It goes without saying that one of the biggest events to go down for PC gamers is a Steam sale, and it’s for good reason. That blockbuster title that cost $50 just six months ago? It’s probably $10~15 during a Steam sale. Even older titles can dip into the single digits. Heck – Just Cause was being sold for $0.27 during the Steam summer sale that just passed. Sales like these, along with Humble Bundle, Indie Royale and so forth allow you to build up a mega game collection quickly, and cheaply. And to some, that’s a major problem.
Over the course of the past few years, I’ve noticed a serious trend with not just one, two or three of my friends, but a lot of them. Anytime a Steam sale takes place, I see regular updates in my activity feed showing me what many of them bought, and admittedly, a lot of the titles are fantastic. But here’s the problem: most of these games that get snatched simply won’t get played – ever. When a deal seems too amazing to pass up, resisting that purchase button is hard. You might try to convince yourself, “I’ll play it soon.”, but let’s face it: you have a lot of games on the go, more are coming out all of the time, another sale will be here before you manage to get to it, and you also have a little thing called “life”.
Yesterday, a friend of mine pointed me to a post over at Reddit from user ruteqube who spills the beans about the problem laid-out above that they fell victim to. In many words, ruteqube explains why it can happen, what’d it’d take to actually play through all of the games you’ve purchased, and how Steam itself is like a game.
“With Steam’s cumulative counters for every game you’ve played, I feel like playing any Steam game fuels into some metagame because it’s ‘accounted for’.“
I can relate to this statement to some degree. I admittedly like the fact that I can track my gameplay, and I never play a game or simply run it idle in order to inflate the recorded gametime. But it can act as a bit of an e-peen measure to some. If I put 50 hours into Secrets of the Magic Crystals, then of course I want people to see that. If I own 500 games, I of course want people to see that. 50 badges? Ditto.
Badges in particular are a bit of a sore spot for me, because the end-goal for Valve is to get people to spend money not on games, but services and profile upgrades, and an arbitrary level. By its design, Steam gives you half the number of cards in a set from a respective game you own; you have to either buy the cards you’re missing from other people, or trade cards from another game to get what you need. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there are 5 levels to each set of cards, meaning you need to construct five sets total to “max” that particular set. And then it gets even better: there are “Foil” sets, which have card values that tend to go 4x+ higher than normal cards. You could technically spend hundreds of dollars on this mechanic if you wanted, simply to level up your Steam profile and inflate your ego.
Don’t believe people would actually buy games and cards just for the sake of that? Believe it.
ruteqube’s post is quite lengthy, but it’s well worth a read if this sort of thing intrigues you. There are of course many people who do exercise moderation when it comes to Steam sales and Steam mechanics itself, along with similar urges elsewhere. Those are the lucky ones. While I’d like to think I play every single game I’ve purchased, there are some that have sat on the backburner for far too long. I’ll be making an effort soon to tackle those. My biggest excuse is also my vice: MMOs. Oh, how those can drain your time and make you forget about every other game you own…