PC Gaming System Requirements

Written by jerry snook
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PC Gaming System Requirements
A flat panel monitor is a popular choice for serious computer gamers. (computer image by Orlando Florin Rosu from Fotolia.com)

Buying or building the right PC to play computer games will depend a lot on your personal tastes. Computer games vary widely in their requirements, from games that ask little from your desktop to graphics-intensive resource "hogs" that use the top components currently available on the market. You will want to buy or build computers that not only play the current games being released, but can play games released months, if not years, into the future.

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Gaming Computer Considerations

The minimum system requirements for PC gaming will depend a lot on the kind of games being played. Most modern massively multiplayer online games require relatively low system specs, as a key to their financial success is the ability to be played on a wide variety of computers. Many modern first-person shooters, however, require much more from your system in order to properly process polygonal graphics, detailed environments and in-game physics without stuttering or crashing.

The cost of a gaming computer will also vary widely depending on your wants and needs, so a computer built to play first-person shooters will generally cost more than a computer built for games played on online social networks. You can buy a quality gaming computer for as little as £455, but gaming computers can also run into the thousands of dollars. Buying a slightly better computer than you need now will usually save money in the long run, since you will not need to upgrade your computer as often.

General System Requirements

PC game makers usually list minimum system requirements by stating the speed of the computer processor needed, the amount of free space needed on the hard drive, the amount of memory needed on the PC and the amount of memory needed in the graphics card to properly render the game. Game makers will also list the operating systems compatible with the game, the minimal speed of the DVD-drive required and whether an Internet connection is required to play the game.

The actual system requirements for PC gaming change quickly as new and more resource-intensive games come out. A computer that meets today's minimum system requirements may not meet the requirements for games released a year from now. In fact, some serious PC gamers upgrade components on their computers several times per year.

Despite the wide variety of system requirements to play modern PC games, there are general system specs that most PC gamers will want for their computers. Most gamers will want at least a dual core Intel processor or quad core AMD processor, running at least 2 gigahertz. A PC gaming rig will need at least 2 gigabytes of RAM, although 4 gigabytes is preferable for many games. The hard drive should be at least several hundred gigabytes in size, since many new games can eat up dozens of gigabytes of space. Many games also use unused hard drive space for performance-boosting calculations, so having a hard drive with space left over can be important. One of the most important pieces of hardware for PC gaming is the video card, since most games need to take advantage of dedicated graphics chips to perform well. A video card that contains at least 512 megabytes of memory can do the job for a wide variety of games, although gamers who play a lot of first-person shooters will likely want a video card that contains at least one gigabyte of memory. The video card should at least be able to render DX9 graphics, although a video card that can render DX10 or even DX11 graphics may be preferable, since many new games take advantage of the physics improvements that DX10 and DX11 graphics offer, like responsive water motion and better light sourcing.

The speed of your Internet connection is also an important consideration, especially if you play PC games online. Even if you do not play games online, many games now require an Internet connection for piracy-prevention technologies and the need to register and update a game before playing. Dial-up Internet speeds that use a typical telephone line are often not fast enough for online gaming, so having an Internet speed with at least a 3 megabyte-per-second download speed and 1.5 megbyte-per-second upload speed is preferred.


Having a great rig for gaming means little if the monitor used to actually see the game is old and dim. A monitor that can display 800x600 pixels is a minimum requirement for most modern games. Many games can accept displays of 1920x1200 or more. Some games even allow players to view the game across multiple monitors. However, a basic flat-panel monitor with a diagonal screen size of at least 17 inches will be acceptable for most gaming. One key consideration when buying a monitor for gaming is the so-called "input lag," which is usually measured in milliseconds. Essentially, "input lag" is the time it takes between receiving the graphical information from the computer and actually displaying that information on the screen. A monitor with input lag at or lower than 50 milliseconds is acceptable to most gamers, although serious gamers will often look for a monitor with even lower input lag. Another thing to look for in a gaming monitor is the amount of "ghosting" that takes place. "Ghosting" is a term for blurry display that occurs when fast movement is rendered on the screen. A monitor with few "ghosting" issues is preferable for PC gaming.

Keyboards and Mice

Most keyboards and mice available for purchase are acceptable for PC gaming. Many gamers prefer to use keyboards and mice that are wired instead of wireless, meaning the peripherals hook directly into the computer with a USB or similar cable instead of interfacing wirelessly to the computer. Wireless peripherals often have slower response times and can lead to a delay between hitting a button and having that action take place in-game. Numerous keyboards and mice have also been designed with PC gaming in mind and have the ability to program sets of actions or include additional programmable buttons.

DVD Drives and Sound Cards

A DVD-ROM drive is required to play most PC games purchased from retail stores, as the games are installed and run from disc-based media. However, a DVD-ROM drive is not required to play games downloaded online.

Sound cards are often a lesser consideration for PC gaming as even the basic on-board sound system included in your computer's motherboard will be able to render in-game sound. However, PC gamers looking for better-quality audio will often purchase a separate sound card that includes multichannel audio output, digital audio output or surround sound audio.

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