PC gaming can be an incredibly fun and rewarding hobby, but it can also seem daunting for beginners.
With so much hardware to choose from and a huge library of games available, it’s hard to know where to start.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to start PC gaming, from choosing the right equipment to setting up your system and diving into your first games.
What are the most important components of a gaming PC?
The most important first step is making sure your computer is up to the task. While PC gaming can span a huge range of budgets, there are some minimum requirements you’ll want to target for a good experience:
- CPU: A modern quad or hexacore processor like an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5. More cores will help with multitasking and running demanding games.
- GPU: A dedicated gaming graphics card like an NVIDIA GTX 1660 or AMD RX 580. The GPU does most of the heavy lifting for rendering graphics.
- RAM: 8GB or 16GB for modern games. RAM keeps assets loaded for fast access.
- Storage: An SSD for your operating system and favorite games. An SSD drastically speeds up loading times over a standard hard drive.
You don’t necessarily need top-of-the-line components to get started but try to meet or exceed these specs if possible within your budget. It’s much easier to upgrade down the road.
When picking parts for a new system, sites like PCPartPicker can help you find compatible components and estimate your total build cost. If this seems too daunting, you can always start with a pre-built gaming PC from companies like NZXT, iBUYPOWER, or CyberPowerPC and upgrade components later.
Gaming Peripherals and Setup
After securing the tower, you’ll want to round out your setup with proper gaming peripherals:
- Monitor: Aim for a 1920 x 1080p display with a 120Hz or 144Hz refresh rate for smoother gameplay. IPS panels offer better colors and viewing angles.
- Mouse: An accurate optical gaming mouse with adjustable DPI and polling rate. Popular choices include Logitech, Razer, and Corsair mice.
- Keyboard: A mechanical keyboard with gaming-centric features like N-key rollover. Cherry MX switches are preferred for their responsiveness.
- Headset: Find one with over-ear cans and a boom mic for in-game voice chat. Prioritize comfort for extended gaming sessions.
For the best experience, you’ll want to connect your monitor directly to your graphics card via HDMI, DisplayPort, or DVI. Set mouse sensitivity and key bindings to your preferences within each game. Position your monitor, chair, keyboard, and mouse for ideal comfort and ergonomics.
What are the best places to find PC games?
One advantage of PC gaming is access to a truly massive library spanning decades. Here are some ways to browse and acquire new games:
- Steam: The premier PC marketplace, Steam hosts thousands of games with frequent discounts. Browse by genre or user reviews.
- Epic Games Store: Offers weekly free games and exclusives like Fortnite. An alternative to Steam.
- GOG: Specializes in DRM-free classic PC games, optimized for modern systems.
- Game subscriptions: Xbox Game Pass and EA Play grant access to hundreds of games for a monthly fee.
- Game sites: Directly buy games on storefronts like Battle.net, Origin, uPlay, and League of Legends.
- Physical retailers: Pick up boxed copies from stores like Best Buy, Amazon, and GameStop.
Build a wishlist of games you’re interested in trying. Take advantage of seasonal sales around the holidays to grow your library on a budget.
How do I optimize my PC for gaming?
One great thing about PC gaming is the ability to customize settings for the best performance and visuals to match your hardware. Here are some tips:
- Adjust resolution, framerate cap, field of view, textures, and anti-aliasing to hit the sweet spot between visual fidelity and smooth performance based on your components.
- Turn off taxing settings like hairworks, ambient occlusion, and bloom if you need an FPS boost.
- Turn off v-sync if you have a compatible variable refresh rate monitor for reduced input latency.
- Experiment with graphical settings to find your optimal balance. Frequently benchmark with tools like FRAPS.
- Update GPU drivers regularly for performance improvements, bug fixes, and game compatibility.
Don’t be afraid to tweak settings until you find the right experience. Part of the fun and advantage of PC gaming is customizing your hardware.
What are the best PC games for beginners?
As a newcomer to PC gaming, consider starting with these accessible, engaging genres before moving on to more complex experiences:
- Shooters: Linear action games are great for honing your reflexes and aiming with a keyboard + mouse. Try Doom, Wolfenstein, and Metro.
- Strategy: Manage resources and units from a macro view. Ideal for learning hotkeys and menus. StarCraft II, Civilization, Age of Empires.
- RPGs: Rich worlds and stories to get lost in. The Witcher 3, Skyrim, Divinity: Original Sin 2.
- Platformers: Test your timing and precision over obstacles. Platformers shine with tighter keyboard or controller input. Hollow Knight, Cuphead, Shovel Knight.
- Puzzlers: Stretch your logic muscles to unlock ingenious mechanics. Portal, The Witness, The Talos Principle.
