Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Gaming and upgrading your hardware in 2023

My thoughts on gaming hardware upgrades driven by groundbreaking titles and the associated costs and nostalgia of keeping up-to-date.
Sid Metcalfe

Cartesian Mathematics Foundation


November 25, 2023


I am always interesting in the evolution of gaming graphics and performance. Each new hardware release seems to stretch the capabilities of my current setup, nudging me toward the inevitable upgrade. This yearning for cutting-edge gameplay is a costly pursuit, both financially and environmentally. Yet, the thrill of maxed-out settings and seamless action is a powerful draw.



Click on photos to enlarge them:

Gaming pcs 59 Gaming pcs 1 Gaming pcs 71 Gaming pcs 24 Gaming pcs 47 Gaming pcs 87

The Games That Push Us to Upgrade

Gaming pcs 1

Like many gaming enthusiasts, I’ve found myself compelled to upgrade my hardware in response to the relentless march of technological advancement. It starts with a simple desire: to play the latest and greatest games the way they’re meant to be experienced. Admittedly, the impulse often follows a pattern of hype intertwined with the fear of missing out, especially when witnessing friends talk about the fluid performance on their systems.

I remember vividly when Shogun 2 compelled me to beef up my machine, which barely managed Medieval 2. The jump in graphics and AI complexity was a clarion call that I couldn’t ignore. And who could forget the legendary Crysis? That game wasn’t just a graphical benchmark; it was a rite of passage. Wanting to achieve that elusive high-frame-rate on maximum settings was both a quest and a testament to your rig’s prowess.

The allure isn’t always about the raw specs but also the immersive experiences promised by new technology. The introduction of VR was a game-changer, offering a level of immersion that flat screens simply couldn’t muster. It wasn’t just about needing more power; it was about stepping into a new realm of gaming. However, with such innovation comes the need for significant investment. A VR-ready system requires not just a sturdy GPU but also adequate CPU, RAM, and compatible peripherals.

Games like Cyberpunk 2077 and the anticipation building around Starfield showcase the continuous arms race between game developers and hardware manufacturers. I can’t help but amplify the hype within my social circles, discussing potential hardware bottlenecks and speculating on the need for future upgrades.

Despite the enthusiasm, we’re all too aware of the drawbacks. Some of us have committed to upgrades preemptively, only to find game releases delayed or performance expectations not met. This leads to the sobering thought of unused potential and, at times, buyer’s remorse. Moreover, there’s an underlying awareness of the balance between performance and environmental impact, as upgrading one’s system often entails electronic waste.

Then there are games which, while not graphical behemoths, still find ways to nudge us toward improvement. Strategy games, for instance, might tax the CPU with extensive AI calculations, as seen with titles like Total War Warhammer III. Similarly, large-scale open worlds in games like The Witcher 3 can benefit from SSDs, reducing load times and allowing for a smoother exploration of their lush environments.

Upgrading also doesn’t always mean going for the top-tier hardware. The health of the used hardware market means that moderate upgrades are often enough for a noticeable improvement. Forums and marketplaces are awash with the trade of second-hand parts, testament to a community that thrives on squeezing out the most of each component’s lifecycle.

What we also can’t ignore is the communal aspect of gaming that drives hardware upgrades. Playing the latest co-op or MMO with friends often requires being on the same technological page. Multiplayer experiences have their own demands—stability and low-latency—as seen with competitive titles like League of Legends.

Gaming is a hobby that asks for dedication, not only in the mastery of the games but also in the upkeep of the systems we play them on. It’s an ongoing negotiation between the capabilities of our machines, the visions of game developers, and our personal budgets. And while the cycle of upgrades continues, so does the joy of witnessing every new world in its full, intended glory.

Memories of Upgrades Past

Gaming pcs 2

As I reflect on my gaming journey, I’m struck by the number of times hardware constraints have dictated my next purchase. I remember the hype surrounding the release of Crysis; it was the catalyst that made me upgrade to an NVIDIA 8800GTX. The raw power of that GPU was a game-changer, facilitating a quantum leap from the unremarkable performance of my previous setup. It was a time when upgrading felt less like an option and more like a necessity to keep pace with an industry that was rapidly advancing technologically.

But with every upgrade comes compromise. Yes, the thrill of running games at their maximum settings is undeniable, but it’s tempered by the cost and the nagging question: how long before this too becomes obsolete? My experience with Crysis wasn’t unique; it seemed like every few years, a title like The Witcher 3 or Cyberpunk 2077 would come along and throw into sharp relief the growing limitations of my current rig.

Sometimes, the upgrades weren’t just about graphical fidelity. A move from the base PlayStation 3 to its more powerful successor was driven not just by improved graphics but by enhanced performance—the desire for smoother gameplay that didn’t chug during climactic, action-packed moments. Similarly, moving into virtual reality gaming wasn’t just a hardware shift; it demanded a radical new understanding of space and interaction, the specs on paper translating into an immersive, bodily experience.

