Video games do not have to cost a lot, especially if you are willing to tinker and build a PC.
Warning: Video games can sap your drive for accomplishment. They can be immersive aka addictive. Limit to playing with other people remotely. Meet up in real-life whenever possible.
Video games and the good life.
Lately I have gotten interested in video games again.
Video games have a fondness in my heart because it was all I did as a hobby for almost a year. I was in medical school in the Philippines and between the 3-4 hours of commute each day, and the crushing amount of time spent studying and reading, it was all I could do.
I could boot up my laptop and plug in my USB mouse and zone out for an hour. When I found someone online that I knew, it was great. It felt like seeing someone when you travel.
The problem is that most gaming is on console nowadays --not PC-- and an Xbox or Playstation cost about $300-$500 plus games which average about $50 each.
I set out to figure out what I was looking for in gaming and how to get it without spending a ton of money.
The best video game for hanging out with friends locally is a Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo has some of the most fun casual hangout games: Stardew Valley. And lots of silly fun games too: Mario Kart, Overcooked. It even has good games for playing by yourself, one I would get is Zelda.
The best game system for playing FPS (first-person shooters) is still a PC.
The PC is underrated when you first think about gaming systems primarily because it is more fiddly and does not have a singular marketing team behind it.
For those trade-offs, you get a host of benefits:
- backwards compatibility with all your games
- widest choice and variety of games
- cheaper for subscription service - free AAA gaming or paid games on sale
- more powerful and much more customizable
- multi-use device - you can use your PC for actually being your computer as well as a gaming station, you can use your PC for video editing, photo editing, and other business expenses
- longevity - for not much more, or actually even less than a gaming system, you can create a gaming PC that can handle more more gaming
- use keyboard and mouse (which is lots of fun) or any controller (including Xbox, Playstation, and even old controllers)
- way faster
- not easy to set up for playing when friends are over
- have to know how to set up a machine -> although you can buy pre-built machines
- not plug and play like a console
What about the xBox and the PlayStation?
Xbox and PlayStation have all their hardware standardized. You know it will work, given that you have an internet connection. You just have to pay a bunch for the games, and if you upgrade, you usually cannot play the games on the new system. While I don't care for Xbox, the PlayStation controller is super comfortable and intuitive. And for ease of use, they cannot be beat. Plug in the system, set up your account, and get going.
The other benefit is actually having a separate machine for gaming. If you like to have different rooms or contexts for certain activites, then having a machine for gaming and a machine for working is nice.
If you do go this route, to save money, there are usually deals when the system is about a year old, bundles available at big box stores. If you play behind the technology curve, when a new system comes out, people start unloading their old systems for cheap. Like $100 for an Xbox and games. Or a few years after the Xbox One came out, you could buy 6 Xbox 360 games for $10 a piece. Those are usually $40-$60 each.
The hidden costs: monthly subscriptions
PlayStation and Xbox cost $60 a year to get online. Each of those has an additional fee of about $15 a month to access the 'unlimited' version where you can play free games or stream games.
The PC you can play games for free. Lots of them.
If you want to play online with friends, well, they most likely have Xbox or Playstation, so you would pay $5 a month. However, for $5 a month, you get the unlimited gaming version.
Addiction to video games
Warning: Video games can sap your drive for accomplishment. They can be immersive aka addictive. The problem is that in-game achievements often have lower real-world benefits. For me, video games are best limited to playing with other people as a remote activity. Or as an alternative to sitting and watching TV (which we already limit).
I have found them good for zone-out relaxation. And good for an 'activity' to keep in touch with friends who live far away.
Our solution: get a Nintendo Switch for playing when friends are over.
The Nintendo Switch for playing when friends are over. It is the best one for bringing on a trip, bar none. It is the only system that is actually portable. If we were to purchase something, it would be a Nintendo Switch and play some games online with people.
Right now, we have an old Xbox for playing between the two of us. And, well, it is fun because it does not cost us anything because people basically want to get rid of their systems. The games themselves are just as fun, it is just that they are not compatible anymore with the new setup. Online is not really worth it, but for people playing locally it is fun and easier than setting up the computer.
Our solution: Online gaming on the PC
For my personal playing or when playing with friends online. I am opting to build out my desktop PC as a gaming machine. It does not take much.
When my laptop died, I decided to get a desktop because I like the functionality. They are way cheaper for the performance you get. To play the newest, most intensive games, I can do with what I have, but to get the gameplay solid I need to add or upgrade the graphics card. In 2020, there are graphics cards from 2-3 years ago that are selling for around $150. There is a price bubble right now because of the increased demand from COVID-19. I should be able to get these for around $100.
It was glorious though. For an hour I would not have to think about stuff. It was mindless. It was just mindless fun. A challenge for the brain, but also mindless.
I am looking to bring it back, but as a positive in my life.
I have been lonely. mainly lonely for people who understand me, who get my sense of humor, who like having fun and messing around and who are high quality people still too.
This is another thing that the quarantine has helped me realize. Lots of people still play video games. And the beautiful thing about video games is that you can stay in touch with people who are not local to you. You have something to do together. That is the problem I am looking to solve.
Of course the alternatives are making actual phone calls, but it is nice to do something together. To have a shared experience. That is more than just saying stuff about what happened or what funny thing you did or heard about or are recommending.
This is another thing that the quarantine has helped me realize. Lots of people still play video games. And the beautiful thing about video games is that you can stay in touch with people who are not local to you. You can 'do something' together instead of just rehashing your days.
Of course, it is fun to work on projects together as a way to bond, but sometimes you need to do fun relaxing things too.
Work on projects as a way to bond with people
I set up my desktop as a gaming PC for cheap
Desktop vs Laptop Frugality
Pros of a desktop PC