Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gaming and Money

Gaming is an expensive hobby. If you're like me, and you have a innate thirst for variety, it's difficult to keep up a gaming habit without beggaring yourself. Leaving aside that console hardware is muy caro (does anyone remember that the PS3 was five hundred dollars at launch?), every other item involved in gaming is ten dollars more expensive now than it was the previous colsole generation. And if you've been paying attention, real wages haven't been keeping up with inflation for some time now.

Ah yes, and there's also the matter of that global economic meltdown we've been hearing so much about on the news. (Okay, okay, the one I would be hearing about on the news, were it not for the fact that all my knowledge of national affairs comes from what I can glean by watching Oprah.) But even if your employment prospects aren't getting snookered by the liquidity crisis (the term hiring freeze is destined to be part of the spooky campfire tales that graduate students tell their children), odds are you would benefit from some belt-tightening. So, I have some words of wisdom on this front.

1) Make a Spreadsheet: I don't mean to get all Suze Orman on y'all, but financial planning is only path to spiritual wholeness and reconciliation with your estranged father. But seriously, make a spreadsheet, stick to it. I've budgeted myself $45 bucks a month for games and I've stuck to it, I don't think I've missed out on anything.

2) Play Old Games: I loves me some new games. Fresh, topical games. But buying every new release on launch day is a one-way ticket to penuryville (population: you). If this season's ridongculous release schedule has taught us anything, it's that noone has the financial or temporal resources to navigate the release calendar. I've made some tactical forays into the new releases (Fallout 3, LittleBigPlanet, and Rock Band 2 made the cut), but beyond that I've seen that holding off can net big discounts. The big outlets like Gamefly always have too many copies of the AAA titles, and if you hold off for a six months or so you can get these games at 1/3 their cover price .

And those old games aren't getting any less good. They're only getting cheaper. I've been playing Killer 7 the last few weeks; it set me back 8 dollars on ebay. Ditto with Fallout 1&2. If you're at all like me, there's scads of top-shelf titles you've missed out on during their four-month bell curve; odds are that many of them are laying in that pile next to your gaming system already. Summon this pile of shame to mind next time you are within purchasing distance of new games. Imagine that your mind is a deep, still pool of water.

3) eBay, not Gamestop:I can't think of a suitable metaphor for Gamestop's conduct w/r/t the consumer that does not involve sexual assault. Never sell them your games. Gamestop's used-game trade-in business is a racket that would make Jimmy Hoffa blush like a Lousiana d├ębutante. Selling your old games and systems on eBay, on the other hand, is a good deal.

Fellow video game collector, your fetishism is understandable. To this day I remain compulsively attached to nearly every book I own, even the ones I actively despise. (I'm looking in your direction, Tropic of Cancer.) I tell myself I will want to reread them in the future, to but this is patent mauvaise foi. The benefits of self-overcoming in the case of your video game collection fetishism are substantial. Selling off games after you've completed them on eBay goes a long way towards defraying the cost of new stuff. I was intimidated by selling stuff online but the people at eBay have conspired to make it extremely easy. Hit up Staples for some padded envelopes and you're in business.

4) Don't Frequent Places Where you Might Purchase Games: My girlfriend is really into the food industry, and she reads all these books about how food industry conducts psychological warfare on the consumer by subtly manipulating the disposition of products in the supermarket-- the size and shape of the packaging, the placement of the products on the shelves. I am 100% certain that these same scoundrels who embarked on this program of hypnotism-through-product-arrangement have unleashed their reams of empirical research on the arrangement of game stores. Basically don't enter the places unless you have something specific in mind. Idly perusing the shelves gives the mind-control gas time to take effect.

5) Credit Card Debt is Deadly Poison: That is all.


dhalgren2882 said...

I've gotten pretty good with avoiding traditional purchases. But Steam, Live, and WiiWare digital purchases are the devil!

Mitch Krpata said...

The 20GB PS3 was $500. For the 60 gig, you were looking at a six hundo.

But it was worth it, because now I've got full backwards compatibility!

thesimplicity said...

I don't think anyone actually likes Tropic of Cancer; it was just the only masturbation material readily available for a few decades.

