I’m quite stingy with my money. If I can avoid spending money on something, then I will. For example, when my MP3 player broke over a year ago, I kept it going by repairing it with a paperclip. (It finally broke irreparably last week. RIP.) However, as someone who quite enjoys video games, I often find myself facing a dilemma: how do I enjoy my hobby without spending hundreds of dollars? Solution: game behind the times.
You’re probably picturing me huddled over a DOS machine, tapping away at my arrow keys while playing Castle Adventure. I’m not suggesting anything that drastic. In fact, I’m not really retro-gaming at all. I’m having fun with games that have been released within the past ten years or so. Digital distribution has been a boon to those seeking games that are just a few years old. Normally, it can be tough to find games that are just a couple of years old in bricks-and-mortar establishments. This is especially true if you’re seeking PC games, since big-box stores tend not to carry a wide selection of them. However, if you go online and use the download services of Steam or Amazon, you can often get games that are just a few years old at ridiculously low prices.
Sure, deep discounts are to be expected on relatively old games. I paid $3.75 for 2005’s Jade Empire, and I’ve been having a blast with it, despite the “last-gen” graphics. I also picked up Mirror’s Edge a few months ago for $5, and that game came out for PC in 2009. However, one can also get more recent games at low prices. I paid just five bucks for L.A. Noire, and that game came out last year. These are pretty modern gaming experiences for low prices. If I don’t need to play the latest Call of Duty or Battlefield, then why worry about keeping up with the times? I can have a blast for less than a quarter of the price.
But there’s also a downside. When games are available for such low prices, the try-before-you-buy mentality goes away. After all, rentals, if they existed for PC games, would cost around five dollars. So, I end up snapping up games that I may never get around to playing, simply because they’re on sale. Thus, like so many others, I’ve built up a Steam backlog. And since I’m a completist – not that I have to 100% every game, but I like to see every game I start to its conclusion – I rarely make a dent in that backlog. I have a dozen or so games on the go at the moment, and there are a dozen more that I’m waiting to try.
In the end, though, this backlog isn’t all bad. I can work my way through it while I wait for newer games to come down in price. For instance, when Dishonored drops into the $20 range, I’ll be sure to pick up a copy. But that won’t be for another year or so. Thus, the cycle continues, and I keep gaming behind the times.