To this day, I still get emails about a 2016 story I wrote titled PC Gaming Is Still Way Too Hard.
Some people write in to agree that the process of picking PC parts, finding the best place to buy them, and putting the whole thing together is a pain in the ass. All they want is a powerful PC, which is by far the best platform to play games on, but getting to that point can be expensive and annoying. Those people usually ask to remain anonymous.
Most people write in to call me an idiot. I have two things to say to them:
- Kiss my ass.
- There's a new game out on Steam this week called PC Building Simulator, and you're probably going to dig it because you love building PCs so much.
I like PC Building Simulator because it highlights the “fun” parts about building PCs, and, because all video games are power fantasies of one form or another, it conveniently disposes with all the hard, annoying parts.
Another day, another dollar. Image: PC Building Simulator screenshot
PC Building Simulator, which is played from the first-person perspective, starts with my uncle Tim suddenly leaving me in charge of a small computer repair shop with nothing but a late virus removal job and $15 in debt. It's an easy gig. All I had to do is put the computer on my workbench, plug in a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and USB drive. I installed some anti-virus software, ran a scan, deleted the bad files, unplugged it and sent the computer back to the client to collect my payment ($100 in this case).
When I go to my own computer (as in, my own in-game computer), I can check my email to accept more jobs and order any parts I may need for those jobs. Once I'm done with my tasks for the day I walk out the front door. This will start a new day, which starts with me getting new computers to fix, the computer parts I ordered previously, and new emails with new jobs in my inbox.
As the days pass, the jobs get more complicated. Here, for example, is an email from a customer named DR Waterman:
As you can see, my idiot uncle sold this poor guy a PC but forgot to apply thermal paste to the CPU. For this job, I had to open the PC, unplug the CPU fan, apply thermal paste, and then put the CPU fan back in. To make sure that the computer is working properly, I also had to install and run 3DMark, a real-life piece of software that tests a computer's performance by running 3D graphics demos.
One of the cooler things about PC Building Simulator is that it uses a lot of real brands. Some parts are fake, I'm assuming, because the developers couldn't get the necessary licensing deals. For example, PC Building Simulator seems to take place in some kind of utopian alternate dimension where everyone uses an operating system called Omega, which I'm assuming is a Linux distro that magically runs all PC games. But there are also a lot of real parts. I installed real EVGA GPUs and even worked on the Master Cooler brand PC case I have at home.
This is all fine, but I realized that PC Building Simulator really wasn't fucking around when it actually demanded I sit through the entire 3DMark test before I could finish the job. Poor DR Waterman only got an average 8 frames per second, but the PC was working now so it's not my problem. Besides, since this job is the repair shop's fuckup, I'm not even going to get paid for my time here. Thanks a lot, uncle Tim.
Image: PC Building Simulator screenshot
Some jobs I completed made me think back to the repair shops I used to innocently take my computer to as a kid and realize that the people working there were definitely looking for ways to fuck me over, because that's what exactly I did in PC Building Simulator. Some of my clients don't know computers that well. They just know their kid wants to play the latest games, or that they were told that they need more RAM, but they don't really know what that means. If a client says they want 16GB of RAM and gives me a budget of $300 for the job, I am of course going to buy the the cheapest RAM I can get to maximize profits.
But ignorant clients are a double-edged sword. Sometimes they'll say they want a new CPU, but they're not clear about what kind of motherboard they have, so it's up to me to make sure the parts I order are compatible. Either way, I appreciated that PC Building Simulator was more than just the literal building of computers, but actually included this management-like simulation.
However, what ultimately makes PC Building Simulator fun, unlike the pain in the ass which is the process of building a real computer, is how it streamlines all the little frustrations that come with mounting a motherboard, applying thermal paste, etc.
PC gaming acolytes like to say that building a PC is like playing with Lego because, at least on paper, the majority of the process involves plugging colorful components together. What these liars don't tell you is that you basically need three hands to push a water cooling unit into place while twisting the heatsink away and screwing it in at the same time. They don't tell you that closing the CPU guard feels like you're breaking hundreds of dollars worth of equipment 100 percent of the time. They don't tell you that plugging the power button into the motherboard is confusing and annoying because every motherboard is a little different, and, the pins are tiny, and there's not a whole lot of room to maneuver between the various components and rat's nest of wires. This is why people give up and buy Macs.
But none of these problems exist in PC Building Simulator. Installing any component only requires clicking at the right parts, screws, and sockets in the right order. At that point, it does really feel like Lego, and I don't have to worry about what it's going to cost me to fuck up.
PC Building Simulator is not a super well made game. The menus suck, the music is god awful, and the production quality in general is equal to that of countless simulation games that flood Steam every day. But if you're horny for PC hardware, which I am, it's a fun and relaxing time. If you're not super into PC stuff but interested, I would say that it even manages to teach the basics.
PC Building Simulator is out on Steam Early Access for $20.