The Beginner's Guide to PC Gaming

A game setup on a wooden desk Gorodenkoff / shutterstock.com

The PC gaming scene is intimidating. With hard-to-understand hardware specs, heaps of different storefronts, and hundreds of games to play, there’s a lot to look at – it can be a bit overwhelming. But just because you’re interested in PC gaming doesn’t mean you have to spend hours reading what a graphics card does. You just need to know the basics at first, which is exactly what we are discussing in this article.

There are many reasons to get started with PC gaming. Games look and perform better on PC (assuming you spend enough on your hardware to support it) compared to a game console, you can use the keyboard and mouse to control games (especially good for shooters. and strategy games) in addition to controllers, and you also just have more choices when it comes to playing.

But before you can enjoy these perks, you need to first prepare yourself properly, so let’s go.

Equipment

Internal components of a gaming PC Alberto Garcia Guillen / shutterstock.com

First of all, the PC components you need depend on the games you want to play. If you are looking to run the more intensive games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or Cyberpunk 2077 at maximum settings you will need a real beast of a machine, as these games are graphically amazing and therefore have high system requirements. Meanwhile, simpler games can run on considerably less powerful computers.

If you plan to get a gaming laptop, you don’t have much choice when it comes to specs. You get pretty much anything the manufacturer will give you in the price range. If you’re planning on upgrading your laptop but can’t spend a ton on a high-end gaming model, look for the Ryzen 4000 and Intel Xe laptops, where the integrated graphics deliver impressive performance for the price of. modern games.

Now, when it comes to gaming desktops, there’s a lot of basic information to discuss, but we’re going to keep it fairly simple here. Let’s just talk about the main things you need to worry about when it comes to specs, namely graphics card (GPU), processor (CPU), storage, and RAM. When it comes to more complicated games, your GPU and CPU work as a team, with the former dealing with the visuals and the latter basically everything else.

This might lead you to think that it’s better to spend a ton on a really good processor while still getting a low budget graphics card, but it isn’t. You want the two to be fairly balanced – having one part vastly larger than the other is just a waste of time. However, it’s worth knowing that the GPU is much easier to upgrade later, as replacing the processor usually requires changing the motherboard. Overall, the system works together as a whole – there isn’t a single “most important” component in gaming PCs.

Close up of CPU cooler inside gaming PC Svetlana Sotnikova / shutterstock.com

When it comes to specific brands, AMD delivers the best performance for the dollar in the processor area. Intel is the other major player in this arena, and while its processors aren’t bad at all, they just can’t keep up with AMD when it comes to gaming.

For GPUs, NVIDIA is the favorite of many because the company is a pioneer of many technologies (like RTX laser tracing) and the cards work well with modern AAA games. But AMD also produces graphics cards and it competes well with offerings from NVIDIA – you really can’t go wrong with either. It should also be noted that you can mix and match; Just because you get an AMD processor doesn’t mean you need to get an AMD graphics card.

When it comes to storage, speed is the name of the game. It not only affects how fast games load, but also how quickly they can pull data into the game. Modern games have to mine countless resources and textures as you play to properly load the world. If your PC’s storage can’t keep up, it will negatively affect your gaming performance. For this reason, you’re going to want a decent-sized SSD (solid-state drive) in your PC for your games.

Today, SSDs were quite expensive, but their price has dropped significantly in recent years. We highly recommend that you get at least a terabyte drive (because games are massive now) from a company like Samsung or Western digital for all your game storage needs. If you need more storage for excess files then an inexpensive solution Hard disk (HDD) as a secondary storage drive will work well for this even though it is slower than SSD.

There is also the issue of NVMe (Express non-volatile memory) SSDs, which offer even faster load times. These are more expensive, but they’re definitely worth it if you’re trying to achieve maximum performance.

You will also need enough RAM for your PC, usually in the form of DDR4 RAM, but some motherboards will still need DDR3 (you can check your motherboard manual to see what type it takes). In general, 16 GB RAM is sufficient for a gaming PC and this is what we recommend for beginners. You can go higher if you want, but it’s not necessary unless you do other things like photo editing.

Finally, we need to discuss custom computers. A large portion of PC gamers decide to buy their own parts and build a gaming PC from scratch. Sometimes it’s more cost effective than buying a pre-made product from a store like Best Buy or Amazon, but it’s often done for the sake of extra choice when it comes to parts and setup.

You don’t need to be intimidated into building a PC either – while on the surface it might sound complicated, it’s a fairly straightforward process. And, there are plenty of articles and videos online to learn more about construction process and the the pieces themselves.

What accessories do you need (or want)?

Gaming keyboard, headset and mouse arranged on a desk CHIMPALEEKKAPHAN

You will see many items marked as “gaming” peripherals, including keyboards, mice, monitors, and headsets. Now, you can easily do without these items – they tend to be quite expensive after all – but they do offer some features that competitive gamers, in particular, are sure to appreciate.

Gaming keyboards and mouse tend to offer the same types of benefits. They have lower input lag than their non-gaming counterparts, you can reprogram the keys / knobs to do what you want most of the time, and they tend to be more precise when it comes to games. ” save the entries. You might also want a controller for some games like racers or third person action titles. the official Xbox controller works with almost all titles.

