PC gaming in the Living Room and how it’s working out so far

So a few months ago I published an article that described a new PC build, check it out here if you haven’t read it. Now that actually served two purposes; a build to provide possible PC gamers a starting point and for me to actually get off my rear and put my HTPC / Living gaming PC build into action. Well I’m happy to say that 2 weeks after I wrote that article that finally built the PC,  placed it in my Living Room and haven’t looked back ever since.

This isn’t my Living Room by the way.

So how’s that working out for me? Great actually! I’ve done about 90% of my gaming on the “Steam Machine Wannabe PC” as I call it. Between the occasional PS3/PS4/Xbox One/WiiU gaming I do in the Living Room almost all of my PC gaming is in there, the exception to that is when I play a FPS such as Titanfall, a MOBA of an MMO. Though that’s not to say that neither of those games couldn’t work but due to the fact that any PC gaming is done on either my Xbox 360 or Dual Shock 4 controller i’m at a disadvantage. For me to play a FPS or MOBA I definitely need access to a keyboard and I really don’t want to hook-up a long ass USB cable and run it across my floor since I have children who don’t look where they’re running / walking.

I’ve had many of consoles in the past that either met with the floor or have had other nasty accidents happen to them due to that. Sure I have a keyboard connected to the PC now but it’s a wireless keyboard and it’s not really meant for gaming at all. Sure I can get a wireless keyboard that would work out better for gaming but there aren’t any of them that I would use, let alone recommend. But with the release of WildStar quickly approaching I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Besides it’s bad enough that I can and have played DotA2 nonstop before, do I need to do it in the Living Room with a 55 inch Plasma TV with 7.1 surround sound and a super comfortable couch…… um, yeah…. I’ll definitely be revisiting that. I’m currently two different OS’s on the PC; Windows 7 with Steaming running on it and another partition that runs SteamOS so I can beta it and so forth. Since I also installed a 2TB drive into the PC I boot directly into Windows and a script starts Steam into “Big Picture Mode”.

To be honest I rarely boot into SteamOS unless I’m testing a new roll-out of the beta, gaming wise however I can’t run half the games I have and the streaming is still hit and miss. It’s getting there but if you’re a gamer just still to Windows + Steam for now. Otherwise it’s been great, especially when I can run ports / original content at 1080p with 60 frames per second and with most titles at maximum settings. So it’s been great graphically and I’ve even installed FRAPS and have it displaying across all games that are played on the unit. Oh and mods… all of the mods. One of the best parts of PC gaming is the mods. You can basically mod the hell out of most titles, I mean have you see the things that people have done with Skyrim, Crysis, Gran Theft Auto IV and even the recent Dark Souls 2? Some mods enhance the graphics or game play and then there some mods that basically change games into something completely different; See Black Mesa.

Seriously with mods you can even put the TMNT gang into GTA IV!

Seriously with mods you can even put the TMNT gang into GTA IV!

There are also applications such as Nvidia’s Geforce Experience or if  you’re running an AMD card then you can check out AMD’s / Raptr’s Gaming Evolved that will keep your video drivers up-to-date and will even auto-optimize your games. No longer would you need to worry about which settings your PC can handle as both applications would check out the installed games and optimize them for you. But are there any downsides? Well sure, as much as I would love to say consoles suck and PC’s are the way to go (I’m joking, don’t hurt me!) not everything is right with this setup. Since i’m still using Windows you still have to make sure the PC is updated and but at the same time you don’t want to tell it to do auto updates. Can you imagine finally beating a boss in Dark Souls 2 only for the Windows updater to launch and power of the PC. Talk about tossing the controller in a fit of rage.  

There is also the issue with notification pop-ups, just so that Windows can say hello to you when you’re in the middle of a game and causing the OS to lose focus of the game… thanks Windows. Speaking of loss of focus, this is a huge issue. Sure you can minimize this by telling Windows to not bother you and you can also do some tweaking to the registry (I don’t recommend you doing that unless you make a backup of the registry and that you also know what you’re doing!!!). And of course you still need to make sure that all of your drivers are up-to-date. But the losing focus is a huge issue if you plan on ditching the keyboard completely. Still with Steam and Big Picture mode thankfully the only time you need the keyboard other than to get your game back into focus is when you want to browse the web or chatting with friends. Sure I know you can sue the shortcuts for the controller that Steam incorporated but it’s still slow compared to good old’e typing.

lotus-big-picture-mode-steam

And lastly there is an issue of upgrading hardware if you have a under-powered system. It’s still a PC and it’s always going to have a piece that you want to upgrade regardless if it’s as simple as adding memory to swapping or adding a new video card or upgrading your processor. Is PC gaming the way for me? Well no one can answer that question for you, well no one other than yourself. But if you ask me (and you did) I can safely say that PC gaming and console gaming can co-exist. Simply put no matter how great your PC is there is bound to be something on the consoles that you will want to play and vice versa. I will no way encourage someone to ditch either platform and the more and more I hear people saying one is better than the other without any logical points to backup their point just drives me crazy (well crazier than I already am).

If you got the money and have been wondering how it all works out then just go ahead and build a PC and try it out for yourself. Or if you have a decent PC that has an HDMI output already then just move it to the Living Room just for the weekend or even a few hours. There’s no other way to see if this is for you unless you give it a try. What’s the worse that can happen?

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. You can find him on Twitter as @Shadowhaxor or you can email her at keith.mitchell@theouterhaven.net.