Confessions of a Steam Addict

Hello, my name is Steven Wong and I'm a Steam addict. I have way too many games in my digital library, over half of which I've never beaten or loaded up for more than an hour if at all. I won't go into specifics, but without taking into account DLC, if I played every game in my library for 20 hours each and did nothing else, I should have enough entertainment to last me through the next fifteen years or more... and I'm still adding to it. That's only if you count what's in my Steam library. The number rises significantly when you tally up games I have on Origin and GoG. I've had customer service reps gasp in disbelief over the phone when they saw how extensive my game collection was.

Admitting to a Problem

Call it a symptom of being a video game journalist, which does have a great deal of truth to it, but doesn't tell the whole story. The other day, I opened up my Steam library and spotted a game that I didn't recognize. I had no idea what it was, when I bought it, or why I had it installed. Then I spotted a few other games that I didn't recognize. That's when I realized that I had a problem. I've been an avid user of the Steam since Valve first switched it on in 2003, and about the only game you could get from it was Half-Life 2. When I found out that I could redeem the CD Key from my copy of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic for a digital copy, I remember thinking that this was the future of video games. Although I've been adding to my library for over a decade, my collection didn't really start to expand until the Steam Sales and deals started. Bundles were the first to really kick things off. How could I resist owning the entire id Software collection for one low price? It didn't matter that the likelihood of me playing through Wolfenstein 3D was practically nil. What mattered was having it as a reminder of when I first started playing video games as a kid. From this stems the completionist compulsion in me. I picked up Quake IV as soon as it went on sale not because I had any particularly fond memories of playing it, but because I already owned every other Quake game. There were also bundles with only one game that interested me, but presented a far better value than buying the game alone. Why purchase just one game when I could own six for two dollars more? These purchases probably led to some of the more bewildering titles in my library. To get a further idea of how deep my obsession gets, I'm intermittently checking the Flash Sale updates during the Steam 2014 Summer Sale as I'm writing this article. I check email messages with the subject line “A game on your wishlist is on sale” with a sort of holiday curiosity and glee. There's a slight tinge of disappointment when the Daily Deal updates and I realize that I own half the listings, and I don't have any interest in the rest. Don't get me wrong, with the exception of some of the bundles, I generally have the intention of playing the games that I buy. In fact, I've played through a good percentage of them, and in some cases replayed them. But that doesn't balance out the volume of ones I haven't touched.

Farming-Simulator 2013 Titanium Edition! I've always wanted to grow titanium.

Understanding the Condition

For me, Steam Sales combine two primal emotions: Desire and fear. There's the desire to own and collect, along with the fear of passing up a good bargain. Both are followed by a degree of pleasure derived from owning something shiny and new, even if I end up never playing it. I also happen to be an eclectic gamer who enjoys everything from action shooters to cerebral strategy games, and almost everything in between. Steam Sales can become a sort of treasure hunt, like browsing a garage sale or flea market, but without dealing with second-hand goods. They're an opportunity to take a risks with games that I might not otherwise buy, and maybe end up with an utterly fantastic surprise experience. If not, then at least the low price would help soften the blow. Then there's the indirect peer pressure. Friends talk about some of the great games they've played and think about how I need to try that out myself. Sure, being included in the conversation might not sound like the greatest reason for obsessing over Steam, but it costs about ten bucks or more to see a movie. I can get one, two, maybe three games for the same amount of money, which will provide me far more than two hours worth of entertainment.

But all this leads to something on a more sociological level. I am a product of an age where there is a ton of cheap media available, which includes games, books, music, movies and television shows. There's an overwhelming amount of inexpensive entertainment out there, and not nearly enough hours in the day to consume it all. But that doesn't mean that some part of me doesn't want to try. I've become a digital hoarder and shopaholic. Knowing that whatever I might be in the mood for is there, available to download anytime I want it, brings me a sense of comfort. Outside of my diminished bank account, there are few negative consequences to building up a gigantic library. These possessions only exist in the abstract. No need to set up a book shelves for DVD cases, or set aside attic/basement space for games I don't play anymore. I don't have to dig through stacks of boxes to find the one game I might be in the mood for. Furthermore, I can take them anywhere I want. If I visit a friend and want to show them a game, I just need to log in to my account and download it. If I'm going on a trip, I can install a couple of games onto my notebook and be guaranteed a distraction whenever I need it. On the downside, there are no physical reminders of my habitual shopping, which makes getting it under control that much harder.

Recovery, but No Regrets

Admitting to a problem isn't the same as wanting to fix it. The way I see it, I'm banking on the future. This is my investment in the idea that I'll have a long life, and that someday I'll have the time to sit down and play all the games I've been meaning to. Or that I'll call up my friends and say, “Hey remember that game we used to play? Let's get a match going right now.” With some luck, no more events similar to GameSpy and possibly GFWL shutting down multiplayer functionality will ruin those dreams. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Uplay. It's the hope that someday I'll be able to show my kid what I grew up with so that he can have a good laugh and make fun of me. However, I have become more selective over the years. I still keep an eye on the Daily Deals and Flash Sales, but am far less impulsive than I used to be. Although I still pick up a few games that look like they might be fun, I stay away from ones I know that I'll never play, no matter how low the price gets. Furthermore, I try to stick close to things I have on my wishlist. Considering how extensive my wishlist is, that might not be much of a restriction, but it helps guide my purchases. I've also found that having vast library is having a subconscious effect on me. Having a huge variety of games at my disposal means that I can put off picking up additional ones until they reach an irresistibly low price.

When discounts become an act of democracy, freedom, and co-op gameplay

I think I'm getting close to some sort of Steam Sale inoculation. With the exception of picking up DLC and gifts for upcoming birthdays and holidays, I find myself buying fewer games with each successive sale. I'm also more willing to pass up on deals in the hopes that those games will sell for an even lower price in six months, when Steam has its second annual sale. Maybe that's simply managing my addiction - learning to live with it instead of overcoming it - but that's ok. One step at a time, right?

What About You?

Do you have any Steam Sale confessions and/or stories? Share them with us in the comments. No one here is in the position to judge. Also don't forget to check out our Steam Sale Survival Guide to help get you get the best deals. It might not be a twelve-step program, but it's better than nothing, right?