For monitors, the main thing to watch out for is the refresh rate (measured in Hertz). Refresh rate represents the maximum frame rate the monitor can display – for example, a 60Hz monitor will peak at 60 FPS. This is important for getting the most out of your powerful PC and for improving the appearance of games. Some monitors also have additional integrations with certain GPUs through programs such as NVIDIA G-SYNC to help deliver a smoother gaming experience.

There’s also the issue of resolution: do you want a 1080p, 1440p, or even 4K display? Keep in mind that the higher you increase the resolution, the more grueling the games will be on your GPU. If you’re looking to push 4K, 60 FPS into modern games, you’ll need a fairly powerful graphics card, such as the NVIDIA RTX 3080.

Finally, the gaming headset. A headset is a great idea if you plan to play online and need to talk to your teammates. And the game variants may offer a few small benefits, such as 3D audio, so you can hear which direction the sounds are coming from. Also, there is little noticeable difference between standard headsets and gaming models, but gaming headsets tend to be most of the premium options in this market anyway.

At the end of the day, most gaming peripherals don’t offer anything that can change your life. But they’re still nice to have if you can afford it: High refresh rate monitors in particular can improve your gaming experience.

Where to buy games

Screenshot of the Steam homepageValve

Now that you’ve got the real world stuff set up, let’s talk about digital. These days, physical PC games aren’t really a thing, so all of your games will be purchased and downloaded through digital storefronts. But which gaming platform should you invest in?

There are three main stores that will cover most of your gaming needs: Steam, Epic game store, and GOG. Steam is the most well-known and has pretty much any PC game you could want. It’s the showcase and launcher of choice for most users thanks to its frequent sales, easy-to-organize game library, and edit support. It even offers voice chat, but it’s probably better to use something like Discord for that.

Switching to GOG is a similar story, as there are a lot of games available and sales are frequent. However, the most notable feature of the GOG storefront is the absence of DRM. Unlike Steam, the downloaded versions of games on GOG are not dependent on the launcher itself and can be opened independently regardless of your internet connection or if the launcher is even currently installed. Steam can cause you issues in both of these scenarios, so that’s definitely an advantage over Steam.

Screenshot of the Epic Games Store navigation pageEpic games

The last main store is Epic, which is currently the newest storefront and also the lightest in terms of features. Really, all you can do in the Epic Games Store is buy and play games, but that’s also the most important part. Epic has the smallest game library out of three, but there are a few reasons to use the launcher. Epic has a lot of exclusives that you won’t find on other launchers, and also reliably gives away at least one free game per week to all users. Even if you don’t buy all of your games from Epic, it’s worth keeping the launcher installed for that particular one.

There are also other launchers running right now, such as Origin and Ubisoft Connect, which are owned by EA and Ubisoft respectively and only sell games from these companies. There is also the Xbox Launcher which with the launch of games you purchased from the Microsoft Store, is also where you will access the Xbox Game Pass Library if you are an active subscriber.

That’s all you really need to know when choosing new games. Most gamers default to Steam and install other launchers to complement this library, but it really depends on what you enjoy and what games you want to play.

But here’s what you can play now

Screenshots of Celeste, Into the Breach and Minecraft in a collageMatt Makes Games Inc., Game Subset, Mojang

So we’ve looked at everything you would need for a standard gaming setup, but you might not have it right now if you’re reading this. Fortunately there is full of games you can play even if you don’t have a “gaming” PC or laptop.

Most notably, most PCs can run games with a 2D art style, and there are some great titles with this credo. Platforms like Hollow Knight and Celestial, Top-down games such as Don’t starve and Enter the GungeonAnd strategy games like Into the breach and Wargroove are all simple games that still deliver great gameplay.

And some of the most popular games in the world today have been optimized to run on lower performing systems. Games like Minecraft, Valuing, League of Legends, Fortnite, and RobloxDespite their more complicated nature than 2D games, can still run fine on weaker computers – as long as you’re okay with lower graphics settings and some frame rate stuttering.

The YouTuber LowSpecGamer is a great resource if you’re playing on a low spec PC. They cover a wide variety of games and you see how well the games perform on low spec systems. If the game you want to play is popular, chances are it has been covered by this channel.

There is also the issue of game streaming to address. This is a great option if you don’t have a powerful PC, as your computer is not doing any work, just your internet connection (so hopefully that’s okay). Google Stadia offers excellent streaming performance, although lack of features, Xbox Game Pass streaming is currently only available on Android but come to Windows in 2021, and Geforce now allows you to stream games you already own. Amazon Luna is also a promising company, but it is still very limited beta stages now.

If you still want to play high-end PC games without a high-end PC, streaming is your best option right now. Keep in mind that each service charges a monthly fee, so there is always a financial commitment here.

There is a lot to consider if you are looking to get into PC gaming. But while it might seem intimidating now, it only gets easier when you get used to it. And if you’re a little into PC gaming, the benefits are likely to be worth the initial investment of time and money.

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