Despite the overwhelming market dominance of gaming on consoles seemingly only challenged by gaming on what we used to call telephones, graphics card manufacturer nVidia are predicting a surge in the uptake of PC gaming. Do you want to be part of this hip new trend? You shouldn’t! But the stories are intoxicating, aren’t they? Tales of dedicated multiplayer servers. Rumours of true high definition gaming, powered by multicore CPUs that unleash the true power of exotic European developed game engines. Implausibly large multiplayer games supporting thousands of players simultaneously. Rumours of wonderful indie game distribution networks and those preposterously good value Steam sales. But then if you go out and look at some PCs in shops they’re all so expensive you might begin to wonder just what the big fuss regarding the PS3 launch price was even over. Then you hear another rumour, that you can save money and build a PC yourself! It all sounds too enticing and you find yourself wondering that maybe you should buy some components off the shelf and craft your very own PC. Well don’t.
The reason you shouldn’t is that last rumour. It’s a myth. Building your own PC is not cheaper. Logic might dictate that a PC manufacturer like Compaq or Xerox act as middlemen, assembling components, slapping their sticker on it and marking up the price to give themselves a discount. Thing is, IBM or Power Computing or whoever don’t pay the same price you do for components – they pay manufacturer direct wholesale prices. When you go out and purchase your own unique Gigabyte or ASUS branded piece of hardware, you’re just swapping out one middleman, HP, for another: the arsehole at the computer shop who treats you with contempt and derision. Furthermore, the branding bullshit never really ends. This Corsair power supply unit I bought today to get my PC up and running is really just a rebadge of Seascape or some other company’s shit. I’m extra angry when I think that the raw materials it’s made out of were probably mined in my very own state, under my feat, by some insolent high school dropout who gets a disgustingly high $100,000 salary to act like a dickhead during his 17 weeks paid holiday leave. Fuck I hate the Western Australian mining industry so much! Next time I should just craft my own PSU from rocks I find in the front yard.
But I won’t do that. I won’t craft my own diodes and flux capacitors from stone because that would add time to the equation and the old saying that “time is money” is absolutely true. Every moment you spend not earning money is time you could’ve spent earning money. So time you spend building your PC is effectively adding to the cost. For a first timer, the entire process of building a PC could take up to or even over 20 hours. You need to research what components you need, decide on what will be the best build, price match in stock components from various retailers, altering and substituting components as you do, goto the store and collect them all, drive home, unbox everything, begin to assemble the PC, freak out when you realise you forgot to buy thermal paste, go back to the store, get the thermal paste, argue with your housemate who thinks it’s inconsiderate that the living room has been occupied by your boxes for half the day, finish PC assembly, start up your PC, install Windows and all your drivers, update Windows and all your drivers, wonder why you even bothered with an optical drive, and then begin to download essential software for a modern computer. Now if I was working at my old job making coffee I could’ve earned $350 after tax in that time; $350 of additional money that could’ve gone to buying a Dell or Apple branded, pre-assembled box with software installed and ready to go. Suddenly the $200 you shaved off the price of a $1300 machine doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
There is a way to save money, though: buying generic parts. That, however, is an illusion. Buying generic parts will add more to the cost over the life of your PC. It will do it 100% of the time and I am talking from personal experience. My Strontium RAM failed within days of setting up my computer, causing sudden and devastating crashes. I mentioned earlier that I bought a new PSU today, that’s because my A-power PSU died a mere 10 months into operation. The long and the short of it is that generic brands will fail, costing you money when you buy the real version. In both instances I’ve opted for Corsair, they’re expensive, but a real company that offers replacements in the unlikely event that their components fail.
You should be convinced that building a PC isn’t a good idea and if not, you should re-read the past 3 paragraphs. But those other things I mentioned about PC gaming? The dedicated massively multiplayer cheap indie games? Those are all true and luckily there are other options available. The best option is to simply have someone else build it for you. You probably know some terrifying computer geek who will happily build you a computer for no charge other than components. The tedious process of researching hardware and stressful moments of construction are what these nerds do for fun. Unless you’re an attractive girl, they’ll probably make you install the operating system and drivers yourself (not even they enjoy that part of the process), but if you offer to hang out with them at the computer store and listen to them talk while they build the machine, sometimes they’ll do that for you too! I would suggest dancing to rad music while experimenting with drugs to alleviate the boredom of their company. What is especially good abut having someone else build your machine is that they will provide free tech support and servicing for life. If they protest, simply state that they built it, so therefore it’s their fault. If you don’t know any computer geeks, and who can blame you, your next option is to buy a pre-built machine. My personal recommendation is an up and coming vender called Apple. Not only are their machines of higher quality, but they are cheaper in the long run, requiring vastly less maintenance and having a longer product life.
There is one other solution that is best of all. Don’t bother. Save yourself the money and just buy a new game for your console or handheld. Unless you’re a clown with just a PS3, you can already surf the net on your gaming machine of choice. Better yet, throw your PC out the window and enjoy the liberation of a computer free existence! Your phone can check Facebook and you can get back into playing CDs through the stereo! What else do you use the computer for anyway?