An Introduction to PC Gaming
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If you’ve been meaning to enter the PC gaming world, but weren’t sure where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Nowadays, it’s possible to play games pretty much everywhere, from consoles to mobile apps, to even old-school arcades.
However, if you’re looking for the best gaming experience, PC gaming is probably your best bet.
It’s not like other platforms are bad, they’re just limited. Because of the PC gaming openness, there’s more competition, which leads to cheaper software and increased innovation. People are also not tied to one platform and the way games are played, they can experiment with different computing set-ups and even play “mods,” which are modified games with different looks, stages, and features.
With this welcoming environment and the advances in computer technology, there has never been a better time to dip your toes into PC gaming. Although the learning curve is slightly steeper — it’s not like a console where you can plug and play — the rewards are definitely satisfying.
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How to Build a PC
While it may seem daunting at first, building your own PC is not an impossible task. In fact, the more you learn about every intricacy of the PC world, the more you’ll realize how powerful your machine can really be.
Before diving right into building a computer, you need to know what parts you’re working with. Having a base understanding of the components of a computer and how they interact is key when building a PC.
As such, here are the main components you’ll need:
- Processor (CPU): Known as the Central Processing Unit, the CPU is akin to the brain of the computer. Like a brain, it receives and interprets the information coming from the other pieces of hardware.
- Motherboard: A PC motherboard is basically a Printed Circuit Board that contains most of the main components of the computer, such as the CPU, memory, and graphics cards. Since it houses the major parts of a PC, compatibility with the rest of the hardware is a must.
- Graphics Card (GPU): The Graphics Processing Unit is arguably one of the most important pieces of your PC. It takes the information about what’s happening in the game — such as the position of other gamers and what they’re doing — and renders the graphics according to your settings.
- Memory (RAM): Random Access Memory is considered the third-most important in your PC. It works closely with the CPU and stores data that’s currently being used. This process helps with productivity and multitasking.
- Storage: Your PC storage (non-volatile memory) retains all the important data the computer needs to work properly, such as the operating system, programs, and games. The most popular types are hard disk drives, which tend to be larger, but less durable, and solid state drives, which have no moving parts and are, therefore, faster, more durable, but smaller.
- Power Supply Unit (PSU): The PSU supplies power to a computer by converting the alternating current to direct current. It’s important to check if you’ll have enough wattage for your system and the efficiency ratings are at least 80+.
- Case and Peripherals: The last pieces of hardware you need are the ones that live outside the main computer “brain.” Pick a case that matches the size of your motherboard, cooler fans to make sure the system won’t overheat, keyboard and mouse to play your favorite games, an amazing monitor for killer visuals, and the operating system (OS) to manage everything.
Building a PC
Now that you have an idea of the components you need to build your PC, it’s time to actually build it. We’ve provided a step-by-step guide to assemble everything and start using your newly built PC.
- Preparation: Make sure that you have the proper screwdrivers, components, and enough space to build your PC. Also, stand on an uncarpeted surface so you can avoid an accidental electrostatic discharge damaging the other components of the PC.
- Install the CPU: First, open the motherboard using the metal lever attached to the board. Once open, gently place the CPU in the motherboard’s CPU socket; there is a small arrow indicating where to match the CPU with its socket. Be careful when handling the CPU and motherboard as certain parts can easily be damaged.
- Install the CPU Cooler: Since installation varies depending on the cooler type, it's best to consult the cooler’s manual for exact instructions. For a quick overview, coolers that come with a mounting bracket don’t require any extra steps — unless the motherboard already has a bracket pre-installed or the cooler uses a different bracket — while coolers that come with thermal paste may require applying a small rice-size dot to the conductive material for installation.
- Install the Memory: This is one of the easiest steps as the memory just snaps into the two or four RAM slots on the motherboard. If you’re not using all the RAM slots, make sure to consult the motherboard’s manual to find out the correct configuration.
