As I look at my Steam games list following their annual holiday sale I can't help but feel more than a little embarrassed by how many titles I bought because they were "deals" instead of games I'll ever put any real time into. Like a pot head who just stumbled into a supermarket, everything just looked so good with that $4.99 price tag on it. We’ll get to my list in a minute, but I’ll spoil the surprise and tell you that I’ll play half of them for about 30 minutes and never, ever touch them again.
These deals and insane publisher game packs have turned selective game buyers into sudden onset collectors. It’s not enough for Deus Ex to be snug in a jewel case and shoved into a basement closet somewhere; it needs to be on THE LIST. The ‘My Games’ tab on Steam isn’t just a launch pad for your game library -- it’s a gaping maw, a whisper in your head that there’s comfort to be found in THE LIST. The bigger THE LIST, the happier you’ll be. What if there’s a Star Wars Jedi Knight II emergency? Take comfort, it’s right there, ready for launch. But you’ll never click on it, will you? There’s always something new to play, but THE LIST doesn’t care. Its appetite is insatiable. Let’s have a look at what I’ve recent shoveled into the digital maw to keep it sated and see what Valve is really selling.
A Farewell to Dragons
Atari: 80 Classic Games in One
Ben There, Dan That!
Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box
Defense Grid: The Awakening
Deus Ex: Game of The Year Edition
Lumines (With Advance Pack)
Sid Meier's Civilization IV
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Warlords
Star Wars Jedi Knight Pack
World in Conflict: Soviet Assault
Time Gentlemen, Please!
Total money spent: $80.80
But wait! That’s a lot of game for a mere $80.80, isn’t it? It is, but if I’m being honest I would have spent $0 on a normal day. I blame the constant Steam sale thread updates and the resulting debates about whether this or that game was even worth the sale price. I was buying games just to prove to people wrong. I’ll never play Lumines. Atari Classics? Am I insane?!
The genius of this digital fire sale method is that they've converted old PC games no one cares about into commodities. "Buy low, sell high" doesn't really jive since you can't actually sell your Steam games, but the "buy low" principle is in full effect. Burnout Paradise currently sells for $29.99. It resides there as a good price for people who never got around to it on a console or finally got a PC that can handle the graphical demands. I played the 360 version so at that price it's just a game I've already experienced and not worth a second look. But for $7.49? THE LIST whispers that maybe I'll feel like racing on my PC some rainy day in the future. It's not a game anymore, it's an umbrella.
Steam and services like it have turned games into tube socks. It’s not enough to simply buy what I want to play; now I can buy games I’ll never play unless I lose my job or the apocalypse comes. That’s the dream Steam is selling – that I’ll ever have time to play what I buy. They count on THE LIST forever perching on my shoulder and telling me these games used to be $50 and now, only a year later, I can buy them for $5. What a deal! What riches available to me now. What a list!
I’ll see you at the next Friday sale with money clenched tightly in my fist. Buying the dream.