Confessions of a Steam Addict

The 2014 Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, which brings out the deal hunting shopaholic in all of us... but more for some people than others.

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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?
Managing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 23, 2014 12:00 PM

    Steven Wong posted a new article, Confessions of a Steam Addict.

    The 2014 Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, which brings out the deal hunting shopaholic in all of us... but more for some people than others.

    • reply
      June 23, 2014 12:02 PM

      I definitely admit to buying less stuff during Steam sales nowadays...mostly because I already own most of what goes on sale.

      http://steamcommunity.com/id/romsteady

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        June 23, 2014 12:42 PM

        I'm Pretty well in the same boat as you Rom, everything I care to have I already do. Most of my purchases now adays are things I MIGHT be interested in, but am unwilling to pay more than $3-5 dollars for.

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        June 23, 2014 12:55 PM

        That's where I am these days. In the very least hasn't been much that interests me.

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        June 23, 2014 1:27 PM

        you are insane

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        June 23, 2014 1:37 PM

        It's like The Louvre of game collections. Even if you only played each one for one minute, that'd be over 20 hours.

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      June 23, 2014 12:36 PM

      I bought the PopCap collection last year and haven't played a single one.

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      June 23, 2014 12:44 PM

      I have so many games on Steam now that most of the sales just aren't very interesting. I find myself looking at the community choice options and just going "Ehhhh".

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      June 23, 2014 1:03 PM

      WAIT! ... i have a problem? i thought this was normal.

      *sigh* <opens steam>

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      June 23, 2014 1:14 PM

      http://steamdb.info/calculator/?player=pinhead82¤cy=us Hmm.. $3238.73 worth of games, only 50% played. Nah, I don't have a problem. No sir.

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        June 23, 2014 5:29 PM

        Fantastic site. Thank you! Seems my account is over $7k and haven't played 84% of them. : /

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          June 23, 2014 5:34 PM

          seems it doesn't calculate DLC. so, the accounts are worth even more.

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          June 23, 2014 6:44 PM

          $17K and 71% not played. :|

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        June 24, 2014 11:57 AM

        One thing to keep in mind with that site is the value is what everything costs right now on the store I believe. Mine says $1187.17 of value, but when I total up my purchases on steam it comes to $769.93. Some games I paid more for, but many more games I paid less or got for free.

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      June 23, 2014 1:18 PM

      I am staying away for the most part. I already have way too many games I don't play.

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      June 23, 2014 1:25 PM

      I started buying less about a year ago because I found that I was buying so many games on sale that by the time I got to some of them, they had gone on sale again for even cheaper. Now I figure I buy a few cheap games (rarely spend more than $10 on a game, if that) that I know will last me until the Holiday sale, and I'm good. Usually I tend to go back to some older games or a multiplayer game, or even stop gaming for a little bit in the meantime too.

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      June 23, 2014 1:31 PM

      It helps picking a genre and sticking to it. If you're only so-so about a genre, don't buy anything in it. You won't stick with games from there and it'll just be a waste of money.

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      June 23, 2014 1:33 PM

      $10,345.92......holy poop.....

      Well, at least I've at least fired up 66% of em at least once.....

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        June 23, 2014 1:39 PM

        That's crazy.

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        June 23, 2014 1:46 PM

        Taking a closer look at that list, its a bit skewed I think. The majority of games I haven't played are ones I didn't really care for from bundles (which adds to the money total) and games I bought more for nostalgia/archival purposes (like RTCW) but still....holy poop.

        Makes me feel a little better that games that I paid over 10 for I played for quite some time, not much better, but a little.

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      June 23, 2014 2:00 PM

      At this point the Steam sales about clearing out the ever shrinking wishlist; often just buying a backup to a title I already own on another platform. This year I've only picked up two games, Papers, Please and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.

      Pretty sure it was same during the last sale: GOTY Indie title + Console title.

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      June 23, 2014 2:32 PM

      There should be a word that describes that feeling you get when you see a game come up on sale, you click on it wondering what it is, and find out that you already own it.

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      June 23, 2014 6:44 PM

      I am not one! I am too cheap and no time to play any games these days. HA!

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      June 23, 2014 6:57 PM

      Nope. Not a one. Buy responsibly folks.

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        June 23, 2014 10:56 PM

        It's not about responsibility. Many times games come in bundles and shit starts stacking up. I have a bunch of crap because of the humble bundle. Those bundles are usually two great games, at a good price, and then whatever else they can unload on you.

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          June 24, 2014 2:16 PM

          I was making a joke out of the "Drink responsibly" ads.

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      June 23, 2014 11:12 PM

      lol I've spent maybe $150 since steam was released...

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        June 24, 2014 4:53 AM

        Do you not like video games or something?

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      June 24, 2014 3:46 AM

      This article basically reached into my brain and described my addiction to a T. It's scary to know there's others out there afflicted with the same Steam madness compulsions.

      To illustrate the depths of crazy to which we addicts plunge: I am currently stuck with a Mac and have been buying games *in anticipation* of the Windows beast I plan to buy when Oculus Rift comes out. Many of these games I've already played years ago (such as the id bundle mentioned in the article) and bought for the same completionist reasons - rationalising to myself that "hey, maybe someone will port it to Rift, so it would be worth replaying Doom 1 again). Madness.

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      June 24, 2014 5:01 AM

      On the other hand Steam sales and the many titles I now own are extremely effective at keeping me from buying one of the nextge consoles for the foreseeable future. So I am really saving money here.

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      June 24, 2014 9:08 AM

      I am not a Steam addict. I am a Steam WHORE! WHORE I SAY! I cannot pass up a A or even B list title under 60% off. It's a weakness my whore nature cannot resist. Todays whoring was System Shock 2 for nostalgia sake and Kerbal Space Program because every good Steam whore should practice safe orbital mechanics.

      I am a Steam whore and I own 348 games.

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        June 24, 2014 9:22 AM

        I would kill to only have 348 games again....bigger is not better it seems in this case.