A Student's Guide to Gaming Systems

Kicking back with a great video game is a terrific way to give yourself a break from the pressures of school. Simple games don’t ask too much of your hardware, but the better, more immersive ones demand a capable PC or game console.

Before you spend good money on hardware, think about the games you like to play, and then find a PC or console that runs them. Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind when you’re choosing a gaming system.

Gaming PC

Any PC can play Tetris or Angry Birds, but if you want to engage in games like sports, first-person shooters, or online multiplayer action, you need the processing and graphics horsepower necessary to deliver a smooth experience. And of course, you need to find a system that can do it without emptying your wallet.

Buying a gaming PC—especially on a limited budget—is an exercise in finding the right balance. The processor, graphics, storage, memory, and cooling are all crucial elements to consider, as well as the monitor, mouse, gaming controller, and other devices you need to engage in gaming.

Graphics processing is probably the most critical component in a gaming system. Some processors have integrated graphics capabilities that are sufficient for day-to-day computing and low-end gaming, but first-person shooters and the like need more graphics horsepower to make your game look good and play without stutters or pixilation. If you’ll be playing those games, consider investing in extra memory and a graphics card like a GeForce GTX 660.  In any case, before you a buy a game, be sure to note the hardware requirements and check to see if your system measures up. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to load a game and learning that your PC can’t handle it.

Game Consoles

Unlike the PC, a game console is built from the ground up to play games, so there are fewer design compromises. What’s more, a console can also act as a home entertainment system, complete with DVD or Blu-Ray disc players, streaming music and movies, and access to services like Netflix.

The three primary game consoles are the Nintendo Wii U, Sony PlayStation 3, and the Microsoft Xbox 360. Some games are available for all of the platforms; others are keyed to just one. The Halo franchise, for example, is only available on the Xbox, while the Mario franchise is unique to Nintendo, and Gran Turismo is limited to the Playstation.

The bottom line: Pick a game, check your budget, and then decide what to buy. Check out this chart to get a closer look at some popular gaming systems. 

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