We attempted our first solo PC build after playing this game. Here’s our thoughts
If you go in the steam store, there’s more than just the usual flight simulator available that you might expect. There is a plethora of simulator games available from ‘Farming Simulator’, ‘Railway simulator’, ‘Construction simulator’ and even ‘PC building simulator’.
Being a bit of techie, I was curious as to how much PC building simulator would teach me about building my own rig. In my job, I inadvertently became “The IT guy”, simply because I knew more about computers than anyone else and was pretty good at looking things up on Google. To a qualified IT technician I am but a mere n00blet, but to your average Joe I am a technical wizard!
I have a bit of an idea and have been involved in building a computer in the past, but with expert supervision guiding my every action. Still, I had learnt a lot theoretically over the years and wanted to see if this game would give me the confidence to make my first ever solo build.
So how does it work? The game starts in a very run-of-the-mill office. From a first-person view, you can see workbenches all around the office to work from. Here you can place PC tower units to dismantle and reassemble as you see fit. A PC in the corner gives you access to a marketplace to order new parts and an email inbox with new prospective jobs for various PC repairs.
The aim of the game is to earn money by repairing various customers computers, however the issues with said computers are not always obvious, and you must diagnose the problem in many cases before ordering parts and affecting repair. Initial jobs will see you simply scanning and removing viruses or using compressed air to blow the dust off all the internal boards…easy!
As you progress through the game you can upgrade the office for extra workbenches which allows you to work on multiple machines at once. It may also be the case that customers request their repair done in a small timeframe, meaning you have to consider the delivery times on new parts. There is a next day delivery service for new parts; however the extra cost for next day delivery will come directly from your profit. Should that be too much, then a slower delivery at cheaper cost is obviously best.
If a customer is not satisfied however, you will receive a negative review on a site similar to TripAdvisor which impacts the jobs available to you. An issue I had repeatedly was I was able to fix the customer’s computer, however I had gone over budget and this was enough to give me a bad review. They don’t want second hand parts, but they also want to stay within budget!
So to the main part of this review, how effective was this game at teaching me how to build a PC? It’s pretty good in that it shows you the bare-bones of the hardware and where everything is. If you didn’t know your way around the inside of the PC before playing this, you most definitely will afterwards. It’s even detailed to the point that different cases have screw points and risers for fixing the motherboard in their various different locations and layouts. It’s a nice little touch that all the parts in the game have real-life counterparts. Components that you find in the game can be googled in real life, so potentially you could actually design a real-life PC build within this game.
There is a cool tutorial section called “How to build a PC”, which does cover the steps you need to take. You can hover over tags and labels on the components to read a more detailed description and explanation of what it does. It is very simple though and doesn’t mention common pitfalls or problems that you can run into.
Does it teach you everything you need to know so that you can become an infallible PC designer? Most definitely not!
I did make my new rig after playing this game, of which I would say this game gave me the confidence to try. However it is from prior knowledge of PC hardware, and a lot of YouTube videos (I mean a lot) and reading the manual that came with my motherboard which enabled me to actually complete my build.
Things the game does not teach you are issues such as thermal paste for example. In the game you just click to apply, and you get a little pee-sized drop on the CPU with which to then attach the cooler. In real life, my first time applying thermal paste without any supervision to stop me, I applied so much I may as well have applied the paste with a building trowel: any bricklayers out there would be proud!
This became an obvious issue moments later as I placed the cooler on top of the CPU and all of the paste came squidging out of the sides . In my panic I grabbed kitchen roll and cotton bud Q-tips desperately trying to stop thermal paste getting into the pin holes on the motherboard.
After initially building my PC, I realized within a week that it was overheating. To save money, I had used the same case stripped out which I have had for over six years (obviously I cleaned the dust out first).
One fan on the front and one in the back and no real air vents: it simply was no longer enough. Once again the game let me down as it didn’t really teach me anything about the thermals of PC building and correct air flow.
I decided to buy a new special airflow case with mesh front and top, extra case fans, and splitter cables to power them all. I then proceeded to strip out the newly built rig, and to transfer everything into the new case. My problem here is that when I removed the cooler, the CPU came with it as they were cemented together from the thermal paste. The simulator had not prepared me for this and the excruciating time that followed.
Ordering 99% isopropanol alcohol off of the internet and then submerging the cooler/cpu combo into a bowl of this alcohol was nerve racking to say the least. Before anyone tries to tell me I should have used dental floss in a sawing-action between the components, I can assure you…it wasn’t happening!
I was able to separate them after a 30 minute soak and changed the cooler for a fancier custom cooler on standby. Don’t even get me started on how simple it is to cable everything up in game compared to real life!
So how much did this game actually help me? Actually a fair bit. I was finally able to finish my rig! Is it pretty? Kind of. Is the cable management perfect? Not in the slightest. Is it functional? Bloody right it is! One question remains though…can it run Crysis?
The best analogy i can think of for how this game helped me is that it’s a bit like looking under the bonnet of a car and knowing all the components of an engine. With each make and model, the engine may look different, but essentially the components are all the same. This premise is exactly the same with PCs. They can come in various shapes and sizes; however all require the same components to function CPU, GPU, RAM, motherboard etc.
On the game’s merit alone, did it prepare me for building a PC? Most definitely not! Although I am a n00b, I am fairly technically minded and have observed a build in the past. Add to that a hell of a lot of research online and on YouTube. The YouTuber; Linus Tech Tips, advises using what looks like a ‘grain of rice’ size when applying thermal paste. Definitely had I seen this before attempting, I could’ve saved a lot of panic.
Linus actually did a video on PC Building Simulator that you can see here. Although not initially that impressed, he does finish by saying it is a lot cooler than he thought it would be and could be beneficial as a confidence aid.
Nowhere does it teach you about not frying circuit boards with static when handling them and also how to ensure parts are actually compatible with each other before ordering. I’m already finding i wish i had spent more money on a better case and i probably want to add in another HDD to complement the Solid state already in there which is quickly filling up.
With making sure parts are compatible, I used the excellent site; PC Parts Picker which allows you to create theoretical builds on their site and it will flag up any known compatibility issues. The site also has other PC enthusiasts showing off their builds and tips, and the site itself scans and links to you the best priced vendors for each part you have selected, giving you a grand total spend to judge your budget.
With all of this knowledge combined, I was able to rebuild my rig with minimal stress and frustration.
If you are totally oblivious to the world of PC building I would not recommend using PC building Simulator as your only source of information. You will very quickly end up with a very expensive lump of plastic and dead circuitry!
Enjoy this game for what it was meant to be, just a bit of fun and mildly informative.
PC building simulator is available on steam for £14.99 at full price or £18.98 for the overclocked edition which includes several DLCs with additional content.