PC Games are Dead!

That seems a little sensational doesn’t it? Well it is exactly how I feel right now. Even if you don’t take into account the abject failure of Vista or the re-emergence of Nintendo, there are reasons why I feel the PC games are dead. I am even one of those people that hate the term “PC Games” because it has come to mean only Windows/Dos compatible games when the term PC used to mean Personal Computer and referred to many different types of machines. I remember way back in the early 80’s, before I had my own home computer, PC meant Apple, Tandy, Atari, Commodore, and Timex in the USA, and BBC Micro, Sinclair, and Amstrad in the UK.

When the actual sea-change happened I don’t recall. I remember IBM being used to refer to IBM PC software for many many years. I remember seeing it on boxes at the local shops and super stores. It probably happened when the Color MAC failed to take on the IBM compatible machines, and the Atari ST and Amiga when the way of the DoDo. So, rest assured, if you have problems with my use of the word PC to refer to only Windows based machines, I am in agreement. I just don’t know what other term to use right now.

Anyway, as to why PC games are dead? I bought a new HP PC about a year ago. It’s a 2 GIG, Dual Core monster with a mid-range PCI-express video card. It can play a pretty good game of Half-life 2 episode 1, and generally has not had too much difficulty with Direct X 9.0 games. In fact, it plays them very well. So, I was surprised to install the game based on CARS (movie) and find that it wouldn’t run on my machine. I bought it for my son two weeks ago and started down a slippery slope of frustration. I did get it to run two times (which is even stranger) but then it stopped working. I called up the THQ web site and looked for a FAQ. I patched my entire system (video card, sound card, latest XP updates) (as it recommended), put Zone Alarm in “Game Mode”, and even went  as far as flashing the bios of my machine. Still the game would not run. The “helpful” FAQ basically said that my machine was not powerful enough to play this game.  Why then did it play twice and then stop?!?! There is no utility to check for compatibility, no game patches, no help files, just a simple, infuriating FAQ. The major problem with a situation like this is returning PC software is near impossible. I could have brought it back to Target and demanded a fresh copy, but what would that have solved? Yes, if the customer service personnel had given me a shrink wrapped box, I could have used the gift receipt to take it back to a different Target, but what a fucking hassle. A policy like this works with console games because 99.99999999% of the time a console game will be compatible with most (if not all) of the existing versions of that console.

I finally bit the bullet and bought the PS2 version for my son. Now, remember, this is a 5 year old console. Even with the age difference, the game is pretty much the same, and it plays perfectly. On top of that, the visuals look pretty the same as the PC version.  I am sure the Wii and 360 versions look even closer to the PC version. Why would a parent go through all the hassle of trying to play PC games with their children when the same titles can be had on a cheap console? Plus, my wife can play the console version with my son, freeing up the PC for important tasks like checking thesuperficial.com and writing blog entries.

Anyway, I do love computer games, but feel that this is the last PC I will purchase. OK, not the last “PC”, but the last purely Windows based machine I will purchase. A MAC with both boot camp and Parallels will do me fine next time. Since games like CARS come on hybrid PC/MAC media (both version on one disc) I bet I’ll have no trouble getting the game to work on a MAC. So why are PC games dead? Because I know a lot about computers and have been using and programming them as a hobby/profession  for the last 25 years .  When even I have trouble getting a shitty licensed game (although CARS is a good shitty licensed game) to work on a pretty much state of the art machine, how can the soccer/hockey mom down the street be expected to? Soon the the Wii-MAC entertainment combo will take over all of our living room. When it does, I’ll look back to this incident and remember when PC started to mean piece of crap and not personal computer.


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