Games retailers play games with us. Double cash back for your used game, so long as that cash comes back to us in the form of a used console purchase! Or my favorite, the toy store offering all games at super discount of their games, only they stocked a mere five titles — one of which was good, and it's sold out. I get it: They want to get us excited about doing business with them. Ideally, they want buying games to be as much fun as playing games.
The folks running the Steam put extra effort into this, and probably get extra room to experiment due to being part of a forward-looking private company in a generally forward-facing industry. Steam encourages programs to help us laugh about how much time we've wasted via Steam. They toy with us via flash sales. And then there are the sale games themselves, voting for your favorite game to get a discount, or getting tokens for trading game items and coupons — tokens that might be worth more coupons.
Somehow Steam has done something more, though. We are experiencing emergent play based around their sales.
I've gotten used to seeing friends rise through the ranks of games writing to show up on pages like Kotaku. I like seeing friends get recognition, even if it also means getting exposed to comment sections from more mainstream sites. But today is the first time I've seen a Kotaku post book-ended by Tweets from my friends. I've noticed this happening in social spaces all across the internet, though: We are not just joking about our silly and irrational experiences with Steam Sales, we are to the point where we playfully imagine new ways for Steam to help us gladly give them our money.
It started with jokes and schemes. Jokes about the pile, about getting games that we'll never get around to playing while they're cheap. About filthy enablers getting us to admit that we really wanted to give Steam that money all along.
And schemes. Schemes to never buy a game while it's publisher's games were all on sale over the course of the week, but waiting to make sure the game itself didn't get a deeper discount. We form groups to get package deals, and sometimes there's an extra license in the deal that we kick over to a friend in need of some entertainment. You combine fun and strategy, though, and out pops something that looks a lot like a simple game.
And that's not the only Steam Sale game we're making up. Over the years, we've started to make games about enabling game purchases, especially Steam purchases. GWJ being such a marvelously positive and outgoing place, we got into giving people gift copes of games. Sometimes games from their wish list, or games we think they might enjoy. Sometimes games that the recipient doesn't even want. Sometimes games that nobody wants.
We are beyond simple emergent games of bowling for pedestrians in an open world; we've gone from general emergent play onto deviant play. We have emergent trolling of Steam gifts. At the GameStop down the block, I can only imagine this happening as part of some elaborate hidden-camera or sketch comedy show, where a friend would browse the store, maybe make one or two considered purchases, and then they'd leave. Except as they opened the door to leave, I'd spring at them, stuff Secret Of The Magic Crystals under their arm, and run away, laughing maniacally.
[Side note: Please do not pitch that idea to GameStop's board of directors.]
We now have over 4,000 posts on a GWJ thread specifically titled as discussion about gifting games. I just visited our Summer Sale Gift-All thread today for the first time. Honestly, I haven't really had time to check any threads except the Front Page and the Writers Guild for weeks now. But somehow I've personally received free games off my wish list every blinking day since the sale started.
You people are monsters — adorable, playful monsters. I love you and thank you, and I'm sure Steam does, too.