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This year, PC gaming breaks free from your desktop

Alex Wawro | Jan. 11, 2013
As the CES show continues its clear that PC games are only going to become better, more accessible and easier to play whenever and wherever you want. Whether you want to run through a few rounds of Call of Duty on your Windows 8 tablet, sit down to some SimCity on your HDTV or simply stream XCOM: Enemy Unknown to a handheld the size of your smartphone, 2013 will have the tech you need to make it work.

PC gaming on the big screen

We're all waiting for news about the next generation of home consoles, but the truth is that the next generation of gaming console has been sitting in your home office for ages. It's your gaming PC, and this year we have the technology to make playing PC games on your big, beautiful HDTV easy.

Nvidia doubled down on PC gaming at CES this year by announcing the Shield alongside the afore-mentioned GRID, and while the Shield looks like a handheld gaming device it's also shaping up to be an excellent way to play your favorite PC games on your television. While the Shield should allow you to stream games directly from your PC via Wi-Fi, trying to play Dishonored or XCOM on that tiny 5-inch screen is going to result in a subpar gaming experience. But if you do own a Shield and you're streaming games while you're on the couch, it's incredibly simple to run an HDMI cable from the device to your HDTV and play your games on a glorious high-resolution display.

Valve led the charge in bringing PC gaming to the living room last year by updating their Steam gaming client with a "Big Picture Mode" that can be navigated with a gamepad instead of a mouse and keyboard. Big Picture Mode is already optimized to run on a large screen that's at least ten feet away from the player, it works surprisingly well, and now that Steam is highlighting PC games that support gamepad controllers we can expect to see a bumper crop of PC games being released or updated with full gamepad support in 2013.

Valve is investing a lot of effort in making the PC a viable living room gaming device with Big Picture Mode, and they're also making literal investments in PC hardware manufacturers like Xi3 to develop compact PCs specifically for playing games. It makes sense: gaming console are ostensibly just a custom PC built into a flashy case. In 2013 you can expect to see PC gamers and game developers scorning the next generation of home consoles in favor of incorporating dedicated gaming PCs into their living room entertainment center.

If you have a gaming PC at home and  haven't tried hooking it up to your HDTV, give it a shot: if you can, try switching back and forth between playing the Xbox 360 version and the PC version of a multiplatform game like Far Cry 3 on the same TV. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to see what a difference a serious discrete GPU and a stack of RAM makes while playing the latest games. Of course, being able to play PC games from the comfort of your couch is nice too.


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