The Fear is Gone: My PC is my Next-Gen Console

There came a time on Sunday when I felt that PC gamers were hiding something from me.

They were telling me that PC gaming was not the complicated hobby it used to be, that it was more streamlined and less of a pain. He told me that I didn’t need to be an auto mechanic if I didn’t want to be, that I could drive without ever flipping the hood.

And yet I was trying to be a PC gamer on a Sunday and had a hard time. I was feeling chill once again. I was doing what I now hope are my last doubts, because today I have run out of excuses to be afraid of PC gaming. And I’m starting to wonder what the point of gaming consoles is in these modern times of December 2012.

My problem on Sunday was very simple. I plugged my computer—a gaming laptop (yes, yes, I know) into my surround sound system, which was plugged into my TV. And… the image of my computer’s desktop on my TV was cropped. I could barely see the bottom toolbar of Windows. I couldn’t read the full names of my soldiers in X-COM Anime Unknown. In Far Cry 3 my peripheral vision was limited.

This shouldn’t have been a problem, I thought.

What is on my computer screen should have been on my TV screen. My computer was plugged into my TV set-up via a simple HDMI wire. If it was a console, it would just work.

I started googling to find the solution. I tweeted about my problem. I called colleague Kirk Hamilton. And what do you know? Many people came to know about this. It seemed like a lot of people had the same problem. A lot of people seemed to find that, yes, there are still weird issues in PC gaming that turn things into things that force you to consider, oh, maybe without me being able to see it all. I will play this game.

I felt cheated. PC gaming, I feared, was a hassle as ever.

My problem on Sunday was an echo of my problems with PC gaming of old. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the computers I owned were almost immediately obsolete. I would go to the store and read a lot of the fine print on the spine of the game box. Sure, I had a PC, but that didn’t mean I could play the PC games I wanted to play.

I hated it. I was in college and then out of college and couldn’t afford to keep up with the ever-changing standards for graphics cards, sound cards and everything else. My drivers never seemed up to date and I hated the trouble of figuring out how to update them or what to do when updating them didn’t look like I should have been able to run games on the computer. Them.

Other than the occasional indie play, I stayed out of PC gaming for several years. I returned last summer.

In September, I got myself a gaming laptop (yeah, yeah, I know, but it’s a mighty one). I installed Steam and started downloading games through my press account. These games started updating themselves, stripped them of whatever files they needed, installed Direct X and god knows what else. I was relying on Steam and it was making my return to PC gaming a cinch.

Then the fall came and I got back to playing games on the console. I played some Xbox 360 and some PlayStation 3. I rediscovered my 3DS and spent a lot of time on the Wii U.

Just two weeks ago at an event for BioShock Infinite, I was offered the opportunity to play the first four hours of the game on PS3, Xbox 360 or PC. There was a PR person pushing me to PC. I figured I’d play the game on something I was more familiar with, and was more comfortable with. I’d like to play it on console, I said. That’s when I realized anxiety was creeping back.

So, since then, I have tried to play the game on my PC. I plugged the thing into my TV to try out Steam’s Big Picture mode and more or less turned my gaming laptop into a great console. This will be my return to PC gaming through the shallow end of the pool. I’ll play it safe by playing games like I’ve played them often before: on my TV, controller in my hands.

I was loving it.

I was starting to doubt that I would care much about console gaming again, because, well, I’ll get to all my revelations and excitement about PC gaming in a moment.

Let us tell you how the problem of Sunday was solved. People on Twitter and Kirk Hamilton were only able to guess the solution. check your nvidia control panel? tried. For some reason the “display” options are not there. Maybe it’s the Bose surround system? No. I saw the same cropped display when I plugged in the TV directly. Maybe it’s your TV? Yes, it was TV. It was “overscanning” my PC’s video signal, whatever that means.

I feel that PC gaming is giving me peace of mind as a gamer. The inevitable shortcoming of modern games is quickly patched on PC, not left in some long certification queue by the console maker.

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