- Mount the PSU: The power supply mounts to the PC case with four screws. Where you place the PSU is determined by where the vent is on the case. You’ll want to mount the PSU, so its fan is facing the vent. If there is no vent, mount it facing up into the case.
- Install the Motherboard: Make sure to install the I/O shield before installing the motherboard. Once installed, align the motherboard with the I/O shield and mount the motherboard by filling all the screw holes. After that, connect the PSU to the motherboard.
- Install the GPU: The GPU slides into the PCIe* x16 slot on the motherboard. Once locked into the slot, secure it to the PC case with screws. If the GPU needs power to work, make sure to connect it to the power supply.
- Install the Storage: Installing your storage will vary depending on the type of bay the computer has. If the case has tool-free bays, the drive will just slide into the tray. If the case doesn’t, you’ll have to screw the drive to the metal bracket attached to the case. Once everything is in place, connect the storage to the motherboard and power supply.
- Install the OS: Once you decide which OS you want on the PC, install it to a flash drive. If you bought your OS, make sure to have the product key on hand. Use the BIOS to check that all your components work and determine the order that the PC’s drives boot up. When that is done, restart the computer to initiate the OS installer from the flash drive.
How to Get the Most out of a PC
Once your PC is built and good to go, you can take some steps to make it even more powerful and considerably increase its performance.
The most common way to boost your PC efficiency is by overclocking it. Overclocking means making a computer perform better than its manufacturing defaults. You can do it with the CPU, GPU, RAM, and even the monitor.
However, it may decrease the lifespan of the components and results in higher temperatures.
Keeping It up to Date
It’s important to ensure the operating system is always up to date. In that way, you’ll get the best performance and know it’s safe. The same applies to your games as the latest software will be free of bugs and you’ll have a much better playing experience.
Where to Buy Games
When it comes to finding the best games to play, there’s an abundance of options for you to choose from. While in the past you needed games in a physical format (discs, cartridges, or even floppy disks), nowadays, you can simply download them from the Internet using one of the many gaming platforms available.
The most famous and largest digital marketplace is Steam. Originally built by Valve to host updates for their games, Steam has grown to offer a large variety of games — ranging from free-to-play and indie titles, all the way to AAA-titles — for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
In recent years, Steam has become known for its sales. While their biggest ones are the seasonal sales, Steam offers discounts anywhere between 10 and 95 percent on a weekly basis.
Epic Games Store
A relative newcomer to the digital marketplace space, Epic has leveraged all the money made by the uber-successful Fortnite into a Steam competitor.
What differentiates the Epic Game Store from other storefronts is the revenue split. Instead of the traditional 70/30 split between developers and the platform holder, Epic is giving developers a bigger share with an 88/12 split. With a more generous split, developers are able to pass savings onto the consumer.
Geared towards the indie crowd, Itch.io is an open marketplace. As such, developers can set their own profit sharing with the platform and keep the prices on games relatively low. But, if you’d like to pay more in order to support the developer, you are free to do so.
Founded by Witcher developer CD Projekt, GOG (Good Old Games) focuses on distributing DRM-free games for PC gamers. In addition to DRM-free games, GOG has made an effort to restore many PC classics thought to be lost to time, such as Dungeon Keeper, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, and SWAT 4.
Originally known for their game bundles — which allow gamers to pay what they want for a handful of games — Humble has brought their unique business model to a digital marketplace. On top of that, 10 percent of each game bought on the Humble Store goes to charity.
Some publishers forgo these wider digital marketplaces in order to sell their games directly to the consumer. This option cuts out the need for sharing profit with the platform holder.
Some first-party storefronts include:
- EA’s Origin;
- Ubisoft’s uPlay, and;
- Activision Blizzard’s Battle.net.
Welcome to PC Gaming
PC gaming has improved by leaps and bounds and it’s never too late to build your own machine and be part of the community. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of this world, and in no time, will be playing your favorite games with razor-sharp graphics and efficient systems.