- City builders: Relax as you construct bustling cities. Great for learning mouse controls. SimCity, Cities: Skylines, Planet Coaster.
- Action RPGs: Diablo-style loot progression and isometric combat. Perfect intros to PC gaming staples. Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, Diablo 4.
Essential PC Gaming Skills
Learning these skills early will give you an edge across almost any game genre:
- Keyboard controls: Keep your left hand anchored on WASD for movement, and use surrounding keys for actions. Practice until keys are muscle memory.
- Precise mouse aim: Lower sensitivity for consistency. Use your entire arm to aim, not just your wrist. Aim trainers help.
- Hotkeys and shortcuts: Faster than menus. Assign weapons or abilities to 1-6 or Q/E. Use CTRL, Shift, Alt, or Space for modifiers.
- Menu navigation: Use Tab to cycle through options, arrow keys to select, and Enter to accept. Escape to back out.
- Camera control: Spin the camera with edge panning, middle click+drag, or dedicated keys. Maintain situational awareness.
- Reading the UI: Keep an eye on minimaps, resources, cooldowns, and combat log alerts during action for optimal play.
- Save early, save often: Quicksave frequently. Cycle through multiple rotating saves to prevent loss of progress.
Practice these habits across genres to build muscle memory. Soon enough, your hands will operate on instinct freeing you up to focus on strategy and progression.
How do I troubleshoot common PC gaming problems?
Even seasoned veterans run into technical problems now and then. Try these tips if you experience issues:
- Game crashes or errors: Update video drivers, verify game cache in Steam, reinstall the game, and update DirectX.
- Poor performance: Lower graphics settings, close background apps, check temperatures with a system monitor.
- Visual artifacts or glitches: Try a different graphics card port, replace the video cable, and reseat the graphics card.
- High ping and lag spikes: Restart the router and modem, test wired instead of Wi-Fi, and port forward for your game.
- Controls not responding: Disable controller support if using keyboard and mouse. Calibrate gamepad sticks and buttons.
- Games not launching: Update Windows, reinstall game launchers like Steam or Origin, and whitelist in antivirus and firewall.
- Hardware failure: Diagnose issues with software like CPU-Z and GPU-Z. Replace faulty RAM sticks, power supplies, drives, or GPUs.
Take notes anytime you resolve a stubborn issue. These troubleshooting steps will prepare you to handle a variety of problems down the road.
What are the best PC gaming communities?
One of the best parts of PC gaming is the vibrant communities. Here are some great places to connect with fellow gamers:
- Reddit: Share stories and ask questions on subreddits like /r/pcgaming, /r/buildapc, and game-specific subs.
- Discord: Join Discord servers to voice chat and team up for your favorite games. Great for consistent multiplayer groups.
- Forums: Talk shop and find tips on NeoGAF, PCGamer, and official game forums.
- YouTube: Follow talented creators for gaming news, reviews, guides, and let’s play.
- Twitch: Watch pro gamers stream gameplay live and chat with other viewers.
- In-game communities: Join clans and guilds to tackle cooperative challenges. Find friends and mentors.
- Local events: Attend LAN parties and tournaments like Dreamhack to connect in person. PAX and E3 also draw huge gaming crowds.
The social side of gaming can amplify the fun and sense of belonging. Support each other as you learn the ropes.
Getting Competitive with PC Gaming
Once you’ve honed your skills on a variety of PC games, you may start to get an itch for testing your mettle competitively. PC gaming has traditionally been the major arena for competitive esports, especially for genres like real-time strategy, shooters, and MOBAs.
Here are some tips if you want to take the next step:
- Choose your game: Pick one game to deeply commit to based on an appealing genre and active community. Popular esports titles include CS: GO, Overwatch, Dota 2, League of Legends, StarCraft 2, Fortnite, and more.
- Learn everything: Study game mechanics, maps, team compositions, optimal strategies, and the evolving pro meta by watching tournaments and reading guides.
- Develop skills: Refine your mouse aim, reaction time, resource management, and situational awareness through drills and repetition. Take an analytical approach to identify weak points.
- Find a team: Queuing with a coordinated team gives a huge edge through teamwork, combo ultimates, and multi-pronged strategies.
- Spar 1v1: Dueling the top players of your game is the best way to grow. Friend pro streamers and join in-house leagues to find regular high-level opponents.
- Review replays: Watch recordings of your gameplay to spot mistakes and study what top players would do differently in key situations.
- Compete in tournaments: Sign up for online cups, leagues, and qualifiers across platforms like Faceit, ESEA, and Smash. gg. Small prizes are often up for grabs!
- Stream your grind: Streaming helps hold you accountable. Viewers will provide real-time feedback and love following improvement journeys.
