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Traitor to the Cause

Susan Arendt | 22 Oct 2009 21:00
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A few months back, I was fortunate enough to visit BioWare in Edmonton and play Dragon Age: Origins for several hours. Both the Xbox 360 and PC versions were made available to us, and while the rest of my compatriots made a beeline for the computer-laden tables, I plopped myself on the couch and grabbed the controller. I was assured that, besides control differences and some graphics issues, the games were identical. This pleased me greatly because as much as I am looking forward to Dragon Age - which is a lot - I am a console gamer through and through. Which is why I feel like something of a Judas for saying that I will more than likely end up playing Origins on a PC, even if I have to borrow one to do it.

I've never bothered engaging in the heated PC vs. Console debates that clog gaming forums, because for me it's a non-issue. Yes, there are many advantages to playing games on PC, but they are irrelevant to me because I find playing on PC to be claustrophobic and overly complicated. I've never managed to persuade my fingers to master mouse/keyboard controls, and I have no interest in dealing with video cards, drivers, or any of the other tech required to make a PC work with a particular game. Spare me the comments about how I could just run my display through my TV, use a controller, or that updating my rig isn't that hard - I'm quite certain that you're right, and I'm quite certain that I don't care. If gaming on a PC was important enough for me to learn how to do all of that, I would, but it isn't, so I don't. My consoles suit me just fine, thank you very much.

And let me state plainly that Dragon Age is a great game on the 360. Yes, the graphics take a hit when compared to their computer cousins, but unless you're playing the versions side by side you're not likely to care. The story is the same, the voice acting is all there, the moral decisions, combat, and dragons are all there in the console, waiting to be enjoyed. But having played both versions, it is clear to me that although Dragon Age can be played on a console, it should be played on a PC. It's just better that way.

Which shouldn't be all that surprising, really, given the game's roots. The Origins of the title don't just refer to the backstories of the playable characters, but also BioWare's very conscious channeling of RPG mainstays Baldur's Gate and NeverWinter Nights - classic PC titles. (There were some Baldur's Gate games for the PS2, but they had little in common with the PC game and therefore aren't really relevant to the conversation. I still played the crap out of them, though.) Origins looks and feels like a natural successor to those games, which means it was designed with a mouse and keyboard and mind. BioWare has done an admirable job of shoehorning the plethora of control options into a 360 controller (using TARDIS technology to do it, I feel sure), but it just can't match the simplicity and intuitiveness of the PC. I played the 360 version for an hour or two, and was struggling with the controls the entire time, but had mastered the PC control scheme in mere moments. A perfect inversion of my actual skill set.

But, really, so what? So I'm going to play a game that began life on the PC on a PC, big whoop. This is about as exciting a revelation as the fact that I had soup for lunch, so why am I blathering on about it? Because I feel like I've betrayed my people somehow. I may not form stacks of computers so that I might climb atop them and wave my console flag in rabid defiance, but I do identify myself as a console gamer, which means I attach at least some degree of emotion to the concept. Maybe it's from years of defending my chosen method of gaming to those who would claim moral superiority (Andy Chalk, I'm looking at you), but I feel a bit protective of my status as a console gamer.

Console gamers take a lot of crap: We get called stupid, we get blamed for the great "dumbing down" of the industry, we're charged with making the gaming space a low-brow, hostile environment. While there's a grain of truth in each and everyone one of those claims - what, you expect me to defend those mouth-breathers on Xbox Live? - the act of choosing a console over a PC does not a moron make, despite what certain elitist gamers may say. I personally don't care how you play, only that you play, but I'm reluctant to do anything that might add fuel to the "PCs are better than consoles" fire that stubbornly refuses to go out.

And yet. Dragon Age.

I guess I just have to suck it up this time around. I can either doggedly stick to my console ways for the sake of making some kind of pointless stand, or I can actually practice what I preach by admitting that the "best" platform is far from an irrefutable fact, but rather a condition that shifts based on the player and the game.

Try not to hold it against me, ok?

Susan Arendt predicts she will suffer from a debilitating "illness" at roughly the same time Dragon Age: Origins is released.

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