On Being a Budget Gamer

I play old games. That might be a strange thing to admit, but it’s true. I have an odd compulsion to collect and play lots of video games, but to also not want to spend a whole lot of money doing so. These statements might appear to be at odds with each other. I mean, video games are expensive, right?

So, kind of out of necessity, I became somewhat of a bargain hunter. A connoisseur of cheap games, if you will. I know what you’re probably thinking, “Cheap games? Everyone knows that cheap games are awful. They’re games with no marketing budgets and no development budgets, and they’re designed to separate uninformed parents who don’t want to spend a whole lot from their money.” And, yes, you’d be right in most cases.

So, what do you do?

Do you pony up $50 or more per game? That gets expensive real fast.

Do you buy and sell used games? It’s tough to build a collection if you’re selling everything off when you’re done with it, and used games are usually missing some important component, like the final install disc or a serial number. Not to mention that buying a game for $50, selling it back to the store for $25 in store credit so they can resell it for $45 means that they sold the game twice and essentially charged you $25 to rent it.

Do you rent? Renting is a great way to play a lot of games for cheap, assuming that the people that had the game before you did handled the game with a reasonable amount of care (i.e. didn’t use the disc as a surrogate dinner plate one day when the dishes were dirty. But you don’t build up much of a collection from borrowing, and if you ever want to go back and play a game that’s become out of print… well tough luck.

The best compromise I’ve found is to stay a couple of years behind the curve. This actually has several benefits.

  1. You get to figure out of the game is actually any good by taking a look at the user reviews, which I admit are mostly worthless. You have to filter out the reviews that blindly give out perfect scores because, “OMG the game is sooo good because it has Cloud in it and he and Aerith are both going to totally make the game awesome, and I haven’t played it yet, but it’s obviously perfect in every way, LOLz!” You have to also filter out the ones that give the game a zero because, “OMG the grafx are totally gay, and I haven’t played it and won’t play it because Link totally looks like a girl.”
  2. Bugs get worked out and games get patched. This is more true for PC games, but there have been several console games where later versions have quietly been released to fix a bug or two.
  3. Again, this mostly applies to PC games, but running games that are a little behind the curve means that if you have a reasonably powered PC, you can push the games to their absolute limit, and have them look as good as possible.
  4. Probably most important of all, playing games that are on the verge of going out of print or have just gone out of print are going to be dirt cheap. Which is one of my favorite prices.

So, let’s take a look at some of my recent finds for the PC:

Game Cost
Painkiller: Gold Edition $6.00
Medieval 2: Total War $7.50
Medieval 2: Total War Kingdoms $7.50
King’s Quest Collection $5.00
SimCity Societies $8.00
Total $34

Not bad, right? I got five reasonably good games for slightly more than half the price of a full-priced game.


Of course this also means that I have to keep up on the latest releases to know what’s going to be good in a few years. And I have to put up with the sneers of my peers when I get excited about getting a game that they’ve already played through and retired four or more years ago, so I’ll end up buying a new game at full cost occasionally to keep up appearances. But that doesn’t really work very well. That label of ‘plays old games’ is permanently affixed to my forehead.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.