Oh OP, you are singing my song!
I went from gaming on early consoles (Atari, NES), to PCs (486, Pentiums, 3Dfx), back to consoles (Xboxes, Playstations), and am now gaming on PC only
. And this is mostly because of how much PC gaming has improved with gamepad (x360 controller) support.
I love playing console style games. I love playing games on a gamepad. I love playing games on a TV and surround sound. I love gaming while sitting back in a recliner with a controller in hand and not sitting up at a desk with a mouse and keyboard. I love being able to jump into a game without much configuration or hassle. This is the "game console" experience, and surprisingly, it can be done, and arguably done better
, on a PC*. (Please see footnote)
For the most part, as you can see from my sig, I think the PC is the best "game console" available. And I've even adjusted to a wireless mouse + keyboard while lying back in my comfy chair as an alternate method of control for such non-gamepad games like Torchlight 2, Grim Dawn and The Adventures of Van Helsing. But I almost always pick up the wireless x360 controller first for PC gaming, especially action and first/third person games. And now that I'm back in PC gaming, I've found because of the console influence it's so much better than it used to be. (Hardcore PC gamers might say it's "worse" now because of the console influence, but that's an argument for another thread.)
As Anthony and BD mentioned, there's some older games that weren't ported well, so gamepad support for these older PC ports range from fair, poor, to not-at all. The first Mass Efffects, Bioshock 2, Homeland, and a couple others have disappointed with bad to non-existent built-in gamepad support. But these are very few, and there are 3rd party software controller solutions such as this one
that can offer at least some sort of controller support for these games. Thankfully, most games within the last couple years have perfect built-in gamepad support, and even allow you to switch from gamepad to mouse/kb on the fly. For example, if you are using the gamepad, the prompts will include the A,B, X, Y and triggers, but touch the keyboard or mouse and those same prompts will switch on the fly to mouse and/or keyboard icons.
When I'm buying an older game and am concerned about gamepad support, a simple Google search of the game name + "PC gamepad support" always finds in seconds if the game supports gamepad and if the support is good or not.
OP - be advised you will need some sort of keyboard such as this popular one
, and maybe also a mouse, to get around Windows and setup many games. But once the game launches, if it supports gamepad well, as most games these days do, you can sit back on your couch and game "console-like" with much better framerates, resolution, and an all-around better experience than consoles currently offer. It's not perfect, but if you are like me, which is sounds like you are, you will love a modern PC as a game console.
And $2k is plenty to build a kick-ass PC game console.
I've been thinking about creating an AVS thread that would be a guide to setting up a "PC game console", so people who have built a PC for gaming and love game consoles can share the joys and frustrations of this task. Would there be interest in this?
*Footnote - I have to be clear here - PC gaming still isn't 100% perfect, and everyone's satisfaction/frustration with setting up a PC as a game console varies. Configuration snafus happen from time to time. PC games do crash, hang or unexpectantly minimize on certain occasions. And PCs don't have the ease of a game console OS with gamepad, and the simplicity of install, configuration, and launching a game for the first time that a true game console has. But in my experience, it's much better than it used to be, and it's getting to the point that a game not working right on first launch is rare. But understand it does happen, and Google is your friend - these instances usually only take about 10 minutes to fix.