PC Evolution

My New PC!

Image by Tom Lawrence via Flickr

Over the weekend, I spent some time exploring Abandonia and DOS Museum, two websites dedicated to preserving older games in the best way possible: by conveniently offering them for free download.

In my exploration, I noticed something rather surprising. As I may have mentioned before, I was a console kid. Specifically, a Nintendo console kid (I’m not sure these whippersnappers today realize the brutal Westside Story-style gang violence between the Nintendos and the Segas). PC games weren’t really on my radar. As I recall, they weren’t really on anybody’s radar, but that’s because, then even more than now, PC gamers were nerds.

I mean, sure, I relentlessly pursued that elusive criminal mastermind Carmen Sandiego like any good American, but other than that, I guess I played some Wolfenstein, some Doom, some Marathon, and that’s about it. Civilization II, I suppose. Warcraft I and II, and Diablo. And so forth.

Meanwhile, back on track, take a look at this. Or this. Or how about this. First impressions don’t tell the entire tale, but combined with my memory of the times, here’s what I’ve got for you: PC games during the 80’s and well into the 90’s just didn’t match the technology of console games. Or, put another way, PC games were too much King’s Quest and not enough Contra.

Ok ok ok. Those of you who are lighting your torches and locating your pitchforks, just bear in mind that at the time consoles were dedicated solely to gaming, and streamlined their technology into the systems for that single purpose, while computers were quite different. Computers were more tools then than even today. So you had exceptional action based games on your consoles, and more thought based games on the PC. And Doom (which ported “decently” over to the consoles).

Also, 16 megs of RAM used to be a lot.

What’s fascinates me is that these days there is still a cavernous (canyonesque?) divide between PC games and console games. But the pendulum has swung towards the PC as the gaming system of choice, primarily, I would guess, because it’s pretty easy (a.k.a. actually possible) to upgrade your PC hardware to match gaming specs, while at this point the current generation of consoles are all several years old (a.k.a. really damn old). Of course, there’s also the versatility of the mouse and keyboard input system compared to the control pad, and more varied memory options.

What it comes down to is that I wouldn’t play a port of a PC game to a console unless forced at gunpoint by an elite unit of ninja supermodels, while a port of a console game to the PC would suit me just fine (especially if I actually owned some sort of PC compatible controller…). Fifteen or twenty years ago, well, that would have been a different story. Except, of course, that PC to console ports have always been dogs.

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