Shopping: the Real-Life RPG Grind

Anxiously, I leaned forward in my seat, my hands falling to their natural resting-place on the keyboard. The timer clicked down, and I knew that my window of opportunity was quickly closing. I wiped the beads of sweat from my forehead and braced for the repercussions of my impending decision. Could I pull it off? Was this the last item that I needed? Could I hold off a bit longer? I clicked the button and *boom* it was all over.

But wait. What’s that? Oh yeah… I didn’t save my credit card information the last time I was here because I’m paranoid that Steam will lose my information… Shit. Where’s my wallet?

I wish that this was a rare story, but it’s one I find myself doing more and more these days as I mindlessly flail around in the contemporary world of gaming. The stress? The nervous tension? Unfortunately, it’s all real for me, because I keep getting caught up in the pervasive game of gaming.

Without getting on a soapbox and yelling at all of the young ‘uns about how different it was in my day, let me just say that games were few and far between. I had to save up before I could get a new game, and my stack of cartridges (or floppy discs—damn I’m old) didn’t get too terribly high; there just weren’t that many games, and I didn’t have that much money.

A few months ago, I found myself ponderingwhat game I was going to get next. I thought for a second, and I counted about ten games that I had. I didn’t really feel like playing any of them, so I jumped online and started shopping. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you know that there’s no shortage of games out there. And more and more, we have more access to games than ever before. My usual shopping route consisted of these main stops (but usually not in this order; I just don’t feel like giving any of the big guys the pleasure of knowing that I go there first):

  2. Amazon
  3. Steam
  4. Xbox Live
  5. PSN
  6. Gamestop
  7. App Store

After not finding anything that seemed particularly awesome (or cheap), I thought, “You know what? I might have more games than I think I do.”

So I opened up Excel and took notes. 46 entries later, I stopped. I hadn’t even really gone into the bulk of my iOS games, and I was sitting on a huge stack of games. These weren’t just shitty minis, either; I had just joined PS+ a few months before, so my Instant Collection was already putting a sizable hit on my new 500 gb hard drive, and based on my love of Steam Sales, I had 25 games in my Steam Library (now it’s closer to 50, but I digress). Something was wrong. Why did I have that many games and feel like I didn’t have enough?

Maybe it’s the gold-collecting Mario exerting his influence on me as a gamer. Maybe it’s the grinding sessions (no not those kinds of grinding sessions) that I did in RPGs for years. Maybe it’s Western capitalism and the ever-increasing need for more more more that caused me to want to accumulate more.

Or maybe I am just a greedy little bastard.

I don’t place blame on any one thing, as I think it’s a much more complicated issue than saying “it’s your fault, you motherfu…” or something less harsh directed at one entity.

I will say that it doesn’t help people like me to have trophies and achievements that transcend any one game, creating a whole new level on top of games. We can measure our meta-gaming by comparing these virtual accessories, seeing who the ultimate gamers really are (or who the achievement whores are—take your pick). But on some level, as more and more games come onto the market (some at ridiculously low prices), there’s going to be that drive to get more and more and more.

Of course, I don’t mean to say that this is a negative thing—far from it. I am not placing blame for anything on anyone other than myself, so all that negativity is probably just a bunch of self-loathing that just accidentally sounds like external hatred of something.

It’s a great time to be a gamer because of all the different choices we have. We’re not stuck with some tiny stack of cartridges that continually need to be blown into just to get them to work. We can have our Steam library bursting over with goddamn indie goodness, we can hoard a ton of 99¢ iOS apps, and we can pay a flat rate to Sony to access a teeny-tiny video game version of Netflix Watch Instantly (but without all of the horror movies starring Debbie Gibson).

Depending on what kind of mood I am in, I can sit down and pick a game out of my multi-system library to meet that need (and apparently, I have been needing to exercise my clicking-finger lately in Torchlight). And sometimes, I just need to play some pinball. And there’s also that secret game that I keep hidden in a metaphorical closet, far from the prying eyes of friends with real taste.

Point is, it’s a great time to be a gamer. And while gaming in moderation might be good advice, for some people (especially the ones like me), shopping for games should probably be done in moderation. Seriously.  I got drunk one night and re-upped a monthly subscription to a failing MMO based on a George Lucas intellectual property. When you can drunk-dial a video game and create that weird awkward morning-after realization that you’ve made a terrible mistake, it’s time to start being a little more mindful about the games that you let in your life.

And by “you” I mean “me.” Well, and “I” sometimes.



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