If you do a search on the internet about customizing your PC gaming experience, the majority of results that come up will be about PC hardware. Although the type of hardware you choose can certainly determine the games you are able to play, and affect the technical aspects of your experience, hardware does not address the less tangible and more important aspects of the gaming experience. Of course, to some people, tinkering around with the innards of their machine is fun, but to most gamers tinkering is just the often necessary prelude to playing their games. Unfortunately, PC games these days are totally prone to unoptimized releases and forums become dominated by user talk of hardware components. These discussions can often lead to insulting comments about your "potato" computer if you don't have the latest, greatest equipment. However, it's unfortunate that so much hype goes into this that many gamers lose sight of what gaming should be about, which is the personal enjoyment of a hobby that's supposed to be fun and entertaining for you.
When I decided to build a gaming computer, I researched the heck out of all the various hardware components until I was satisfied about getting the best I could get within my budget. Anyone serious about PC gaming will do the same thing, but how many people give as much thought to which games they will buy. With the price of games these days, you could very quickly surpass the amount of money you paid for the rig to play them on, which is fine if you actually do play them and enjoy them. However, statistics show that an alarming percentage of people never finish their games for one reason or another. Due to the type of content we're getting, we could blame the gaming industry to a certain degree, but a lot of the blame should land squarely on our own shoulders. Impulse buying and a lack of self-discipline is a big problem and one the industry depends on. People have short attention spans and if we are not engaged, we will move on. But who is ultimately responsible for making that decision to purchase a particular product?
Another sad statistic is the number of games in library backlogs that people have bought with the intention of playing, but never do. When I started gaming, I got caught up in the sales hype and now, if I never bought another game, it would still take me two years to play them all and I have a small library compared to many. The point being, that no matter how good or attractively priced a game might be, it is virtually impossible to play them all. Fortunately, along the way, I smartened up. So, when I say customize your own gaming experience, I don't mean hardware - I mean get to "Know Thyself" and expend some energy thinking about what you really want out this hobby. Think of it like a RPG gaming profile where the most important aspect is to develop a character that is unique to you and your style.
Although millions of people play games, it's still about making personal choices that will give you the minimum frustration with the maximum enjoyment. If you're new to gaming, establishing what you enjoy will likely take some experimentation, but it's important to make this hobby all about your own likes, dislikes, budget and time. Although this simple observation may seem like a no-brainer, you might be surprised at how many people just keep spending money on games they will never play. That's because the act of buying games can be every bit as addictive as playing them and that impulse can be hard to control.
The following few pages briefly cover how things work starting with getting to know what you can control in regards to your own preferences and ending with industry trends that you can't control except through wise spending.
It's understandable that people new to gaming make mistakes and need to ask for help, but I'm constantly amazed at how many people who are already into this hobby lack much of the basic knowledge that every gamer should know for their own consumer protection. There are several pitfalls to consider about this potentially expensive hobby and doing a little research now could save you a lot of heartache later. Trust me when I say that even if reading is not nearly as exciting as playing, in fact no fun at all, it's is a lot less painful than trying to fix mistakes after the fact. Looking before you leap is good advice at any time and gone are the good old days when ignorance was bliss. Increased knowledge is never a bad thing when it comes to making good decisions and understanding even the basic standards in the gaming industry is a good place to start your journey towards customizing your own gaming experience.
There is one sure thing about PC gaming - it is not plug and play and if you develop the mindset of expecting something less than perfection, you won't be nearly as upset when things do go wrong. However, rather than wait till you are actually faced with a problem, why not arm yourself with some basic facts first. Then you will know your own mind beforehand, be able to make informed decisions, and possibly avert a problem to begin with. Here are a few points to consider.
There are basically two ways to purchase your game; you can purchase a disc copy from a local store or from an online store such as Gamestop or Amazon, or you can download a digital copy onto your computer from a site that sells them. When I first started gaming a number of years ago, I was cautious about giving my credit card number to total strangers online and I resisted this avenue of obtaining games for a couple of years. Eventually, however, it became very difficult to find them locally as retailers were moving away from selling PC games and concentrating more on console games. (Much to their loss as digital suppliers stepped in to fill the gap) It soon became evident that if I wanted something specific that I would have to bite the bullet and join the masses of online shoppers. So availability in PC games at the retail level was and is still a problem. As more and more distributors joined the digital game, prices became very competitive, giving you the advantage of more choice, easy price comparison, and instant shopping from home. However, many people are collectors and enjoy the box art and having something tangible in their hands, but you should be aware, as you will see in the next section, that this does not afford you any more rights than a digital copy. Neither does downloading mean a faster installation. In addition, some games are moving to digital-only availability, which may prove problematic for those with bandwidth caps and for those who like to collect. Also, another trend is to now sell a retail copy that does not actually include the complete game data and still requires digital downloading. Fallout 4 and Doom 2016 are more recent examples of this. The lesson to be learned here is that if you don't do your homework, you can get caught in an expensive trap.