I had previously controlled my purchasing habits by restricting my activities to eBay and Amazon. Now times are tougher, so I've vowed not to buy a single new game until I get through everything in my backlog. Which is, um, several hundred titles. It's really hard when every retail outlet around you is selling games that are much better than the crap you're currently playing. I got coffee at 7-11 yesterday and they had copies of Fallout 3 next to the register. It's difficult to resist if you're heading home to try and get past the first level of the SNES Batman Forever game for the third night in a row.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the link in your post, so forgive me if you hyperlinked this and I missed it.

Anyway, Great Old Games opened recently and has some great titles already!

Well, I'm not sure whether it's really "opened" or still in "public beta", but who cares? ;)

L.B. Jeffries said...

Oh wow, I'm pumped you're playing Killer 7 and hope you're going to put something out on it. That game is almost Joycean in the amount of stuff layered and referenced in it. It scared me off doing major analysis because it would take so much work, although I had a blast playing and beating it.

I think this guy wrote his thesis on it and then posted it as a gamefaq.

And yeah, definite bargain bin shopper.

thesimplicity said...

That GameFAQs link for Killer7 is... wow. I think I'm going to spend the weekend with that. There's even a translation of the "Kill the Past, Jump Over the Age" stuff that they only got in Japan... wow oh wow.

Daniel Primed said...

Paying full pirce on release isn't what it's cracked up to be. I buy based on necessity (and try to ignore the hype), anything else can wait until half price or less.

Usually I'm playing a mix of retro (eBay, thrift stores), past hit (discounted games, ebay, online)and modern games, and that helps too. So I rarely ever spend too much on games and yet am always fulfilled. As long as you can ditch the idea of being on the fore front of game releases then you don't really need to worry about cost cutting.

Bemused said...

a few more bargain gaming tips:

1) if there's an FYE around you, hit them up. they often have sneaky deals on used titles - i just bought 4 xbox games (including HL2 and From Russia With Love) for about 20 bucks.

2) Gamestop IS the devil...except for their weekly sale items. I got BiB:HH for 30 bucks today (!), and TimeShift for 14. plus their PS2 used selection is huge, especially in college towns like mine.

3) i really shouldn't share this last one...but Target occasionally has RETARDED deals on next-gen console games. examples: Skate (ps3) for 17 bucks...Bourne Ultimatum for 24...Pure for 27...MLB 08 for 15...and this week both Uncharted and Silent Hill homecoming for 41. check out their clearance endcaps near the videogame sections.

that will be all...

Scott Juster said...

I'm still trying to work my way through Killer 7, and I'm trying to work up the nerve to write about it.

I enthusiastically second the spreadsheet idea, pretty much in all areas of life. I've always it for food/rent budgeting, but I've been doing it for games recently and it really has made me more conscious of my spending habits.

Ben Abraham said...

How very appropriate and timely.

I must admit... I convinced my parents to buy me a PS2 when they first came out in Australia, in exchange for promising to study every week for the year.

The PS2 at launch in Australia was $800.

L.B. Jeffries said...

@ scott juster

After I beat it I looked at my notes, tapped out maybe a paragraph, and decided I'd have to replay it with fresh eyes to even remotely get a grip on the subject. I really liked the game though, even if I did need hints to understand how to beat the puzzles the whole way.

Iroquois Pliskin said...

first off, I'd like to apologize to all my readership for the picture of suze orman I affixed to this post. I was looking for the most cracked-out one I could find on google image search and I'm afraid to say I succeeded in my quest.

@mitch: I also have the sixty gig, after the price drop to $500, and I got a ridiculous deal on it by signing up for a sony card, which I've never used since. I have to say the backwards compatibility is a huge plus, since I've played more PS2 games on it than anything else.

@thesimplicity I just read your drunken impressions of Batman forever, she looks like a cold mistress.

@l.b. jeffries: I've been stuck on the first of Killer 7 for a while now. (the game has a lot of virtues, but its basic mechanics are not explained very well.) It was you and Thesimplicity that convinced me to buy it and I'm looking forward to going down the rabbit hole whenever I can manage to put Fallout 3 down.

Ender said...

I should probably sell some of my old games, but I really won't. Mostly because I like to put them in a shelf so that anyone can see them and know what games I've played. And that way I don't have to name every game I have when I ask somebody what they want to play. This is also, on my list, a con towards downloadable games, also the only one.