, to give me the best of both worlds!

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