SUPRISE, SURPRISE! When you purchase a game, you don't actually own it. What you do own is a license to play that copy and it matters not whether it's a digital copy or a disc copy. Many receive a nasty shock when they go to install a game and find out it requires a constant internet connection, or installing a client program such as Uplay or Steam. It's a false belief that you can bypass these requirements by buying retail. DRM is a highly controversial issue and for that reason, you need to carefully read info on the boxes, labels or websites. At its simplest, most games require a unique identifier known as a CD Key, which is a string of numbers and letters associated with that particular copy and without registering it, you won't be able to launch the game. So, regardless of which route you decide to take, you will not be able to avoid some form of DRM and some connection to the internet. If you want to enjoy a variety of games, this is one of those situations where you will have to do some compromising.
DRM can range from simple registration of a key, to needing third-party clients to download and play digital copies or to play box copies. For downloading a game, clients can range from simple download managers to full blown sites that offer many other services including stores, achievements, rewards, forums and support. Unfortunately, as the price of games skyrocket, we now live in the days where we can't afford to be ignorant of these matters. Although there are some compromises involved, the good outweighs the bad if you practice due diligence before you purchase. Check out GameClients for more information on some reputable clients.
Your particular taste in games may not really become apparent until you've played quite a few and discovered what you like and don't like. To some people the most up-to-date graphics is important, but to others it's the story or the gameplay mechanics. There are lots of really good older games available on the market. After all, old in the gaming world can be as little as six months to a year. You can watch videos, read game reviews and peruse game forums for user feedback, but ultimately it's going to get down to your personal preferences. You also have to consider whether games will run on your system. Older games were not made to run on newer technology, although many of them have either been patched or users have found ways to make them work. This involves learning how to install and configure files, which could be intimidating till you learn the ropes. Many older games have also had their source code released so that users and fans can improve textures and graphics and develop their own additional content commonly known as Mods. Gog.com also specializes in getting older games to run on newer systems and re-marketing them. A more recent trend is new releases in the form of remakes and remasters, which have the effect of original copies being removed from the market. If you already own them, however, you can still access them and sometimes the newer version is offered as a free or heavily discounted upgrade. This is entirely up to the developer. Older disc versions could present substantially greater problems though.
Make sure your operating system, memory and graphics card are all sufficient to handle the game. I cannot believe the number of people who purchase games without checking this first. The labels on box games give the system requirements and are there for a reason. Digital sites also list the minimal and recommended specs. Although occasionally requirements can be overstated, you cannot just assume that they are. Also remember that depending on the age of the game, it may have its own set of problems concerning compatibility to newer technology and although there may be workarounds, research it first. If you plan to make PC gaming a hobby, upgrades to your hardware may become necessary for more recent games. Newer PC games also require large amounts of bandwidth to download, take up huge amounts of hard drive space, are pushing next-gen technology, and require the latest DirectX and drivers to run properly. Check out TechTalk for a more detailed but easy lesson in the individual components of game system requirements and where to find the information about your own machine.
Games come in different genres, so deciding what to buy largely depends on your likes and dislikes as well as what games your system will support. It's getting harder to be specific with this, though, as many games now cross over several genres. There are many factors that could affect your decisions such as how you feel about crude language, violence or sexual content. There are people who suffer from motion sickness and those who find it hard to deal with horror themes. There are games that have detailed and extensive stories and those that have almost none. So, regardless of what seems to be the most popular or highly rated, choosing the games that are right for you gets down to personal tastes. For instance, if you don't like virtual driving then no matter how good people say the game is you're not going to enjoy playing a driving game. This is a hard lesson to learn when a game is being hyped and people are waxing eloquent about how wonderful it is.
Last in this segment, but certainly not least, is your budget. You can spend as much or as little as you like on this hobby. The best advice I can give you is to buy games not because they are popular or on sale, but because you are going to play and enjoy them. Once you've been around the block a few times, you will discover that games you may want to purchase come on sale in cycles. Many people have backlogs of games they bought at a discount but have not played before it's on sale again and again. If you're not going to play the game now, the advantage of waiting is that the base full price may come down and 75% off later will be cheaper than 75% off now. You could also wait for the Goty edition, which includes all of the DLC. So there is no rush to buy unless it is an unique sale or you want to engage in the Multiplayer aspects while they are popular.
Time can also play a factor in your decisions. Completing games can range from taking a few hours to taking hundreds of hours. RPG games will typically take much longer to finish than shooters and in addition may require a ton of research outside of the game to understand all the elements within the game. Games with checkpoint saving only, which has become quite prevalent with developers, can also be problematic as you cannot save and quit when you want to and sessions may take more time than you have. Quitting before a checkpoint will cause you to lose all of your progress since the last checkpoint.
Part of customizing your own gaming experience is experimenting with different games to discover what you like and don't like about them. The following is a very basic list which really only gives you a vague idea of the genres and modes. There are also different themes within these such as horror, car racing, war, sci-fi, to name a few. It's probably more informative to read reviews. I've seen games that tote several genre labels, such as action adventure, first person shooter for example. With many games there can also be several modes of playing.