Steam

Well, I finally caved and joined Steam (which, for those who don’t know, is an online computer game distributor/DRM thing/multiplayer coordinator/stuff. It’s a piece of software from Valve, which to my knowledge has never made a bad game; the Half-Life series, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead and Portal make a pretty impressive resume). I was resisting because Steam has a lot of awesome deals on video games, and I didn’t want the distraction during school or the money-spending incentive. However, three factors convinced me that it was finally time to join:

1) I have a job now. It pays money. While most of that money is going to savings and paying for ski racing next year, I feel a little more secure in my short-term financial future, since I am generally quite frugal.

2) I have odd hours of free time between my job and training, so I can’t very easily get together with friends to do stuff during the week because it’s probably 9 pm before I’m done with chores, dinner, running, etc. So I needed something to do besides reading all of my dad’s Terry Pratchett books again. That leaves writing (which I’ve started doing again, but I’m waiting for permission to write for an online group and it might take a while…more on that later) and video games.

3) Steam Summer Camp. This is essentially a huge sale where different games go on sale each day for quite a while, and most games are at least partially on sale for the entire time. In typical Valve fashion, there are humorous little “letters from camp” that tell of the antics of various game characters as kids at a summer camp (Ezio from Assassin’s Creed 2 assassinates watermelons at a talent show, for instance). What surprised more were the fantastic deals. Computer games, when they first come out, are usually about $60. I used to think this was totally overpriced, and I still do to some extent, but I realize that most video games these days cost more than a Hollywood blockbuster to make, and they sell many fewer copies. Usually, I wait a few months for the price to come down a bit; sometimes I’ll get lucky and it will be $30 instead. 

These days, graphics are good enough (and I don’t care all that much about graphics) that a game made 3 or 4 years ago looks almost as good as the games we have today, particularly if they’re not going for photorealism (Psychonauts still looks amazing, and that’s partly because it’s exaggeratedly animated). More importantly, games that old are much, much cheaper coming from anywhere; maybe $15 or $20. At the Summer Camp sale, you could get Bioshock or Bioshock 2 for $5. Bioware’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was about $3, as was The Longest Journey. The “Valve Complete Pack” is $50, which might seem like alot until you see it includes 24 games/expansions. The current retail price for all that is $215. The retail price if you had bought  each of those games when they were new would probably be about $700.

I swear I wasn’t hired by Valve to write this (because they’re still a huge corporation that doesn’t care what I think). I’m not trying to “convert” anyone to use Steam and I still don’t like the DRM aspect of Steam too much, but it’s really hard to dislike them when they create great games and sell them at low prices.

So far, I’ve gotten Braid, Knights of the Old Republic, The Longest Journey, Syberia (an adventure game that I’ve already played, but I don’t remember, and now our copy doesn’t work), and Dragon Age: Origins and all its expansions and downloadable content (that package was $10. Full retail price for all of that would be $115). I’ll probably write something about all of these games at some point (I’m working my way through KotOR right now and it’s awesome), making a foray into the overcrowded world of internet games journalism.

Bottom line: if have a Steam account, check out the Summer Camp sale. If you like computer games, check out Steam.

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