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Plugged In

7 reasons you should be playing games on your PC

Plugged In

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(Credit: Riot Games)

Console gaming might have commanded center stage for the past six years, but the PC is stealing back the spotlight.

How? It could be because of the sequelitis that's running rampant in the console world these days. Or perhaps it's due to the extended lifecycle of the current consoles, which no longer offer the best technology on the block. Whatever the reason, the PC -- which many wrote off as a dead gaming system -- is back, and it's back in a big way.

If you're not playing games on your PC (and we're not talking about Farmville here, people), you're missing out. Still sitting on the fence? Here are seven reasons you might want to consider investing in a PC gaming rig.

So...many...games.

While you may never play another Halo title on the PC, exclusives aren't just a part of the console world. The PC has a very healthy, very robust collection of games that aren't available on an Xbox or PlayStation -- and in some cases, it's the consoles that get ports of PC games.

Want to play Diablo III, or any other Blizzard game? For now, it's the PC or nothing. Star Wars: The Old Republic? Put down your controller. How about League of Legends or Day Z? And that doesn't even scratch the surface of many of the games that have spurred people's interest on Kickstarter. More and more, they're PC exclusives.

And even non-exclusives, including huge recent hits like Borderlands 2, Dishonored and XCOM: Enemy Unknown, are just as good (or, in the case of Borderlands 2, even better) on the PC. Throw in the wealth of smaller, critically-acclaimed titles like Torchlight 2 and FTL and you'll wind up with more options than you'll know what to do with.

Control options galore.

While there's nothing better than a gamepad for, say, a platform game, things get cloudier when it comes to shooters. It's pretty much a draw these days, but for an RPG, there's no comparison.

"The keyboard and mouse interface … makes a huge difference in how you control a role-playing game party," says Chris Avellone, creative director, chief creative officer and co-owner at Obsidian Entertainment. "It allows you to direct more individuals in combat and dungeon exploration which in turn, adds more tactics to encounters and puzzle-solving. Console controllers have difficulty competing (and it's one of the reasons why your party is often limited in console RPGs). … In addition, the keyboard interface to allow more keys and options."

While it used to be an either/or situation, most PC gamers these days keep a gamepad around for certain games and rely on the mouse/keyboard for others. The best of both worlds.

It's actually affordable.

A $300 console is going to beat the price tag of a decent PC pretty much any day of the week. But don't listen to those naysayers who are quick to label the cost of a gaming PC as "exorbitant." They haven't been paying attention.

Advances in technology -- such as Intel's Core chips -- have brought the price of speedy components down to earth. And an nVidia GeForce GTX-brand graphics card (which can more than handle whatever you throw at it) can be had for under $120 these days.

Sure, you can still pay a lot for a good gaming PC, but you'll save money making one yourself and, if you're shrewd about it, could crank out something perfectly serviceable for only about $500. Even if you opt for a pre-assembled model, there are plenty of bargains out there.

Steam.

Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 offer loads of great games over their online networks, but when it comes to packing a downloadable punch, you won't find a better service than Steam.

For millions of gamers, Valve's Software's game distribution network is a one-stop shop. Not only will you find brand new releases day and date with their brick and mortar retail releases, but you'll find all sorts of cool, older releases without having to sift through bargain bins. You'll also find a robust community, friends lists, badges, and plenty more.

And there's more PC game options beyond Steam. Sites like Gog.com offer a veritable treasure trove of killer old games at insanely affordable prices.

The mods.

Games are rarely complete when they release on PC. While the developers might move on to other things, the community often begins working on mods that extend the title in ways its creators never imagined — like, say, Skyrim becoming a home for Mario, Yoshi and other familiar Nintendo characters.

Legal? In this case, definitely not (though most mods don't infringe on patents). Fun? Absolutely!

The savings.

New consoles games will cost you $60, and there's really way around that other than buying used. From there, the prices decline as the game loses popularity, but you generally are never going to pay less than $20 unless you're digging up some terrible title from the bargain bin.

Because PC games are largely done via digital distribution these days, publishers are more willing to experiment with short-term massive price cuts. Steam's Summer Sale offers tremendous values to players (this year, for example, Civilization V and Borderlands were 75 percent off).

The community.

There's no denying the loyalty of Nintendo or Sony fans, and when it comes to passion for their hobby, the PC and console gaming communities are pretty similar.

But when it comes to giving constructive feedback, developers note that the PC crowd is far and away the winner.

"I don't have solid metrics on this, but I imagine it's … easier for PC gamers to access the internet to post feedback (either on forums or Twitter) because they're already interfaced with the game on the PC level," says Avellone. "It's more difficult on the console [since] you're at least once removed from posting until you reach for your phone or PC. And it sometimes precludes the critiques that game designers are looking for."

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