PC gaming is far, far from being dead. I know it sounds like a defensive statement coming from one who grew up on it, but a little research and an observant eye will tell you that though the console and mobile platforms are growing, there is a healthy and growing amount of PC gamers out there, especially those playing online shooters and MMORPGs (I tend to be a single-player RPG player myself, but that’s probably because I’m inherently antisocial).
Now that I convinced you to keep the faith and game on the PC, the next thing you’ll probably want to know is how to do it without selling a kidney. It’s true that some prebuilt gaming systems and custom enthusiast rigs cost along the lines of a couple of thousand dollars and above. With their elaborate cooling setups, cutting edge components, and awesome styling, it’s no big surprise why they can cost so much.
The good news is that you do not really need multi-video card, water-cooled, 1000W+ setup to enjoy PC gaming. You don’t need a mean-looking, rugged military-grade PC chassis to go with it, either (unless you are playing from an actual war zone). A decent PC won’t break the bank and deprive you of an internal organ. Below are some quick and sensible tips on just how to keep the costs down and the enjoyment factor up.
Before you make your prospective upgrade or buy a new rig altogether, don’t do so at the spur of the moment. Google is your friend; research the heck out of the components you want to purchase for your system. After choosing the right part/s based on reviews (avoid the “sellout” sites for that), forum discussions, and owner feedback, start your research anew for the right place to purchase it.
There are many online retailers out there, and just because shop A sells item X cheap doesn’t mean they will also give you a good deal on the next component you need. Just make sure you keep the receipts and boxes handy for all of the products you buy, just in case you have to RMA.
It shouldn’t have to tell you, but I will anyway: keep within your budget. Do not buy something you cannot afford.
Function Over Form
I know enthusiasts tend to take great pride in their hobby by purchasing parts and components for their bling factor; it’s not so different from people who “pimp their rides.” Since you are watching your budget, it is more important that you consider what you see on the screen and hear over the speakers rather than how good the computer looks while it’s just sitting there.
Go for simple but reliable input devices, a well-ventilated chassis, and a monitor big enough for you to be able to appreciate the games you play (hint: LCD flat panels beyond 24” are a little bit of a waste if your monitor sits just a foot or two away from your face).
Research, Research, Research
I really emphasize the part about reading up and looking for product information and reviews even before seeing or buying the actual component. Because PCs are a very scalable and open platform with literally hundreds of hardware manufacturers and software developers making programs for it, it’s unavoidable that there will be little glitches and compatibility issues (I can hear the Mac fanatics snickering at this).
The best you can do is make sure the parts you buy will work as well as possible for the kind of games you prefer to play. With today’s games being mostly 3D-rendered, it’s always a good idea to read about and choose the best video card for your budget. You can never go wrong with a lot of memory, just don’t go overboard and buy memory your motherboard or operating system cannot fully utilize (as of writing this article, 8GB of DDR3 is plenty).
What are you waiting for?
Go open a bunch of other browser tabs and find the games you’ll want to play in the coming months, and start hunting down for some sweet PC hardware. If you still have some budget left over, do consider some nifty computer accessories so that your unit can interface with your mobile devices, tablets like the iPad, and other forms of digital gadgetry.
If you’re really, really strapped for cash, I guess you can moonlight to score some extra cash for your planned rig. Regardless, have fun!
About the Author
Stacey Thompson is a professional writer, marketer, entrepreneur, and a lover of weird little animals. She is based in San Diego, California, and is currently conspiring with her girlfriends in making their own blog about their adventures in life, Word Baristas.