Code Red

So I was bored the other day. Nothing new there. I'm frequently bored. I'm afflicted with the ennui of the criminally intelligent. Luckily I have a stockpile of entertainment supplies for just that reason.

On this particular day I felt like playing a game, and had a hankerin' for something spacey. I was also feeling nostalgic besides, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to enact the Lobo Doctrine, and actually finish a game that I owned.

So into the game vault I went, and after glancing through my PC space sim collection, I settled on Starlancer. A fine game, which I'd never finished. Just the thought of playing it again made me giddy. It seemed like the perfect remedy for my dead-of-winter malaise. If all went well, in just a few short minutes I'd be doing my favorite thing in the world, flying through space, blowing s**t apart.

Sadly, all did not go well. Instead of spending the evening zooming about the galaxy, I spent it typing. Typing this article as a matter of fact. Because that's what I do when I'm really, really angry.

I'd had a premonition that the evening would end in disaster. You could say, perhaps, that I "Had a bad feeling about this." But that would make you a geek. So don't say that if there are potential sex partners around. Unless they're geeks, too. In which case you can say whatever you want. Just be yourself and you'll be fine.

My PC had been acting quirky of late (Hence the premonition). In 2001 my PC was amazingly awesome. Now: not so much. I've tried to keep it upgraded, but I've been forced to replace a few key components over the years with lesser-quality back-ups due to the inversely proportional relationship between my attachment to members of the opposite sex and my control over my own money. That and my house seems to attract lightning better than that guy with the wicker hat in Big Trouble in Little China.

Nevertheless, determined to fly through space, I ignored my misgivings and my sadly underpowered PC and proceeded to reinstall the game. I'd wiped my hard drive several times since I'd played it last, erasing the game files, and sadly my save games as well. I also hadn't reinstalled my joystick since my last system purge, but luckily, with WindowsXP that sort of thing is a snap. I plugged in my Wingman Extreme and WinXP detected it, installed the "necessary drivers" and that was that. For old times sake (I was feeling nostalgic remember?) I fired up the game controller console and calibrated the joystick, but that too went off without a hitch. So far so good.

I popped in the disc and left the room to pour a glass of wine. When I returned (having stopped to peruse the post-holiday cookie assortment along the way), the game files had been installed and I saw a little, blinking icon on my desktop just begging me to click it and thus start the game. So I did.

The game started and I remembered instantly why I'd never played PC games without installing a NOCD crack first. For those of you unfamiliar with the NOCD crack, it is a hack written by criminal-minded youths that will enable you to play a PC game without having the game CD actually in the drive. This makes it possible for one to play a game that one does not technically "own," per se, but it also allows folks like myself, who sometimes have lots of games installed, to play them without having to first find the damn CD. This is especially useful in my case, because my CD-ROM drive is very loud. Especially while playing games that have lots of movies and music that run off of the CD, like Starlancer.

As soon as the game cranked up it sounded like I was sitting next to one of those giant saws you see in action movies that take place near a lumber mill. You know the ones that the good guy is always strapped down to but somehow manages to escape from before he gets sawed in half. Just like that.

So I closed the game and re-installed, this time checking the "full install" option, which would save all the stuff on the CD to my hard drive. Naturally the install took a lot longer this time, so I went off for more wine (and more cookies), then came back to swap out discs, watch the progress meter inch towards the 100% mark, and decide whether or not to pass the time looking at pr0n "… and it finished. Okay! I then installed the NOCD crack and we were back in business.

I clicked the blinking icon, the game started right up (sans giant saw), looked great and I blazed through the opening Wow aren't we cool? We're Digital Anvil! crap, (suppressing a chortle and simultaneously commenting to myself about the heights from which certain hubristic developers can fall) and hopped straight into the campaign to begin blasting the hell out of the Whomeverites. After some juicy-looking ship-launching graphics, I got my orders, prepared my bowels for battle and then "… nothing. My spaceship wasn't moving. Joystick left – nothing. Joystick right – zilch. Throttle – nada. Buttons – zippo. Crap! Joystick isn't reading. How fun!

