I’m a fairly recent convert to PC gaming. In 2016, I spontaneously picked up a Steam Machine, Valve’s early attempt to fuse Steam with a more console-like experience. It was my first real introduction to the breadth of the Steam library and performance that outpaced my PS4. I was hooked, so I got my hands on a Dell PC, then soon after built my own computer. I sold off my Xbox One and a majority of my PS4 collection, holding on to my PS4 itself for the eventual release of Final Fantasy VII Remake, but otherwise shifted all of my gaming over to PC. Games ran better on PC, and there were more of them. Why would I spend time gaming on anything less? Why should I sacrifice any amount of performance when I should be striving for the absolute best that tech can offer?
As I head into 2024, however, I’m thinking that it’s time to game less on my Windows machines and more on my PS5, Switch, gaming-first devices like Steam Deck, and other consoles.
The inspiration for this change has little to do with exclusive titles on various platforms or the added comfort of gaming on a couch (I actually don’t have a couch and use the same monitor for my PS5 as I do my PC). The spark for this decision can be attributed to the Moog Grandmother synthesizer.
Console-gaming more in 2024
As a musician, I embraced computers and digital audio workstations for their near infinitude of musical outcomes. The ability to use software like Reason or VCV Rack meant that I could have tons of virtual instruments, many of which sound nearly indistinguishable to their physical counterparts. But what I lost in that process was the experience of spending focused time with a musical instrument. I instead adopted the role of a producer and tweaker, and was perpetually distracted by the ease of firing up a web browser and disappearing into the hole of the internet.
But since pivoting to musical instruments instead of using a computer, I’ve come to develop a more direct and intimate, distraction-free experience with music. It’s led me to wonder where else I can achieve that closeness. The first thing that came to mind was gaming.
In some ways switching from a PC to a console to game is merely trading one screen for another, but the more time I’ve spent with my PS5 the more I’m reminded of the benefits of a more isolated, focused gaming experience, like the kind I enjoyed for most of my life—even if I’m playing a game that could technically run better on my PC.
In gaming we’re so often bombarded with the need for “bigger, better, faster now.” Our framerates must now be 120hz, resolutions at least 1440p, and marketing materials tell us that we ought to be streaming, sharing, and creating content constantly. Overlays want us to constantly be chatting on Discord and other services. Consoles have been infected by this mandate too, but the PC is the king of making you feel like shit for not having a reliably stable framerate on the most graphically demanding games at absolutely all times. How can you even have fun if ray-tracing isn’t involved and set to the max?
My PS5, until now, has been like owning a car: I need one for work (or so I imagine. Like a couch, I don’t have one of those either). But after spontaneously buying Alan Wake II on PS5 after beating it on PC , I realized the benefits of closing myself off from the distraction of a web browser. I can’t Alt+Tab away to have the internet tell me whether or not I should be using performance or quality mode or to randomly chat in Discord. As I’m once again following the dark tale of Mr. Wake, I’m doing so in an environment exclusively made for gaming. And yes, I’m playing it at 30-frames-per-second, but the focused experience of shutting off the work machine and turning to the game machine I believe is resulting in a closer experience with this game, and I’m hoping it will in other areas.
Does this mean I’m done with PC gaming? No, absolutely not. I don’t personally own an Xbox, so I’lli use my Windows 11 machine to enjoy Microsoft’s offerings, and I’ve developed a love for emulation in the last couple of years. And given my job, I do need to stay connected to the world of PC gaming.
But in 2024, I’m going to try and go to my PlayStation first for gaming experiences, letting myself be immersed not because I’m chasing endless horsepower on the “ultimate” “FTW” platform of gaming, but because I’m making the choice to use a separate, unrelated machine from the one I use for all the clinical and boring parts of my life. Like my synthesizers, I want to recenter gaming as a focused, direct experience, and I think dedicated hardware is the key.