One of the arguable selling points of a console is the fixed hardware, a factor sort of obfuscated when you take into account the PS4 Pro and Scorpio. By and large, though, console users have the exact same hardware and can expect the exact same performance as one another. PC gaming, on the other hand, is a far more complicated beast. While yes, performance can be worse than consoles, it can also be far, far greater. PS4 users have been stuck playing Bloodborne at 30 FPS with terrible frame times for the last two years now. Plop that same game on PC and we could comfortably throw enough at Bloodborne to play it at 60 FPS in glorious 4K.
That ability to tweak your hardware, install upgrades and fiddle around with graphics settings can have a dark side though - our obsession with frames per second. I’m not just talking preferring 60 FPS over 30 or crushing it on your 144Hz monitor. No, I’m talking about having that little counter sat in the corner of your screen, always niggling away at you and making you acutely aware of the slightest frame rate drop.
It’s at its worst in single-player story driven games. You’ve just witnessed a man kill himself in The Witcher 3, despite your best efforts to save him, his family grieving around his corpse and begging him to come back. Only Geralt’s distracted. All he can think of is 32>34>32>46>43>38>18>17>48>50>49. 17! This is a damn outrage, let me tinker!
Frame rates can be their own, dopamine-laden fix, teasing you with the promise of just one more frame. It's part and parcel of PC gaming culture these days, and an inherent part of why we're all interested in PC hardware. You see, our preoccupation can occasionally too far. It’s all too easy to let performance tracking become a bigger deal than the game itself. It can easily become an obsession. I was enjoying Rise of the Tomb Raider until I got to a particularly demanding area and saw my frame rate tank. My one goal then was to overclock my card, tweak the settings, and do just about anything I could to creep it back up to the all important 60 mark. Suddenly I'm looking at hard drive write speeds and RAM timings, wondering what could be key to sorting out an FPS issue which I would've largely ignored without a frame rate counter to taunt me. At its worst, you can't actually enjoy a game, the never-ending chase for perfection tainting everything around it. After all, what is the point of achieving decent performance if you’re not actually just sitting back and enjoying the game?
A fair amount of this boils down to our FPS counters, and I’m sure there’s plenty of you that play with an FPS counter at all times. I used to do that for a bit, but it becomes a constant aggravation and a reminder that your performance isn’t perhaps as great as you’d thought. It also makes you more acutely aware of performance drops, in a way which you wouldn’t if you were just playing the game for pure entertainment value.
So how do you manage your FPS tracking? Do you find yourself constantly nagged by frame rate dips? Or are you happy to ignore FPS entirely as long as the game feels like it's running OK? Let us know!