So I clicked about a thousand buttons to exit Starlancer and then went back to the WinXP game controller console to see WTF was going on now. Everything looked fine. Plugged in – check. Turned on – check. Great. Definitely a software problem. Time for the plumber's helper of IT tools: The reboot!

An electrical engineer, a chemical engineer and a software engineer are riding in a car (Skip to the next paragraph if you've heard this one). Suddenly, in the middle of a bridge, the car stops. Just stops. No power, no nothing. All three engineers look at each other questioningly. The electrical engineer surmises that there must be an electrical problem, seeing as the car has electronic ignition, and requires a spark to run. He recommends replacing the battery. The chemical engineer disagrees. He suggests that there's a problem with the fuel system. Since the engine needs gasoline to run and seeing as how it currently isn't running, he deduces that it must be out of gasoline. He recommends filling the tank with gas. The software engineer says that he knows exactly what the problem is. "All we have to do," he says "is close all of the windows and restart the machine!"

So the machine restarts and I look at the clock. Two hours have passed since I picked up the Starlancer CD, and I'm still not playing the damn game. Two mother freaking hours.

My urge to play is suddenly gone, sucked into a swirling vortex of rage, and I fire up the Typemaster2000 to vent. That's what you're reading now. We are now caught up to the present. Gosh, this is awkward. Now I have to transition from story-telling to actually having something to say. Okay then. Watch me transition. Here goes "…

Were this an isolated occurrence I would be willing to let it go, but the fact is that over the years I have already let this go hundreds of times. Almost every time I've installed a new PC game there's been something that's needed tweaking or patching or configuring. That's the burden of PC gaming. Any PC gamer who claims to not mind going though this rigmarole is lying. Period (See, I typed a "." and then typed "period" as if I were speaking and not typing. I wanted you to hear my voice in your head saying "period" in order to further accentuate the point. Did I hear someone say "genius?" Ah yes. Thank you in the back.).

Don't get me wrong. I love PC games. PC gaming is as much a part of my identity as any one thing can be. Since 1984 I've been jumping through fiery hoops in order to play PC games. Hell, once upon a time I used to write batch files for every game I owned just to get that last mega-whoozle of oomph out my machine. I've even bought really expensive pieces of hardware just to play one game! No more.

I'm older now and I have a life. I no longer have the time, the patience or the money to upgrade, patch or reconfigure my computer when I want to play a game. I used to say that I would never be solely a console gamer, but the simple fact is that I can buy games for my consoles (for the same price as a PC game or cheaper) that look good, sound good, play well and fire right up every time. No searching for drivers, no installing hardware, no upgrading. I buy a console game, put it in and I'm playing it before the PC version would even be installed. That's a hard fact to ignore, especially when I now spend more of my time making my money than spending it.

So, I hate to say it my friends, but I've gone over. After more than twenty years of PC gaming, I am officially done. I've already cleared out the PC game vault and the closet full of spare PC parts and traded in my Thunderbird Gaming Machine for a newer model, with a smaller engine and room for a car seat. I have willingly entered the land of people who sacrifice bells, whistles and shinier pixels for convenience.

That is to say, I have ordered the Code Red. That's the truth. Can you handle it?


You'll be back, they always come back in the end. A little disposable income to build a new rig, the right game calling your name and it's all over baby.

Having just experienced this myself, you're in the sh*tty end of your PC upgrade cycle. You'll get a tax return or a quarterly bonus and suddenly those shiny new parts show up in the mail and it's PC love all over again. My recently upgraded (hell, I replaced everything so I should probably just say new) computer has rekindled my love of PC gaming. So much so that I waited to buy KOTOR II till it came out on the PC simply because I wanted to play it on my PC.

Having a sh*tty machine that's racked with technical problems really kills the mood, before my recent upgrade I hadn't upgraded in like 2 years. I know the feeling. I'm just sayin, it'll probably pass.

My first computer was an Atari 800.

The next was some Compaq PoS; it was the Circuit City demo model and was easily had for $600. It was a good 14 years or so between the two computers, and I got it for "word processing" when I went back to college at the ripe old age of 29. Heh, it became a gaming rig about half-way through that first semester. Ran like hell, too. Don't know how many times I had to wipe the slate clean and start over.