- Stay positive: Competition can be stressful. Focus on incremental goals, having fun, and learning rather than just chasing prizes to avoid burnout.
PC gaming provides endless room for mastery and competitive growth with the right mindset. Remember to enjoy the thrilling journey of improving at your favorite game.
How to Budget for Your First Gaming PC?
One of the biggest questions aspiring PC gamers face is how much it will cost to put together a proper gaming computer that can handle modern games. The good news is that you can build a capable starter gaming PC for $800-$1000 if you shop smart and don’t go overboard on any single component.
Here’s a breakdown of an approximate budget for the core components:
- GPU: $200-300
- CPU: $150-200
- Motherboard: $100-150
- RAM: 8-16GB for around $60-120
- Power Supply: $50-80 for 500-650 watts
- Storage: 250GB SSD for $40-60
- Case: $50-100 with good airflow
That puts the total cost of the tower in the $650 to $950 ballpark depending on your chosen performance tier. You can go even cheaper by scaling back to older used components. The aim is solid 1080p gaming at 60fps on high settings in most titles.
On top of the PC parts, factor in another $200-300 for a decent 1080p monitor, keyboard, mouse, and headset. For a complete beginner setup, plan a budget of $800-$1200 and shop around for deals. Building your own lets you maximize performance per dollar compared to pre-built systems.
Take the time to watch build guides, read reviews, and put together a balanced list of components for your needs. Patience pays off when choosing the right parts within your budget. Planning and buying during sales periods like Black Friday also helps lower the final cost considerably.
While not dirt cheap, PC gaming can be surprisingly affordable if you set realistic expectations. Making smart budget-minded purchases as you start will set you up nicely to upgrade judiciously down the road.
- Choose powerful core components like CPU, GPU, RAM, and SSD to meet minimum specs for modern games.
- Get proper gaming peripherals – monitor, mouse, keyboard, and headset for full immersion.
- Download digital platforms like Steam, Epic Games Store, and Origin for game browsing and discounts.
- Learn essential keyboard, mouse, and UI skills that transfer across all genres.
- Join gaming communities on Reddit, Discord, and forums to connect with fellow players.
Wrapping Up How to Start PC Gaming
Congratulations on taking the plunge into the massive world of PC gaming! With the right PC components, peripherals, digital platforms, communities, and competitive opportunities, you now have endless adventures ahead to explore across every genre imaginable.
As you dive into more games, don’t forget to:
- Experiment freely with graphics settings to balance visuals and performance. There are always new tricks to learn as hardware improves.
- Expand your library by keeping an eye out for seasonal sales, bundles, and free promotions. Wishlist interesting titles and check back regularly.
- Back up your game files and save them regularly. Always safer than sorry when it comes to preserving progress.
- Ask for help anytime you run into issues. The PC gaming community is passionate about troubleshooting problems and welcoming newcomers.
Most importantly, remember to have fun! PC gaming offers boundless choice. Sample new genres frequently, play whatever excites you at the moment, and don’t be afraid to put down unenjoyable titles in favor of better experiences. Not every game will click with every gamer.
The joy of choice and endless customization make PC gaming so rewarding as a hobby. May your frame rates be high and your temperatures low. Game on!
FAQs – How to Get Started with PC Gaming?
What is PC gaming?
PC gaming refers to playing video games on a personal computer. It offers a wide range of gaming experiences and allows for customization and flexibility.
What is the importance of a CPU and GPU in gaming?
The CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) are crucial components for gaming. The CPU handles the overall performance and mechanics of your PC, while the GPU is responsible for rendering graphics and ensuring a smooth gaming experience.
Why should I choose a gaming PC over a gaming laptop?
While gaming laptops offer portability, gaming PCs are generally more powerful and customizable. With a gaming PC, you have the flexibility to upgrade components and achieve better gaming performance.
What role does RAM play in PC gaming?
RAM (Random Access Memory) affects the speed and performance of your gaming PC. Sufficient RAM allows your system to run games smoothly and handle multitasking effectively.
How do SSDs benefit PC gaming?
SSDs (Solid State Drives) provide faster loading times for games and reduce lag during gameplay. They offer improved performance compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).
How important is the power supply in a gaming PC?
The power supply ensures that your gaming PC receives a stable and sufficient power flow. It is crucial for the overall functionality and longevity of the components.
Do I need a gaming PC to play games in 4K resolution?
Yes, a gaming PC with a powerful CPU, GPU, and sufficient RAM is recommended for optimum performance and visual quality when playing games in 4K resolution.
Can I use a gaming PC for other tasks besides gaming?
Absolutely! A gaming PC can handle a variety of tasks such as video editing, graphic design, streaming, and more. It offers versatility and high-performance capabilities.