Dear Omar

Is It Really Worth Upgrading Your PC for ‘Ultra’ Gaming Graphics?

Five family gaming rigs reveal that graphics performance is largely in the eye of the beholder

Omar L. Gallaga
Debugger
Published in
5 min readFeb 10, 2021

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Illustration by Taylor Le for Debugger

Welcome to Dear Omar, a weekly Debugger column from tech expert Omar L. Gallaga answering all the gadget and technology questions you were afraid to ask.

Sometime around mid-December, parts of my family abandoned their game consoles and went very, very PC.

It’s not that we don’t love our game consoles: I’m finally getting around to building out island homes in Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch with my daughters. My brother Pablo scored a PlayStation 5 against all odds before the holidays were in full swing. Mario Kart Live was on some of our wishlists.

But several nights a week since then, my brother, his fiancée, and some of our friends and family have been getting online and playing PC games together, such as the old zombie-shooting classic Left 4 Dead 2 or a more recent scary squad game GTFO. After the holidays, Red Dead Online was on sale for $5 and we all jumped in on it. Now, we’ve spent dozens of hours completing bounty hunting missions, purchasing ugly ponchos, and getting mauled by bears in our pursuit of big-game meats to cook. As we’ve all been spending more time on PC games, I began to wonder if newcomers or upgraders really need a super-expensive, high-end machine to keep up. Are they required?

A grisly scene unfolds in our group game of “Red Dead Online” for PC. Source: Pablo Gallaga / Twitch

My friend Jeana, who wanted to join in on some zombie-gaming after dipping her toe into multiplayer games such as Jackbox and Among Us, invested in a well-equipped gaming rig and a huge, curved monitor. Just before that, my dad finally got a decent gaming setup, handed down from my brother with a few new parts. My brother handed down the machine to indulge my dad’s decades-long love of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator franchise. Dad has since added a VR headset, a Christmas gift from my brother, to play Flight Sim and other sims such as Star Wars: Squadrons in even more immersive virtual reality.

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Omar L. Gallaga
Debugger

Tech culture writer and podcaster, now freelancing in Texas. Bylines: Washington Post, WSJ, CNN, NPR, Wired, Texas Monthly. Here for all your wordy needs.