About 9 months ago, I stopped buying games because I had a huge pile of unplayed ones already, like most gamers. I told myself I won’t be buying any more games for a year, to finish what I already have, and so I can decide what I don’t even want to play. 9 months in I broke my vow when prices for used Playstation 3 stuff hit their lowest point yet and something told me that missing this opportunity wouldn’t be wise, so I stopped my challenge and bought a PS3 with piles of games to last me years. You can read all the details month-by-month here.
In numbers, I’ve played somewhere around 40 games, finishing about a dozen and discarding or shelving the rest. But I also added 43 new games to my wishlist. In the old days, these 43 games would have been immediately purchased and added to my existing queue of 100-something titles. Horrible to think of that now. Instead, I have a physical pile of PS3 games that goes up to my hip to worry about. Much better!
I learned a lot, and I believe I can condense it into a few paragraphs of hints for those addicted to game purchases. And I’m saying game purchases, not necessarily playing. Some of these games sat for ages in my library until I finally stopped buying new ones and actually played them. Is it the same for you? Then read on.
Last month I told you about my magical rediscovery of console gaming. I had been so focused on PC that I had completly ignored entire generations of console games. I got cut off at the early days of the Wii. Now what I discovered was:
I really enjoy the Wii titles that have a childlike appearance but some tough core gameplay. All those colors! Super Mario Galaxy! It’s not just grey and brown and somber like the PC titles are sometimes.
I don’t know even half the good titles that came out for the Game Cube, and there are some unique ones there.
I’ve missed most of the good PS2 stuff, and all of the good PS3 stuff.
Guitar Hero was real fun. Why did I stop playing Guitar Hero? Why did I never pick up Rock Band and the drum set?
All of these needed to be remedied. So in a very desperate move, I dug into the PS3 scene just as the PS3 is dying. Dying or dead consoles are the best for collecting, and I’d put this under the heading “collecting”. Once they’re no longer popular, you can get used games for single-digit prices. Some of them are even collections. I bought God of War 1 – 5 in a big set for USD 12, for example, and that’s the remastered HD edition for PS3.
It was a month with one or two strange revelations, but it started pretty mundanely.
Life is Strange’s first episode became available for free. I downloaded it but I don’t dare to play until next March, because if I like the first episode, I might want to buy the rest.
Other than that, my mind was reasonably calm, the game-buying urges seemed manageable as long as I didn’t look at online stores for games. I started to enjoy my home-built virtual pinball machine without feeling anxious about getting good at each table in order to have “finished” it. I simply played and had fun.
All was serene. All was calm.
Until my phone beeped and told me there was a new Humble Indie Bundle. A new Humble Indie Bundle! I am a cunt for forgetting to turn off those notifications.
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.
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!
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.
The Banner Saga
The Curious Expedition
Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition (Really, really liking this)
Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
Hand of Fate
The Long Dark
Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition
Star Wars: KOTOR II
Tales of Maj’Eyal
Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Strikethrough for the ones I’ve already shelved again.
Antichamber Wonderfully done, but too hard for my brain
Blocks That Matter Not my style at all
Breach & Clear Don’t like the subject matter
Cogs So not my style.
Crimsonland Suddenly WASD no longer registered. Shrug.
Din’s Curse Too clunky compared to e.g. Victor Vran
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.
EDGE Not my style at all, even after retrying
Eets Munchies Not my style at all, even after retrying
Eldritch Very well done, but slightly too random
Galcon Fusion I don’t see the appeal
Galcon Legends Neither here
Harvest: Massive Encounter Doesn’t start anymore, needs some outdated libraries.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Quite enjoyable! Wouldn’t have expected it.
Ittle Dew Charming, but don’t like the combat
Joe Danger 2: The Movie Camera makes me nauseous
LISA I see what they did there. Also, crashy.
Mercenary Kings Not nearly tight enough controls, gameplay too sluggish, camera makes me vomit.
Mount & Blade: Warband
OlliOlli Whew, my reaction isn’t good enough for this
Outland Pretty, but those bullet patterns belong in manic shmups instead of platformers. Sorry, being conservative here, I know.
Race The Sun Woo, my eyes are too slow for this now. Beautiful, though!
Reus Sooo sloooow
Revenge of the Titans Hey, I don’t hate tower defense as much as I’d thought. Cute game! Almost finished it
Risk of Rain Gamepad support is broken
RUSH Not the kind of game I play
Screencheat It seems no one plays this online anymore
Serious Sam 3: BFE (head bob makes me vomit)
Shadow Warrior Classic Redux
Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut I want to love this game, but I can’t. It feels too thick, too slow
Strike Suit Zero Feels boring, I think I had enough of this with Wing Commander
Wizorb Nice concept but breakout games bore me too easily
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
February’s over already? Damn. I still haven’t finished what I’ve started last December. Maybe I’m not the right kind of gamer to even do this challenge.
One thing I’ve changed is that I don’t read the RSS feeds from GOG, Humble or GamingOnLinux anymore. Why read about new games if you’re not buying them anyway? I did hear that the Humble Indie Bundle 16 came out this month, but I just don’t care! So liberating. If you don’t know what RSS is, I wrote up a short description later in this very article.