Yes, it really is possible - you don't have to pay $2K or more for a decent gaming machine. Here is how I did it:
First off, this is a ground-up build - its got everything you need and nothing you don't. All prices include shipping. The primary goal was to be able to run "The Sims 2" with no lag. This game requires lots of RAM and a good graphics card.
I start off all my builds with a quality case and power supply from Antec. The one I chose for this build was the Antec NSK-4400. It includes a very nice 380W power supply that is plenty powerful enough for most configurations. Newegg has this item for 79.99 plus 15.99 shipping. But if you visit the Antec website you can buy it from their "B Stock" for only $45.95 plus 19.05 Shipping.
Antec Case NSK-4400 - $65.00
I came very close to making this an Intel based machine due to the impressive performance of the new Core 2 Duo CPU's but prices still favor the AMD based machines in this class. So I decided to go with an AMD Athlon 64X2 4600+ CPU, and a BioStar Tforce 550 motherboard. This motherboard has excellent performance and quality and you can see this in the customer reviews at Newegg. With over 220 reviews, its got 84% in the 4 or 5 egg range. All of the Tforce series boards have gotten excellent ratings. This board has alot of nice features - four RAM slots, four SATA 3.0 Gb plugs and an IDE port, so you can have a total of six drives.
AMD Athlon 64X2 4600+ CPU - $113.00 (free shipping)
BioStar Tforce 550 motherboard - $86.12
Next we need to select some RAM. This board is designed for DDR2-800 RAM. Your memory is one of the most critical items in your computer - it pays to get good RAM. I like the Corsair XMS series. It comes with nice shiny black heat spreaders to help keep them cool. 2 GB is the generally considered to be the gaming 'sweet spot'. Two 1024 MB 'dual packs' will add another $138.00
Two Corsair XMS2 512x2 dual packs DDR2-800 - $138.00 (free shipping)
Next we have to select some drives. I always try to buy Seagate because they have a standard five year warranty while most of the others have 3 or 1 year warranties. The drive I chose was the 250 GB SATA 3.0 Gb drive with 16 Mb Cache for $69.99. For the optical drive I chose a LiteOn 20x DVD burner. I've had good results with these drives over the last few years.
Seagate 250 GB hard drive - $69.99 (free shipping)
LiteOn 20X DVD burner - $33.63
Now comes the Video card. for this build I chose a 256 MB Geforce 7900 GS series card from BioStar. Its a decent compromise between performance and price. Its not going to set records for framerates, but it will play just about any game out there at playable framerates and decent resolutions. And you can get it in an 'open box special' from newegg for only 149.99 plus shipping.
BioStar Geforce 256 MB 7900 GS - $156.12
Wow - we're almost done and we're only up to $661! Next we need a keyboard, mouse speakers and monitor. I like the Microsoft ergonomic style keyboards and you can get on with mouse included for $21.99 plus shipping. For the monitor, I would recommend a good 19" LCD panel with low response time of 5 ms or better. Newegg has one from Hanns-G for 179.99 plus shipping and it has built in speakers.
Microsoft Ergonomic keyboardwith mouse - $28.12
19" Hanns-G LCD monitor - $194.38
And last of all, because most onboard Realtek sound is somewhat lacking (ok, it sucks), I would suggest an addon sound card. One that I like is the Chaintech AV-710 7.1 sound card. Its got decent reviews and its very good for music.
Chaintech soundcard - $28.12
This puts our grand total at $912.48 for gaming machine with 2 GB RAM, a 2.4 Ghz Dual core CPU, 256 MB Geforce 7900 GS vid card, 250 GB SATA hard drive and a 19" monitor.
Next post will be an Intel configuration.