Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): July 2016

This month I was thinking about a new trick. Once I’m done with all this, I’ll start buying games again. So far, so good. But I also told you that when I was a kid, games cost so much more, and that made it more satisfying and much rarer to be able to buy a game. To sort of get this feeling back, I’ve decided that for every game I buy, I’ll donate 5 times the game’s price to a decent charity (as identified by GiveWell or other effective altruism organisations). I also vow to simply buy whichever game strikes my fancy at the time with no regard for sale or not sale. If there’s one thing I found out by going through my old games, it’s that appetites for certain genres don’t last long for me, so I’d have to act on the spot. That could mean 20 bucks for the game and 100 for charity.

Duke 3D and Quake kicked me back into proper old-school FPS mode. Then a friend recommended Brutal Doom, which turned out to be very enjoyable, quick, and fresh despite being old.

Before doing this, I never understood how someone can go revisit an old game, now I do. It’s especially pleasing with source ports that improve on the original. GZDoom (which runs Brutal Doom very well) is one of those, and it looks and sounds delicious. I don’t even care that Doom 2016 isn’t available on GNU/Linux.

July 2016 was also the month that Quake, after 20 years, received its official fifth episode. I’m liking the bits I’ve played so far.

Oh, and I finished Duke Nukem 3D! As in played all four Atomic/Megaton Edition scenarios. It was fucking great. Haven’t had such a nice feeling of motivation to play a game since quite a long while. I blame all the vapid AAA titles for my recent lack of enthusiasm, but partially also this game-buying thing that I’m trying to escape from.

Delicious, beautiful pixels

The rediscovery queue has grown as well. After I found out that RetroArch has extremely convincing CRT shaders, I started finishing some of the games I’d bought in the 80s and 90s for NES and Mega Drive. Just look at it!


The CRT geometry! The scanlines! The pixel glow! It’s all there. This screenshot is stolen from Adam from Bluegamer, so hi there.

You don’t have to use the geometry shader as well, so you can get a nice flattened picture like from one of those Sony Trinitron screens. Which is precisely what I want. Behold:


Lickable, no? There are even shaders that make it look like you’re playing with a bad composite NTSC signal, like many yoofs of the 80s in the USA did. The poor sods. It looks like this:


The signal artifacts even move! And I can pick shaders that make it look even far worse than this.

If you don’t understand what’s so great about CRT shaders, you are either too young or you just don’t mind how games look in emulation without it. For many of us with the CRT fetish, it’s all about seeing games the way we saw them when we played them 30 years ago, on our shitty TVs.

You could also say that it’s the “proper” way to play these games, because they were made to be played on such screens. Plain white looks very bright indeed without a shader, and with the shader it loses a lot of its edge.

Brain observations

It appears addictions could be somewhat interconnected in the brain. When I stopped buying games and books, I also tried to stop drinking. I used to drink every evening. Not much, maybe two or three beers, but enough to call it a habit and at some point enough to call it an addiction. That has stopped now. I went through a month without a single drop of alcohol and I can now drink just a few beers at a festival and not drown myself in alcohol for weeks afterwards.

But I still can’t look at a list of game sales without my stomach cramping up with purchase anxiety. That’ll need more work.

What’s left

  1. The Banner Saga
  2. Chaos Reborn
  3. The Curious Expedition
  4. Doom (Brutal Doom)
  5. Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
  6. Dropsy
  7. Hand of Fate
  8. The Long Dark
  9. Nuclear Throne Camera makes me vomit
  10. Quake Shelving for now, completed the first two episodes
  11. Star Wars: KOTOR II
  12. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed
  13. Starbound Can’t stand crafting and survival games anymore
  14. Tales of Maj’Eyal
  15. Transistor
  16. Victor Vran
  17. Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut
  18. XCOM: Enemy Unknown


  1. Darksiders
  2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut
  3. Dirt 3 Complete Edition
  4. Enclave So clunky (sorry)
  5. Freedom Planet Retried twice, doesn’t grip me
  6. Metal Slug 3 Turns out I played this enough when it was new
  7. Massive Chalice
  8. Rune Classic Such boring cutscenes, such old combat
  9. Shattered Planet Quite grindy
  10. Sine Mora So beautiful, but also way too hard
  11. The Novelist
  12. Shadow Warrior Classic Redux
  13. SteamWorld Dig It doesn’t jig with me, even after 3 tries

Retro corner

  1. Kirby’s Adventure (NES) (finished already!)
  2. Shadow Dancer (Mega Drive)

Enjoyed this? Read the other posts in this series.

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