Your 9 Dollar Gaming Bill--Your Hobby on the Cheap

As gamers go, the current economy can be a bit of a worrisome affair. Nobody’s hiring, our President wants to spend 900 Billion dollars to save money (say what?) and of course the prices on our favorite hobby just keep climbing higher and higher. What’s a gamer to do with little cash but a whole lot of spare time?

Get a girlfriend/boyfriend

Alright, I kid. We know we’re alright in that area. No, I’m talking about pricing here people. The economy is in a crunch, and we start to wonder which we really want more—the TP or the $60 game. Laugh if you must but I’ve seen people at Wal-mart faced with this decision.

The best decision? Be smart with your money. You can be financially fiscal and still have a decent collection of games. It may require a little bit of sacrifice, but is it really too much to ask for financial stability in these times? As such, I propose several rules of living that the fiscally sound gamer can live by (I sure have) to make ends meet but still get the most out of their hobby.

Rule #1) Never impulse buy.
You know, back when games were around $40 a shot, not the $50-$60 they are today, impulse buys were a bit less of a worry. But nowadays you really can’t afford to throw down $50-$60 on a game you may not even enjoy. That’s why a good rule of thumb is to never impulse buy. Impulse buys poise a problem both as a significant waste of money, but also as habit forming. Once you get your mindset that you can purchase a game on a whim, before long it’s a habit, and a very expensive one.

Rule #2) Know the Game you want to purchase.
Try the demo and read the reviews. If you absolutely must have a game, then make sure you really know what you’re buying into before you walk off with something you really don’t enjoy. Try downloading the demo to play it for yourself, look for reviews, or even better talk to a friend who has the game or has tried it. Or just borrow his. If you find the demo to be to inconclusive to what you expect from the game, the best bet is to:

Rule #3) Rent if in doubt!
Renting a game is a great way to get the full experience of a high-priced game without the high cost. Consider a rental as a long term demo. Most places give you the game for an entire week, which is plenty of time to beat the average game. Given that it’s a price of $7-$10 dollars, you can save about $40. If you really feel you must own it after that, well then there is always:

Rule #4) Patience
As a general rule, 99% of all games out there, you can wait on. You don’t need it immediately, and there is no harm in waiting for the price of games to drop, and they will. Although you may miss out on the hype (and in hindsight be grateful) you have the benefit of buying two or three games for the price of one. If your wallet is hurting, patience is a great way to get the game you want. A few games I’ve grabbed at lower prices:
Supreme Commander Gold: $30. Cost at launch? Supreme Commander: $50, Expansion: $40-Total-$90
F-Zero GX: $20. Cost at Launch-$40
Advance Wars Dual Strike: $20. Cost at Launch-$40
Savings on those three games? $100!

Rule #5) Rediscover your old games
Hey, you still have that pile of old games right? Break them out! You used to love them for a reason. Best part, if their PC games, you can likely find a ready supply of free user created modifications that add new life to your old games. For example, I have a modification (or Mod for short) called “The Rise of the Reds” for one of my strategy games, which adds an entirely new side (the Russians) to the game. Viola, more game for my original dollar. The mod was free

Rule #6) Discover Freeware and Indie games
Freeware and indie games are a great source of creative, fun and cheap games made by small one or two-man teams. Most of these games are usually found through the internet, and while gameplay varies from title to title, the price can't be beat. Some games from this category become runaway hits, such as Audiosurf. Indie and freeware games are a great place to find some good thrills. As a side plug for my fellow game blogger Time Enforcer Anubis, this month over on her She's Lost Control gaming blog, she's devoting the whole month of February to freeware and indie games. Take a look!

So don't let the economy scare you. You can keep your hobby and have cash.

Games I'm Currently Playing: Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (PC), Resident Evil 4 (GameCube), Gears of War 2 (360), OverLord (360), Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)

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