There are few things more meta than a PC game where you build your own PC. PC Building Simulator, which is now available on Steam after a period of early access, gives you the experience of being a one-person PC-building workshop, juggling moody customers with various demands. Your tasks could be as simple as blowing dust out of an older computer and scanning for viruses or, as you level up, it could be to build an entire PC from scratch.
If you’re not a PC-building aficionado, the game simplifies the hobby to make it more newbie-friendly. You won’t have to spend time managing your cables, for instance, as the game does this for you. It also points out where the motherboard, GPU, CPU, fans, and various parts are, highlighting units you can remove and obstacles that are in your way. That saves time, which is great because a game like this can already take up many hours, and keeping that real-life difficulty level wouldn’t make the game more fun.
One of the best parts of actually building a PC is physically feeling the glass, metal, and cables assemble into something that can eventually hum. Although you obviously lose the tactile touch in the game, PC Building Simulator makes up for it with other thrills like your shop turning a profit over time, customers giving you five-star ratings, and hitting a benchmark on 3DMark.
The game does skip out on some of the difficulties of actually launching your own business — your uncle Timbo has bequeathed you his company after heading off on vacation to drink sangria — but its developers are clearly aware of the challenges, and they poke fun at them through whimsical emails you receive from your customers and, at one point, your bank. You start the game with negative $15 because Timbo hilariously ran a one-star service and borrowed $15 for gas money. When you inevitably overdraw too much cash to buy your first set of parts, the bank offers you a free overdraft limit of $1,000 because “we know life doesn’t always run smoothly.” I burst out laughing at this point, but the ludicrous nature of the business lends the game a kind of reverse-Kafka flavor. No matter how bad things seem to get, life will continue to give you a pass so that everything will be all right in the end.
Indeed, the rating system in the game for how well your business is serving customers only counts the previous reviews, so soon, you can push out the poor reviews of uncle Timbo’s service with glowing ratings of your own. Rent is $500, which seems like a lot at first, but it quickly becomes a paltry sum once the orders start rolling in. The real satisfaction comes from fixing a lot of PCs and feeling like an expert.
While the game does make you become more familiar with PC parts and the tutorial is certainly newbie-friendly, there are times when at least some knowledge of building PCs comes in handy. For instance, it asks you to upgrade a person’s RAM sticks, but it doesn’t tell you that you need to get the identical make and model of the existing RAM stick already in the PC in order to be compatible. If you’re not familiar with how to build a PC, you could potentially get stuck multiple times while you’re playing this game.
There are a few quality-of-life issues; it’d be nice to be able to seamlessly shop while checking customer order emails to buy products more quickly, for instance, or for users to buy back parts they sold off. The game runs into a major speed bump as you get to higher levels and more is demanded of you. I got stuck trying to hit certain benchmarks in 3DMark and continuously swapping out CPUs and GPUs to fit a customer’s budget, so the game’s charm started to wear off.
The promises of dollars in my in-game company bank account seemed to taunt me, reminding me that instead of repeating the same tasks over and over in a video game, I could be earning dollars in real life doing similarly dry tasks on other internet sites. The tediousness of completing task after task in exchange for high ratings reminded me a lot of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, minus any moneymaking potential.
The concept of a PC-building game could have easily turned out to be tedious. But PC Building Simulator is crisp and fresh, at least for the first few levels. It even has an original soundtrack, including a rap song about building the ultimate PC, which perfectly encapsulates a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Here are the lyrics, written and rapped by Chris Blundell, with music by Gavin Harrison:
The Ultimate PC
Buy off the shelf? Yo I roll my own,
Customized specs are the ultimate goal
Liquid cooled from the top to the flo’
Gotta keep that heat down, yo that power is raw
First the CPU, that’s the brain of the beast
overclocked, multicore, latest released
It powers all things with the greatest of ease
Crankin’ up overpowered clock speeds
Next up comes the Random Access Memory
yo, minimum 64 Gig, invest heavily
Choose a named brand, it’s freakin’ pedigree
You’ll notice the change in performance incredibly
”yo I got these games, where I gonna store them?”
Solid State Disks fool, I just told ya
Terabytes minimum, I’m talking premium
Space to spare, these disks you know I’m fillin’ ‘em
Gotta think through each component decision
Building the ultimate PC is my vision
Tweaking BIOS to apps to disk utilities
Construct this beast to the best of my abilities
Y’know great graphics don’t come for free
For my GPU the RAM has gotta be
double data rate type five synchronous
Yo, I told ya that this stuff was serious
Whole thing cooled with external water system
If there were better choices, yo I musta missed ‘em
Fill up the case up with some LED’s,
Something obnoxious: red, pink or green