Three years later, at 32, a buddy builds me a gaming rig. He's so into PC upgrades that he offers to switch-out (for free, nonetheless) any new video cards he upgrades to on his rig with mine, and from time to time was tossing free RAM my way. All was bliss, until he moved and my ex-girlfriend decides she wanted to play Planescape: Torment so bad and that my machine was so laggy that perhaps downloading a BIOS file would be a good thing . . . to make matters worse, I took it to a local guy to be repaired, and somehow my rig caught fire. He paid me what he thought it was worth.

I took that $500 and put it towards the Dell I now own. Beautiful machine, no problems whatsoever, with all of the bells and whistles . . . and that was three years ago.

Last year I bought an Xbox. I have roughly a dozen games, of which I've played only one all the way through (KotOR). Unfortunately, while I love the ease in which I can toss the CD into the machine and play without any worries or CTDs, I have found the depth of console games extremely lacking. Except for the previously mentioned RPG, not one of the games has enthralled me like Alpha Centauri did, or any of the Baldur's Gate series, the Fallout (even Tactics) series, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Want a quick fix, hit the Xbox. I love Mercenaries, ESPN NFL2k5, even The Hobbit and Fable, but in the end I still feel like I'm missing something. Need something with more vigor, vitality, and longevity? It's PC games all the way, Fletcher.

Great article!

I'm having a lot of the same feelings lately. But consoles are just not there yet. Maybe the next Gens, especially if someone yoinks the lapboard dealie from the phantom when they finally go **** up.

I'll admit this in hushed tones: sometimes my two PCs are tied up with the wife and one of the kids playing WoW, so all I have is the X-Box - and I'm OK with it!

No, I don't know why.

So, I hate to say it my friends, but I've gone over. After more than twenty years of PC gaming, I am officially done. I've already cleared out the PC game vault and the closet full of spare PC parts and traded in my Thunderbird Gaming Machine for a newer model, with a smaller engine and room for a car seat. I have willingly entered the land of people who sacrifice bells, whistles and shinier pixels for convenience.

Cool. Can I have your stuff?

Fletcher, the Emperor dies in the end, don't you remember? Fight the power! Don't let the Dark side take you!

Wine and cookies? ewwww.

Monday night a friend and I wanted to play Enemy Territory and we never were able to. He's on dial up so that doesn't make things any easier but anyway, I had more problems than he did and my PC and internet connection are both on top of the world laughing at everything else below. Missing pk3's that couldn't upload, checksum errors on existing pk3's, you name it. After like an hour or two I said "Man I give up, f*ck ET".

Ah the joys of PC gaming. You really have to love the extra pixels the higher resolutions provide over consoles because they cost like 10 times the moolah and require more care than our girlfriends on that particular week of the month.

If the next gen consoles are all what they're hyped to be, I'll get a nice 12' HDTV and might just join you Fletcher.

Oh and btw Swampy, stop hitting on the submit button like a fat kid on a candy jar.

I'll never buy a console, NEVER!! I'm PC-whipped.

Nice article.
Don't go Console. I regret buying the Xbox in August last year.
Its collecting dust now - playing Kotor II on the Xbox was a "50% experience" compared to playing KotorI on PC. It's just not the same.
It will be KOTOR II for PC soon.

Buy a new PC every 2 years. Its expensive - but you can afford it. Who needs food anyway? Or wine?
No - you can not have it

Fletch already has an Xbox as well as I do. Since I've had my Xbox and Gamecube I've been spending a hell lot more time playing console games than the PC ones.

I don't want to argue for the sake of arguing but I started playing KOTOR on the Xbox and restarted it on PC because it came free with my sound card but I'm gonna go back to the Xbox. Sure you get slightly better graphics on the PC but the controls felt a lot better on Xbox, to me at least.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm not saying PC's suck. I've played great games on it last year and I'm looking forward to some more this year but if I was to keep only one gaming platform, it would be my Xbox.

