Are you starting a new esports or scholastic gaming program? Are you looking at that old lab full of antiquated computers or the low-performance 1:1 devices that would be out-performed by a potato clock and feeling a bit overwhelmed at the number of acronyms and components that go into a gaming machine? In this article, we’ll briefly explain the hardware used in esports and gaming machines, as well as how they work.
Gaming can be accomplished on a variety of devices–from mobile phones to high-end desktop computers–but not every solution has the same capabilities, and no one solution is perfect for everybody. Some up-and-coming titles such as Rocket League Sideswipe require only a phone or Nintendo Switch, while others like Call of Duty may need a high-end PC or a harder-to-find console like a Playstation or Xbox.
Understanding the hardware needed for gaming starts with understanding the hardware itself. A gaming PC is composed of several parts that each control different functions, and different games use these parts differently. Below are the most important components in any gaming PC:
Graphics Card (GPU)
Random Access Memory (RAM)
Boot Drive (ROM, SSD, or HDD)
Some systems also combine the CPU and GPU into one package known as an advanced processing unit (APU), or simply called “a processor with integrated graphics.” The CPU is responsible for telling the other components how to communicate with each other and for pulling the programs and data from the hard drive/solid state drive (or ROM) to the RAM. Game consoles offer the ease of consolidating these functions onto one chip; however, with this ease comes limitations to versatility and upgradeability.
If you open a standard consumer PC, you’ll usually find an APU-style processor with onboard graphics and generally four or eight gigabytes of RAM. A system like this can get you started with gaming, but it doesn’t usually have the power to play anything more demanding than Minecraft or Solitaire. Games with complex 3D graphics (such as Call of Duty or Halo Infinite) require millions of polygons to be displayed on the screen at once, which requires a substantial amount of calculation power and memory. This is why gaming computers need a dedicated graphics card. A GPU contains a dedicated processor for these 3D graphics and a special amount of memory dedicated to graphics known as video RAM or VRAM. You will notice modern games function poorly without a dedicated graphics card unless played on a console designed specifically for gaming.
When determining how powerful your PC components need to be, it’s important to understand the requirements of the games you primarily aim to play. It’s best to aim as close to the recommended specs as possible (if not above) since minimum playable specs still won’t result in the best performance.
An easy way to illustrate “minimum” compared to “ideal” specs is to think of the edition of a car, such as economy, high performance, standard, etc. Different performance levels serve different purposes, and our hope is that this article has helped disambiguate the terms relating to the “trim” of a computer for you.