Welcome to Perspective Lens, another specialized series where we’ll be focusing on how certain technologies specifically affect or are used in Zimbabwe as opposed to other parts of the world. These pieces are meant to help us appreciate not only where such tech comes from and its purpose, but also how we’ve shaped our own lives around that tech or integrated them into our day to day. Hope you enjoy our first piece, especially if you aren’t a gamer.
The PC for me is still to this day the ultimate technological tool. Having grown up a huge PC nerd, I learnt pretty quickly that there’s close to nothing you can’t do on your desktop or laptop, you just have to know how to do it. But as productive as our beloved PCs are there’s also another huge and distinctive use they have been revered for around the world: gaming. And while in Zimbabwe this is no different, allow me to show you how the Zimbabwean version of PC gaming is a very different beast from its international counterparts.
Now if you look at the computer of any male between ages 6 and even their early thirties, chances are high that you may find a game on it (and even higher that that game will be FIFA). In fact, next to smartphones, Windows PCs are likely the largest single gaming platform in the country, more so than any single console. But what PC gaming means here and especially in more developed countries are almost direct opposites. You see, any hardcore gamer outside of Zim will tell you that PC gaming is actually the highest level of gaming around the world, with PC games offering the highest graphics, performance and quality of play compared to their console counterparts. In fact, PC gamers tend to call themselves the “Master Race” deeming their superiority as they get features console gamers go crazy about years later. A simple example would be how by mid 2012 PC games at the highest settings could reach and surpass PS4 and Xbox One graphics, yet that was over a year before the PS4 and Xbox One even launched. The same could be said for features such as 4K gaming and 120+ FPS frame-rates, which the next Xbox and PS5 are boasting to have, yet PC gamers with the best gaming rigs have already been basking in that for about two years now, albeit with only certain games fully supporting those features. This top spec level of gaming also comes with top spec prices however, as a high end PC gamer who wants the latest features nearly always knows they have to pay upwards of a thousand dollars to keep their machine running all the latest games at the highest performance levels. This actually makes gaming consoles, which even now can be bought for around USD $200-250 in most of these developed countries become the much cheaper more accessible option for gaming that even casual gamers can jump into.
Now if you’re a PC gamer in Zim and you’ve just read all that, chances are you’re in shock because that is nowhere near the PC gaming scene back here. Now don’t get us wrong, we do know that there are those among us fortunate enough to actually own a RAZER or Alienware gaming PC and buy new graphics cards to build a new desktop rig, but we also know they’re a very small group. This is because in Zim, the meaning of PC gaming is probably the total opposite of it’s developed country meaning. While there PC gamers carry USD $800 upwards gaming PCs that meet all the latest standards, here the average PC gamer is running a 3 years+ old machine that might have been bought second hand with a set of either the games closest to that person, or the games the PC can actually run (or FIFA, we can’t downplay the significance of FIFA here).
PC gaming in Zim is characterized by 2 main things: price and accessibility. Here, consoles are basically the more hard core expensive gaming option, while PCs are the cheaper option that more people can get their hands on and has less hassles to get into. This is due to three main things:
Flexibility: The upper echelon of PC gaming truly is the type of hardware and games that puts even the best consoles to shame, but thankfully, PC games have always been made with a list flexible gaming requirements in mind and the minimum requirements can be matched by a lot of people’s older PCs , hence they just turn PC game settings down to low and get to playing even on their much older machines.
The games library: Being a console gamer as well, I can easily tell you that one of the worst parts about a games console is having to let go of some of your favorite games once the console upgrade comes along. Backwards compatibility has always been a huge issue with consoles: PS2 games can’t run on a PS3 ,Xbox games can’t run on a 360, and it’s only recently that both Microsoft and Sony have started addressing this with backward compatibility programs and the next Xbox and PlayStation being able to run current generation games. But you know what’s never required anything like that? The PC! You can literally run games from the 80’s on your PC (albeit with some mild tweaking sometimes), making the PC gaming library the single biggest selection of games to choose from. I personally have the original Marvel Ultimate Alliance game from 2006 as until recently it was the only thing that felt like a true Avengers video game. Others run games as old as Need for Speed Underground, or the original Star Wars: Battlefront 2. And all this adds to just how much you can do when it comes to PC gaming. Kind of leaves you feeling disappointed when you realize some people just play FIFA and nothing else.
Piracy: This one’s not exactly something to smile upon but to say software piracy is common in Zimbabwe would be an understatement, and piracy of PC games is even more common. This is what makes PC gaming virtually the cheapest gaming platform around. Because while a gaming console requires the $200+ to buy it, and $30 t0 $100 to buy a new game locally, most PC gamers just find a pirated copy of whatever game they want and virtually keep playing every game they want for free. Again, it’s nothing to be proud about, and it’s usually not the full gaming experience either (pirated or “cracked” games usually lack elements like game updates and multiplayer) but it is the way that PC gaming has worked for years in Zim, and it’s only added to the platforms popularity.