It’s been almost exactly a year since we last checked in with PC Building Simulator. A productive year, it seems. What was once an extremely rough “pre-alpha build” on itch.io is now a more polished $20 Early Access production on Steam. Yes, you can buy it and start assembling your own dream PCs right now, complete with dozens of licensed parts. There’s even the skeleton of a career mode.

And I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I think PC Building Simulator might be one of the most important enthusiast tools since the advent of PCPartPicker. It’s one part tutorial, one part visualizer, and one part wish fulfillment—a perfect blend.

Tutorialize

First things first: Forget the career mode. It’s not bad per se, but it’s there seemingly to satisfy the niche who want to purchase PC Building Simulator as a game. I’m sure that niche exists, but for me at least, “All the fun of running your own small-scale PC repair shop” isn’t really a draw. I played around with it for about 40 minutes, cleaned viruses off a few PCs, installed a graphics card for one high-rolling customer (they bought a GTX 970), and quickly realized that fixing other people’s PCs is about as fun digitally as it is in the real world. Which is to say: It’s always the most boring components that fail and need replacing.

PC Building Simulator IDG / Hayden Dingman

Ah yes, the thrill of blowing out the dust and checking for viruses on your dentist’s gaming PC.

So forget it. It’s there if you want it, but it’s the “How to Build a PC” and “Free Build” modes that I’ve put the most time into this week.

The former, “How to Build a PC,” is probably pretty self-explanatory, but I’m impressed by the work that’s been put into it. From the start, I believed PC Building Simulator could be an incredible educational tool. As I wrote last year:

“Building a PC is intimidating. Not difficult, per se. It’s essentially ‘match slot A with part A’ a dozen times, wire it all together, and voila: Functioning PC. That’s the theory, anyway. But for a lot of people, this is probably the most complicated (and most expensive) Lego set they’ll ever build. It can be daunting looking at a great big pile of boxes, poring over eight or nine manuals, and thinking ‘At some point this needs to plug into a wall and turn on.’”

There are a bevy of resources to help first-time builders get started, but they’re all hands-off. Text tutorials and forum posts are a good entry point. Photo-based tutorials help even more. And for the last decade or so, YouTube and other video-based builds have talked a lot of people through their first builds.

PC Building Simulator IDG / Hayden Dingman

PC Building Simulator ’s coup though is that it’s interactive. You put a motherboard into a case—and have to screw the stand-offs in first. You slot the RAM in, and need to push back the tabs on the motherboard beforehand. Don’t forget to pull the little metal guards out of the case before installing your graphics card!

The “How to Build a PC” mode talks you through these steps and more, using a limited selection of predetermined hardware. All the basics are there though, and the simulation is granular enough to, for instance, require you to remove the thumb screws from rear of the case before pulling the side panels off.





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