Despite the expense, there’s something deeply gratifying about assembling a machine piece by piece, a labor of love that culminates in a system uniquely tailored to personal needs. The evolution of this DIY culture within gaming communities runs parallel to the industry itself, with players taking pride in overcoming the technical hurdles of optimization and compatibility.

I’ve felt the same pride in minor victories, like when I upgraded my old laptop’s RAM from 4GB to 8GB. Suddenly, games that stuttered now ran smoothly, temporarily staving off the specter of an entire system overhaul. But it’s an ongoing battle, a cycle of repair, replace, and upgrade that’s both energizing and draining. The real victory is in maximizing the life span of each component, stretching out the time between each inevitable upgrade.

There are drawbacks to this rapid pace of technology, particularly the environmental impact of e-waste. With the push for 4K and now 8K gaming, the push for new GPUs, faster RAM, and more expansive SSDs, what happens to the old parts? Many gamers are conscious of this, and communities often share best practices for recycling and reselling used parts.

Understanding the lifespan of gaming components can be nearly as complex as the games we play on them. Sometimes, it’s benchmark testing that helps us determine when our hardware is falling behind (invaluable resources like PassMark can help here, offering a detailed analysis of where your hardware stacks up). Other times, it’s the simple, bitter reality that our once top-of-the-line system now gasps for air trying to run the latest AAA title.

Regardless, the ups and downs are part of the territory when gaming is a passion. The feeling of firing up a game after a hardware upgrade and seeing it run at full throttle is unbeatable, a reward for the time and resources invested. Yes, it can be a demanding hobby, both on our wallets and our patience, but the experiences granted by these machines and the friendships forged over pixelated battles are often worth the price of admission.

The Cost of Keeping Up With Gaming

Gaming pcs 3

The inevitable tug-of-war between our beloved games and our hardware is a tale as old as the industry itself. I notice it every time a new, groundbreaking title is announced. The ambition in game development knows no bounds, soaring with the latest advancements in graphics and processing power. But this relentless push for realism and complexity has a direct impact on my wallet—and likely yours too. Upgrading isn’t a hobby for the faint of heart or light of wallet, but the sheer exhilaration of experiencing games at their peak can justify the cost.

I’ve found myself obsessing over system requirements for upcoming games, wondering if my current rig can handle the hype. Whether it’s the promise of expansive worlds in Starfield or the lush environments in the latest Witcher installment, meeting these demands often necessitates shelling out for the latest GPU or bumping up RAM. At times, it feels like a race, trying to keep up with the developers’ vision. There’s a vibrancy to playing on a system that doesn’t stutter or gasp for breath under the load of a triple-A title; it enlivens the experience, making every action, from swinging a sword to exploring a dystopian city, feel crisp and responsive.

Yet the drawbacks are undeniable. The cost of high-end components can be prohibitively expensive for many. We laugh about the meme “Can it run Crysis?”, but behind it lies a reality where the joy of gaming is gated behind financial means. When I splurged on a new setup for Cyberpunk 2077, guided by its ray-tracing utopia, I had to balance my budget elsewhere. It’s a sacrifice, a calculated risk in the pursuit of digital gratification. Moreover, the rapid pace of technological advancement can render a formidable setup obsolete quicker than one might hope, leading to a cycle of continuous upgrades.

The environmental impact of frequent hardware updates can’t be ignored either. The production and disposal of electronic waste is an issue that lurks in the background of each shiny new GPU release. I find myself torn between the urge to explore every virtual frontier in ultra-high definition and the guilt of contributing to the growing problem of e-waste.

Yet, the social aspect of gaming—experiencing a new game alongside the community as it unfolds—is tempting. Upgrades can feel essential to remain part of this shared narrative; to stave off the FOMO as friends and online cohorts dissect the latest epic. There’s a camaderie found in those communal moments when a game drops and we’re all part of the initial foray into unknown territories. On a more personal note, witnessing games push the limits of what’s possible from a technical standpoint elicits a fascination that almost always wins me over.

Balancing cost, practicality, and environmental responsibility with the genuine thrill of gaming is a complex equation. I can’t pinpoint a single strategy that works for everyone. Some might upgrade piece by piece, others will wait for generational leaps to make a more significant purchase. Resources like GitHub repos provide insights into game optimizations, and user benchmarks are a gold mine for real-world performance data that can help inform purchase decisions. In that vein, I make each upgrade count, opting for quality components with longevity in mind.

The intricacies of PC builds, console generations, and the pursuit of frame rate glory embody a fascinating subculture within our broader gaming community. It’s a testament to our love for the medium, and while the cost of keeping up with gaming can be steep, the rewards often far exceed the price of admission. Yet, we must remain mindful of the environmental cost and strive for a sustainable approach to satiate our high-fidelity escapades.