100% understand where you are coming from. Loved EQ, played it since Beta4, quit a few times for a month or two, always came back. Helped test stuff, chatted with more devs than most people even know exist, have some stuff I've helped happen that have resulted in major changes to the game....yet not playing it. Can't play it. The game consumes vid cards. Eats them. I have a new card I bought a month ago sitting on the edge of my desk waiting to be loaded - but it can't until I get another power supply. More money. Even my wife would hesitate on spending money this fast, and she can go through money so quick she can give my Visa card whiplash.

Thus: AO (free, low sys specs), Toontown, and a lot of DVD watching. Oh, and rest. Fell asleep on the couch last night, not near-dozing in the PC chair on a late night raid. The normal, mortal gamer cannot keep up with the voratious appetite for technology games have.

I freely admit that I keep old systems around, primarily so I can still load up old games and play then without trying to get dos to actually run on a windows box.

There is no escaping the PC gaming world. No escape. Admit it. You're one of us, one of us, we accept you, one of us.

I think you hit on something I neglected to mention in my article, Ozzie: the sofa. Playing games while reclining comfortably in a perfectly-lit room is just soo nice. Playing games with my GF sitting next to me on the sofa is soo nice. Playing for hours without that tell-tale hunched back of the PC gamer is soo nice ... I could go on, but I've already posted my 1500 words for the week.

Yeah but, wine and cookies? ewww.

It's gotta be said: [no it didn't]

"insert lame off-color joke here"

Joke : Yes
Off-color: Yes
Do I care: [Edit] Yes

Stupid consoles...

[edit: sorry for error in judgement and taste]

I think that some PC gamers get a sort of sadomasochistic pleasure out of games when they break. It's like a treasure hunt to dig up all the info to make the game work again; you can spend several hours browsing for drivers, diving into forums, installing patches - and when it works, giving yourself a nice pat on the back.

I grew up on PC gaming, I'm no stranger to technical hurdles so it was always nice to be challenged. But just like the good ol days of Doom shareware and EMS memory disks, many hours were spent optimizing and tweaking - seriously cutting into the gaming time.

Most recently Half-Life 2 and Vampire Masquerade gave me a few headaches. Amidst the pretty, smooth as butter visuals, it would randomly turn into a chop fest. And the loading screen that would appear whenever I would go over a jump in my hovercraft were 50 seconds of pain.

I used to be hardcore into the upgrade cycle, spending $1500-2000 a year for top of the line equipment. Those days are long gone though, so my upgrade cycle has dropped to every 3 years or so (aside from random peripherals).

PC gaming is still the cream of the crop, but insanely expensive. Damn it all for having such a special place reserved for it in my heart, it's what keeps me coming back.

God knows I'm far from beeing a politically correctness zealot but this Special Olympics attempt at dark humor is old and of very bad taste. I have nothing against jokes of bad taste once in a while but I like them fresh, and funny.

Yeah, I was going to avoid that comment too. I'd rather watch paint dry then get involved in the 2,000,000th PC vs Console "debate".

Games are games, there's no need for snobbery. Hell, I'd even get a freaking N-Gage if the price was right and there was one game that was cool.

Yeah I can think of about a dozen reasons why that's not cool. Perhaps ... he'll edit that ... HINT HINT.

But... but... wine and cookies?

What kind of cookies?

Why can't you have both? I'm a PC and console gamer.

Really, I've been spotted getting up from an FPS on my Xbox and sitting down to play one on my PC.

I notice NOTHING. There isn't an adjustment period any more. Some switch in my mind flips and I'm using the mouse to aim. No problem.

What am I? Some kind of gaming FREAK? isn't there others out there? Others .... like me?

Mr.Green wrote:

But... but... wine and cookies?

What kind of cookies?

Chocolate chip if I recall correctly. And ginger snaps.

Bad article.

No, just kidding! Just wanted to see your eyes and make sure you can walk through your door this evening without getting stuck!

Anyway I agree with Ridlin. I have my PC and xbox (oh and PS2 in my son's room I have not touched for a year) and play both.

