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.

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

The month the dead came back, again

I had the original Dead Island but never really played it much. But this month the devs, who were one of the first major studios to add GNU/Linux support to their titles, released the Definitive Edition (DIDE) at 85% less for owners of the previous one. Hmm. Dilemma!

I remember not playing the original one because I was one of the people who had massive loading issues with it, so by the time it had loaded (5 minutes!) I didn’t feel like playing it anymore. In the Definitive Edition, this issue has been fixed.

Can I pass this off as upgrading something that I would not have played in its un-upgraded state? Yeah, I guess! So on the rediscovery list it goes. I’m also putting Dying Light on my wishlist for next year’s opening of the hiatus. I’d like to give developers Techland (cześć!) some money.

One of the advantages of this whole experiment is that I think a bit more about the companies I want to support with my purchases. Good GNU/Linux porting houses like Feral Interactive, tiny indies that care and offer day 1 Linux releases like Maschinen-Mensch UG, or companies like Techland who have been solid Linux supporters from early on.

The disappointing bit here is that DIDE never worked on my machine and I had to get a refund. But hey, I tried!

Old stuff

My current favorites list in Steam. Doesn’t count GOG games

This is month three of no new game purchases, but it’s the month of rediscoveries. The list you see on the right is my current Steam favorites list. If you follow these ramblings you must remember it being much shorter. You’re right, it was.

None of these are new games, but my brain is really, really pushing me to buy new stuff. It’s a bad feeling. I found that I can somewhat placate it by just trying new things, so I first downloaded several free-to-play games. They all sucked. Then I went through my list of old purchases, gifts or bundle titles once again and this time picked out games that I might not normally play.

Some of these are genres that I don’t actually like that much, like tower defense or puzzles. Some are games where I suck, like Screencheat. Others I’ve put down earlier because they frustrated me, like Shadowrun.

This time around my brain is calmer, though. Why did I leave these games untouched back in the day? Because I knew for sure that I would hate them? Not really, but my brain made up that story because there was so much other stuff coming out that I didn’t think I’d have the time to play these.

Now I still have nine months, and I suspect that even just checking, thoroughly, whether these games are fun will take up all of that time. No need to buy something new.

They’re all on the rediscoveries list. I will probably not try them with the same fervor as the main games, that’s why the list is separate for now. But if you’re like me, and I suspect you am, why would you even read this, you have a list just like that. You probably bought six, seven Humble Bundles too and ended up with this many titles. Probably more if you’re on Windows — I gave every single one of my Windows keys away, so I have a subset of your problem.

What’s left

  1. The Banner Saga
  2. Chaos Reborn
  3. The Curious Expedition
  4. Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition (Really, really liking this)
  5. Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
  6. Dropsy
  7. Hand of Fate
  8. The Long Dark
  9. Nuclear Throne
  10. Quake
  11. Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition
  12. Star Wars: KOTOR II
  13. Tales of Maj’Eyal
  14. Transistor
  15. Victor Vran
  16. Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut
  17. XCOM: Enemy Unknown


Strikethrough for the ones I’ve already shelved again.

  1. Antichamber Wonderfully done, but too hard for my brain
  2. Blocks That Matter Not my style at all
  3. Breach & Clear Don’t like the subject matter
  4. Closure
  5. Cogs So not my style.
  6. Crimsonland Suddenly WASD no longer registered. Shrug.
  7. Din’s Curse Too clunky compared to e.g. Victor Vran
  8. Divine Divinity & Beyond Divinity (via WINE) No time for what feels too much like a slow Diablo clone. Would play if I hadn’t played Diablo back then.
  9. EDGE Not my style at all, even after retrying
  10. Eets Munchies Not my style at all, even after retrying
  11. Eldritch Very well done, but slightly too random
  12. Enclave
  13. Freedom Planet
  14. Galcon Fusion I don’t see the appeal
  15. Galcon Legends Neither here
  16. Harvest: Massive Encounter Doesn’t start anymore, needs some outdated libraries.
  17. HOARD
  18. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Quite enjoyable! Wouldn’t have expected it.
  19. Ittle Dew Charming, but don’t like the combat
  20. Joe Danger 2: The Movie Camera makes me nauseous
  21. LISA I see what they did there. Also, crashy.
  22. Massive Chalice
  23. Mercenary Kings Not nearly tight enough controls, gameplay too sluggish, camera makes me vomit.
  24. Mount & Blade: Warband
  25. The Novelist
  26. OlliOlli Whew, my reaction isn’t good enough for this
  27. Outland Pretty, but those bullet patterns belong in manic shmups instead of platformers. Sorry, being conservative here, I know.
  28. Race The Sun Woo, my eyes are too slow for this now. Beautiful, though!
  29. Reus Sooo sloooow
  30. Revenge of the Titans Hey, I don’t hate tower defense as much as I’d thought. Cute game! Almost finished it
  31. Risk of Rain Gamepad support is broken
  32. RUSH Not the kind of game I play
  33. Screencheat It seems no one plays this online anymore
  34. Serious Sam 3: BFE (head bob makes me vomit)
  35. Shadow Warrior Classic Redux
  36. Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut I want to love this game, but I can’t. It feels too thick, too slow
  37. SteamWorld Dig
  38. Strike Suit Zero Feels boring, I think I had enough of this with Wing Commander
  39. Wizorb Nice concept but breakout games bore me too easily
  40. Ziggurat Too much running backwards

