Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : June 2005

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 TECHNOLOGY TALK:

BY JOHN ANDERSON  

PC vs. Console: Let the Games Begin!
By John Anderson

Now, I’m sure that on most occasions the last thing that you want to do after spending all day staring at a computer is to go home and spend the evening doing the same thing. Unless, of course, you are single-handedly saving the universe or matching wits in a game of skill with an opponent half a world away!

Computers and the sharing of information are business norms in today’s world, but when that 5:00 whistle blows and you want to let off a little steam yourself, you may discover your PC’s alter ego: the desktop arcade. But first you will have to ask yourself if your machine is up for the challenge.

The new games hitting the market are asking a lot from your PC in the way of memory, hard drive space, processing power and video card requirements. If your PC isn’t up to snuff, you will have to consider whether to spend the money to upgrade your PC or buy a gaming console that is ready to go right out of the box.

Online Play
It used to be that if you wanted to play games online you needed a PC, but console units like PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube have been competing against the PC in the online arena since 2002. Being able to play against a real player – be it draw poker or drawing six-shooters at high-noon – has been the biggest draw to gaming in recent years. And if you have a microphone you can even trash-talk your opponent.

Console Advantages
Consoles are great! They cost much less than a PC and they usually start you off with a couple of games. You also don’t have to worry about changing system settings, downloading drivers or, worst of all, buying a game only to find out that it isn’t compatible with your PC for some obscure reason. You buy a new game, take it home, pop it in the machine and are playing within minutes.

Multiplayer gaming is as easy as plugging your console into your DSL or Cable Internet modem. There is a subscription fee for using playing online, but it’s reasonable and there are no long-term commitments. With Xbox Live you can buy a three-, six- or 12-month pass. Also, consoles still rule when you want to play against your friends while sitting on the couch.

Console games are easier to rent than PC games and more easily returned to the retailer if you’re not satisfied with them. Also, you can find some great bargains at stores that offer to buy are resell used games. You can take a risk on that brand-new game or you can wait a little while, listen to the people that have played it and buy it for $10 instead of $50.

Console games are also easy to learn, with only 8-10 or so button combinations. You won’t need to spend hours getting used to commands scattered around a keyboard.

Console Disadvantages
Packaging everything in one dedicated unit keeps things simple, but that doesn’t always work to your advantage. If the components inside can no longer keep up with game requirements there is no way of upgrading the unit. The manufacturer will produce a bigger and better system and your old system will be repurposed as a dust magnet.

Consoles do only one thing and they do it really well, but they will never support the selection of applications that are available for PCs.

Consoles also don’t play well with others. When it comes to playing online, you are only able to play against others with the same console as yours, even if the same game is available for different systems (in other words, Xboxes can only play against other Xboxes).

PC Advantages
One word: games. PCs have more of them than any other gaming system, particularly multiplayer online games. Console systems will usually have a game only available on that system and people will buy the entire system just to be able to play that game. That being said, all games eventually become available for the PC – you just might have to wait a bit.

Many of the games that have remained popular through years of play survive because of their ability to be changed and added to by fans of the game, keeping them new and fresh. If you want to play modified games, play new locations or use other add-ons, a PC is essential.

Games also look a lot better on a computer monitor than on most TVs.

PCs are upgradeable. PCs are always advancing in performance and power and, if they begin to fall behind, you can fix the problem. Consoles are cutting-edge on the first day that they hit the store shelves, but just like my Toyota, they begin to depreciate the moment they leave the store. Mid-range computers today can compete with most current consoles being sold today. That can only mean one thing: the new consoles are coming. Even if a console offers next-generation technology upon its release, there is no way for it to keep up with ever-changing hardware advancements.

PC Disadvantages
PCs are expensive. Installing games on your computer is always a bit of a gamble. You never really know if it’s going to work until you’re actually playing the game, and even then, if you do not have your settings set up properly you will not experience the game in as much detail or with as much control as another person with the same game. PC games can get really complicated when trying to memorize tedious arrays of keyboard commands. The mouse and keyboard also make playing PC games difficult to play on the couch. PC games just don’t allow two players to play on one machine at the same time.

Which is Best?
If you just want to load up your favorite sports game for some friendly competition you might lean toward a console system. If you are bent on world conquest from the comfort of your own living room and have the money to invest in enough PC upgrades to launch a moon mission, the PC will give you more gaming shelf-life. The new consoles are coming soon. In this corner, the XBOX360; in the opposite side of the squared circle is the PS3. And the PC is waiting to take them all on.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: June, 2005

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