I must not Steam Sale.
Steam Sale is the wallet-killer.
Steam Sale is the little-spending that brings total budget obliteration.
I will face the Steam Sale.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn my browser to see its path.
Where the Steam Sale has gone there will be a hundred games from past sales I’ve yet to play.
Only this time my finances will remain.
It’s easy to keep a promise if you’d get fired by your boss if you didn’t. It’s easy keep a vow to a loved one if you’ll make them cry by breaking your word. But the very hardest promise to keep is one made to someone who will always give you another chance – someone to whom you have broken promise after promise and yet who still joyfully and gratefully accepts each new pledge with boundless optimism that this time you’ll pull through – someone who will never stop giving you another chance, forever and ever. Yes, it can be very hard to keep a promise to yourself.
At least it is for me. It’s not that I never keep promises to myself, but like most people, the things I say I want to do are not 100% in alignment with the things I actually want to do when it comes time to do them.
How many times have I promised myself that I wasn’t going to have a late-night snack? How many times have I sworn that I was going to do what needed doing, and then, somehow, never actually followed through? How many times have I proclaimed in my mind that I was going to make a change and then ... didn’t?
A hundred times in my life? I wish! A thousand? Oh yeah, way more than that. Ten thousand? Well, that would work out to around one broken promise to myself, on average, for every single day of my life since I was 10 years old. Do I really fail to follow through that often?
I’d like to say no. I’d like to say that on most days I’ve done every single, solitary, last thing I’ve told myself I’d do. I’d like to, but I’m not sure that would be true. So as a rough number, have I really broken 10,000 promises to myself?
Well, to check off essay cliché #7348-B, let’s define our terms: What is a promise to oneself? If I have a fleeting thought in my mind that roughly translates to the written sentence, “I should go for a run today,” and then I don’t go for a run, does that constitute a broken promise? Maybe; maybe not. When we are mentally talking to ourselves we often give our “self” a fair amount of wiggle room.
So what I’ve started to do, on the promises I truly want to commit to keeping, is to make them SMART (specific, manageable, realistic, and time based) and then write them down.
It might not sound like it’s much, but try it. Get out a piece of paper and write, “I promise to do X at time Y.” and then sign and date it. It’s my experience that the mere act of having a promise written down can create a different psychological mindset, which make us more likely to follow through on our goals.
The reason is simple: You can’t mentally re-write a promise if it’s on paper. If it’s on the page, it’s on the page and no amount of thinking, “I didn’t really mean …” can eliminate those black letters spelling out exactly what you committed to doing. That’s why the Chinese say, “广记不如淡墨.” ("Good memory is inferior to light ink.")
In that spirit, I wrote down this simple statement: “I will not buy a game unless I am going to play it as soon as I buy it.”
It was written in response to the last Steam sale, when I picked up some great bargains. I mean I got some really good deals on some fantastic games that I was truly excited to play. The problem was that by the time the next Steam Sale arrived, I had not played a single one.
There is a very depressing site called the Steam Calculator, and it informed me that out of the 221 games I own on Steam, I have yet to play 175 of them.
Not even for a minute. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!
My peak gaming years, when I played for more hours than any other time in my life, were between the ages of 5 and 18. During that period I purchased or was gifted maybe five or six games a year. Let’s be generous and say 6. So during my peak gaming years I got a total of 78 games. I played the crap out of each and every one of those games. But now the fact is that with a wife, kids, a job, a house, etc., etc., I’m averaging a little over 2 hours of gaming time PER WEEK. At that rate, if I spend an average of 30 hours per game, I’ll finish up my current library when I’m 88.
At this phase of life, I do not need to buy any more games. I just don’t.
I considered trying to go cold turkey and literally not buy a single game for at least a year, but I decided that no, I could buy a game if, and only if, I was going to play it as soon as I purchased it. That seemed a fair rule.
The Steam Sale was my first really hard test for that rule.
At first I thought that I wasn’t even going to look at the games on sale. I was going to just let the sale pass me by. And that worked right up until I got an email pointing out exactly which items in my wishlist were on sale.
I hadn’t put those games on my wish list by accident; they were all really intriguing games that I genuinely wanted to play, so I thought I could wait until found a good deal and just buy it and play it right then. That’s what I told myself, anyways.
The first game I saw was Nobunaga's Ambition Sphere of Influence at half price. I’d been on the fence on that one for a while. I had such vivid memories of playing Romance of the Three Kingdoms back in the NES days. I’m more than a little nostalgic in my gaming, and really wanted to relive that experience and see how it had changed, but I honestly wasn’t sure I was ready to spend $60 on it. So it went into the list.
Next up was Stardew Valley. I couldn’t play two games at once, but the idea of a slow-paced, relaxing farming game had decent appeal in my hurried life so ... basket. The Age of Decadence: basket. Wasteland 2: basket. Grand Theft Auto V: basket. Cities: Skylines: basket. That little shopping trip took me long enough that I had to stop and go take care of my next Very Important Adult Responsibility, so I held fast and didn’t buy anything.
Over the next couple of days I’d peek back on Steam, browse a few more titles and then put them into the basket. Before I knew it I had put 45 items in my basket, which is roughly an equal number of games as those I got through all of junior high and high school.
What was I doing? Well, I knew exactly: I was getting close to buying games I didn’t need because some part of my mind still thinks it lives in the body of a 11-year-old, suburban, latchkey kid on summer vacation, and that the only thing preventing me from playing a game is owning it. But I’m not that boy anymore. Absent an end-of-the-world situation, it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever not have the resources to be able to buy as many games as I have time to play.
Time is my limiting commodity these days, not money. I would not miss a mortgage payment if I paid full price for a game, but I would be spending money for nothing if I bought games I didn’t have time to play.
So I pulled out my little piece of paper, and I looked at it, “I will not buy a game unless I am going to play it as soon as I buy it.”
So simple. No wiggle room. No way for me to re-write it in my mind. Either I was going to play whatever game I bought – immediately – or I was going to break a written promise.
With a heavy, adult sigh, I looked at the note one final time and then deleted every Steam Sale game from my basket.
The written word held me steady on this truly minor problem I'm trying to fix. If I ever truly want to play any of those games at a given moment in the future, I’ll pay full price and save a lot of money by doing so. So I didn’t buy them. They’ll still be there, in the cloud, anytime I care to come back to them. My brain has trouble understanding that, which is why I have a little note to remind me.