8Bit Contributor Kurt Schulitz
8BitLibrary is happy to have Kurt Schulitz on board as an 8BitLibrarian. Kurt works over at Library Journal/School Library Journal and is a pretty kick ass dude and PC Gamer.
The first PC gaming experience that I really remember was playing this game called Parsec on a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. I don’t even think I was 10 years old. My dad had aspirations of me learning how to really use the thing. Needless to say, I never did anything with that computer except obsessively play Parsec until it was taken away from me. Since then I’ve owned lots of PCs and gamed on them all. I currently own PS3 and have Call of Duty MW2 but find myself using the PS3 for NHL 10 and other sports games almost exclusively. Until consoles allow gamers to plug in and game with a keyboard and mouse (likely not happening anytime soon), I’ll always prefer playing my gaming genre of choice—first-person shooters (FPS)—on a PC. I need a mouse. Playing an FPS without one just doesn’t feel right to me otherwise.
Consoles and PCs both have their pros and cons when it comes to gaming, and most gamers regularly use both. That said, PC gamers often get the shaft—from bad console ports to games that aren’t even released for PC—and libraries unfortunately have a (forced) hand in marginalizing PC gaming now, too. A real gaming rig is not cheap. A decent video card costs easily as much as a console and will be considered outdated almost upon purchase. PC gaming has an uphill battle when it comes to having a machine with decent specs included in a library’s gaming arsenal.
Sure, libraries can have a great collection of computer games ready for checkout, but are there decent gaming rigs ready to be used? More than likely the answer is no for several reasons. First, obviously, it’s the cost. Even a marginal gaming rig built from scratch out of dated components will probably cost over $500, with the video card usually being the killer. For that amount of money, libraries could buy a console, accessories, and a bunch of games. With library budgets as tight as they are, high-end, in-library PC gaming doesn’t really stand much of a chance. In addition, the IT resources and time needed to keep up a gaming rig are far greater than that of a console. Xbox can give you the red ring of death, but gaming PCs face so many more issues. There also aren’t set standards for PC gaming. The same games can look noticeably different depending on the operating system they are running on. There are too many OSs capable of running the same game, and it isn’t precisely clear which one is actually the best performance-wise from game to game. Another blow against PC gaming in libraries is that it doesn’t allow more than one player at a time on the machine.
The only way PC gaming can be seriously included in the library gaming conversation rests on the passion of gaming librarians. It is up to individual librarians to find a way to incorporate PC gaming into their libraries. This means getting creative to work around the prohibitive cost and other barriers associated with gaming on a PC. Will resource-hog games and the latest and greatest releases need to be left out of the conversation? Probably, yes. The good news is that there are still plenty of incredible games that are cheap to buy and will run smoothly on older (i.e., cheaper) hardware, such as a decent 512mb video card and older Pentium 4 or Dual-Core processor. Games like Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 4, Battlefield 2 and lots of other great games for instance don’t require a machine with mind-blowing specs.