Enjoyed this? Read the other posts in this series.

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

Hey! Hey you. Yeah, you. Psshhhhht! Over here. Look over here. See that? That’s what a guilty feeling looks like.

With considerable guilt I started playing the two free tables offered in The Pinball Arcade and Pinball FX 2. I’d played TPA before some time ago, but after visiting the French alps and finding a company that makes virtual pinball tables, I became more convinced of the viability of simulated pinball than before. I’ve always wanted a real pinball table, but I lack the skills to repair it. And since they constantly break, a virtual one is probably better for me.

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Review the reviewer: Yaroslaw Andrusyak

And in the same vein as my previous mention of mrdeathjr28, here is Yaroslaw Andrusyak. He presents games using only entirely FOSS drivers played via the Gears on Gallium live CD, with high OpenGL levels using the free Radeon drivers. And he even does comparisons between WINE and native ports. Here’s an example:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Fk8ipipTr8]

If you don’t know what the big deal is about that: Usually entirely free graphics drivers lag behind the latest proprietary drivers in speed or functionality or both. So it’s impressive when another title works beautifully and fluidly using entirely free drivers. The TL;DR might be “free software GUD. Prop.. Popiet.. Propi… CLOSED SOFTWARE BAD!!!!111 omg STEAM SALE!!!!”

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Review the reviewer: mrdeathjr28

For those Linux gamers among you who still have a few Windows games lying around, WINE, with or without PlayOnLinux, is a good option for running them on GNU/Linux. But do they run? If so, how well? The AppDB at winehq.org is usually very helpful to figure things out in text, but it would be nice to see stuff in motion sometimes.

mrdeathjr28 to the rescue. He does very, very detailed and thorough demo clips of various Windows games on WINE, with hardware specs, CPU load and all in the picture. The newer videos are encoded using NVENC so there isn’t much CPU load from encoding. Here’s an example:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQBo2AdlvdY]

It’s all in Spanish, but hey: gaming knows no language boundaries!!!!!!111 And who says the world always has to be in English? He’s not really a reviewer, more like an experimental gamer, but I thought I’d mention him anyway because his videos surely help decide whether it’s worth your time trying a particular game on WINE.

Go check him out.

Did your mouse turn all weird in Debian and now you suck at Quake?

If you have a recent Debian testing release, you might have noticed that your mouse now behaves very differently. For me, I noticed it when my aiming turned wobbly in Quake. Quake has extremely tight controls and shouldn’t feel as if you’re playing a 2016 console FPS with jelly dildos in place of fingers. So I was a bit surprised when it suddenly did. Also, I couldn’t reliably hit e.g. a close button on a window or the menu entry I wanted.

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

This was the easiest month so far! I’ve shelved Pillars of Eternity. I know that this game is good at its core, I know the mechanics more or less work even though combat feels mostly random to me. But after 19 hours of trying to ignite my nostalgia and failing, I couldn’t continue. Also, inexplicably long load times. Very annoying.

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I sold my childhood. Also, net-zero challenge!

This was a very interesting experience and it sort of ties in with my challenge of a year of not buying video games, but since it’s not totally related, here’s a separate post.