The problem is playing newer games on old rigs. Before the computer I have now, I had a computer that I had to search technical forums for solutions EVERYTIME I bought a new game. It was frustrating.

Well, with the cheese you are making writing for this site you should be able to get a new rig. Right? Right?

Fletcher1138 wrote:
Mr.Green wrote:

But... but... wine and cookies?

What kind of cookies?

Chocolate chip if I recall correctly. And ginger snaps.

You pregnant or something?

Mr.Green wrote:
Fletcher1138 wrote:
Mr.Green wrote:

But... but... wine and cookies?

What kind of cookies?

Chocolate chip if I recall correctly. And ginger snaps.

You pregnant or something?


Whoah! I've got my own Doctrine now? Nifty! Too bad the link is broken, though. That kind of puts a damper on things.

As for Fletcher's article:

With every year that passes, I feel more and more like Fletcher does now. I grow weary of the time and effort required to play PC games on a regular basis. The embers of enthusiasm grow ever colder -- they, who once shone so brightly! My feelings are undoubtedly changing with time and with age.

Yes, my feelings are changing; but my gaming habits most certainly are not. If I thought I could get the sort of gaming experience that I crave from a console, then that'd be it for me. I'd buy a Mac and surf the net in bliss, and fulfill all my gaming urges (among others) while sitting on the couch. However, much as I yearn for this scenario, I know that it won't be coming any day soon. Not for me.

Ten or more years ago, consoles were the best home gaming solution for sports games, fighting games, arcade-style non-sims, and platformers of various genera. PCs were the best gaming solutions for everything else. Some people think that a lot has changed since then. I disagree. For my own particular tastes (read: disagree with me but don't flame me), PC gaming is still where it's at. Most people who would agree with me attribute their bias to differences in interface: mouse/keyboard vs. gamepad, the resolution gap, etc. But I also observe a difference in the culture of development. The PC games that appeal to me are generally of a different style than what I've found on the consoles so far.

Before I become a console-only gamer or even a console-mainly gamer, the games currently available for consoles will not only have to supersede the games currently availabe for the PC; they will also have to displace the entire back library of PC games. Becuase the honest truth is, I'd rather spend an evening playing Castles or Dungeon Hack than any recent console game you'd care to name. I realize just how strange that makes me.

In renouncing PC gaming, Fletcher has shown himself to be a stronger man than I, for he has chosen to brave tortures which I cannot bring myself to confront. His brand of sacrifice does not befit me. Not yet.

You know what would really get the console vs PC war into a massive confrontation?

Zelda Online, the MMORPG.

Here is my real post. I edited my last post but chose to leave it there as a reminded of my stupidity.

Console games do not provide the same entertainment value for me. I am not sure what it is, but I am willing to discuss some possibilities...

The input. I can't get away from my precious KB & mouse. Controllers fit a small niche for fighting games and maybe sports games (see below), but I find them inferior for most. I loved Halo but the whole time I played it, I kept thinking that it would be so much better with a KB & mouse. I didn't play the PC port since I had already finished the game on Xbox.

Sports games. I don't like em. I realize they are a big draw for consoles and my dislike limits the game market quite a lot.

The display. I have a PS/2 and a Gamecube and I have S-Video and component cables for both. The quality of the output just cannot compare to PC gaming.

Customizing. A huge amount of enjoyment for nearly every game I play comes from mods or other user created customization or content.

On the flip side, there are some games that I greatly prefer to play on console systems. Fighting games, Final Fantasy style RPGs and limited extreme sports/racing games.

On the topic of cost, undoubtedly, PC gaming has a higher cost if you attempt to stay on the cutting edge. However, the prohibitive cost of new console systems is also a factor. If I were to switch to console gaming with the launch on the next gen of consoles, I could expect to output at least the cost of a decent PC upgrade for the system and peripherals required for the new system. Granted, that could conceivabley be the extent of the hardware cost for the lifetime of the console, but that means I am stuck with the same performance for many years as well.

There is my 2 cents on the topic. I am not trying to convert anyone, just showing the view from my mind in a semi-intelligent manner as opposed to my last post.