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Console gaming isn’t that much simpler than PC gaming anymore


The first time I moved the PlayStation 5 between my desk and my TV, I booted it up to a screen I wasn’t expecting: it chastised me for not fully shutting the system off, then quickly checked over its filesystem for corruption. PlayStation has had a similarly grumpy filesystem since the PS3, but on my PC, I can’t remember the last time Windows cautioned me that my system hadn’t shut down properly and asked to boot into safe mode. We all know what it’s like to troubleshoot our PCs (is your RAM all the way in?) and crashy games, but today’s reliable hardware and programs like Steam make PC gaming less fiddly today than it’s ever been. Gaming on a console, meanwhile, is starting to feel a lot more like gaming on a PC.

As consoles grow more powerful and more sophisticated, they also slowly lose that “just plug it in” simplicity that once defined them. Slam a cartridge into a Nintendo 64, turn it on, and you were playing. On the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, those with fancy TVs and video cables could turn on progressive scan or even 720p output to make their games look better, but that was about as complex as it got. But today the conversation around every big new console game is dominated by the same conversations players have been having on PC for decades—resolution or framerate? My perpetually stoned college roommate was making the same choice when Crysis came out in 2007, except instead of a binary choice he was turning every graphics option to the max so he could shoot down very detailed trees at 17 frames per second.

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