I’ve been gaming for over 30 years now, and I’ve accumulated many good games. They were resting in a secret hideout in the alps, never played, collecting dust. I still felt quite attached to them, but did I play them? No. I have the wonderful SFC30 controller, coupled with the high-accuracy Higan emulator, I don’t miss the physical consoles.

My collection included some rarities with a high trade value:

  • Final Fantasy III (US) for SNES, boxed with manual, worth roughly US$ 300.
  • Chrono Trigger (US) for SNES, boxed with manual, worth around 300 as well.
  • Pocky & Rocky for SNES, also around 300, but without box more like 100.
  • Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast) Anniversary Edition with medal, boxed, also around 100.
  • Neo Geo Pocket Color with many games, including a boxed limited edition Match of the Millennium.

Along with many smaller games of sentimental value to me, like Street Fighter II for SNES. You notice I wrote “included”, because I sold and donated almost all of it.

There is a company in La Ravoire in the French Alps that distributes gaming products but also manufactures its own virtual pinball tables and arcade cabinets. They’re made right on-premise, in the middle of Europe, and we actually were allowed a glimpse into their workshop. You can order pinball tables and cabinets in whatever design you like, even with your own graphics or covered in exotic materials lake fake snakeskin or leather. Extra-impressive because I’ve built my own arcade controller in the past. For a full cabinet or virtual pinball table you need to a good carpenter and a decent electrician.

I traded my game collection for some money and an old Vectrex. I had one Vectrex before, but this one will be a great backup, and it’s actually in better shape than my first one was.

A part of the collection will go into their museum, however. We were allowed a quick tour of that as well, and I was super-happy to see many gaming machines from my own past as well as severely obscure Japanese stuff that never made it here. My collection is in good hands.

This was a great opportunity to practice detachment and I’m happy to say that my feelings of regret for not playing my collection more have shifted through fear of letting go of it into happiness that someone, somewhere might buy and play my games and have more fun with them than I did. If you want to buy my stuff, it might go into their eBay storefront sometime soon.

And if you need an arcade machine (that works with either a console or with a PC inside) but are too clumsy to build your own, I can very much recommend theirs. If you ask nicely, they will also allow you to customize many things, add and remove buttons in places you like, etc.

Net-zero challenge

Net-zero challenges are common among boardgamers: They can only buy a new boardgame once they’ve sold enough old ones to cover the price. So I’m taking that digital.

With the money I made from the sale, I’ll start a net-zero challenge. Any game I buy from now on will have to be financed from the money I made selling my entire childhood game collection. Because I buy mostly digital download games and those can’t be resold (yet), it means I am now probably stuck with a limited supply of games for the rest of my life. This will make it so much more important to choose the right ones.


Review the reviewer: Jakejw93

I reviewed The Linux Gamer without giving Jakejw93 his well-earned spot. So here it is, and let’s kick off with one of his videos about triple-screen gaming on Linux, which I was very happy to hear, works rather well:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEvh8y4AF9I]

Here we also finally see what he looks like (I’ve always thought of him as a disembodied voice) and I see that a beard competition is in order. I’ll give him two or three years to catch up in terms of length, but then, it’s on.

Much like I love Mack‘s accent, I also really like Jakejw93’s: “I’ve got evryfink runnin okay”. These UK accents are something we don’t really get much of here, so it’s super-refreshing to hear someone not sounding like a Londoner.

Jake doesn’t only cover the growing niche of Linux gaming (and niches within the niche of Linux gaming) but also Windows vs. Linux comparisons and now and then he even gives you a review of a Windows game through WINE.

He’s one of the original Linux gaming youtubers, he’s been at it for over six years now, and I must confess that I didn’t pay enough attention to his videos during all this time. That was wrong. Don’t repeat my mistake. Check him out now.


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

This is getting harder now. I thought I had so many games, they surely last more than a year, and the urge to buy more of them shouldn’t be strong at all. Now I’m discovering that  the act of buying was probably a bigger part of it than the act of playing. This might be what shopaholics feel, but I didn’t know the same thing extended to digital purchases.

You know what helps? To set your Steam client to start into the “Library” tab instead of “Store”. It’s in the settings. Try it out once.

Let’s take this month to think about addiction. Read on if you’re ready.

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