I’ve been in to gaming since a young age. Some of my first experiences were with the likes of the NES and the first DOS games on my dad’s Intel 80386, more commonly know as a 386. It’s been my favorite past time ever since. However I find myself battling to keep up with gaming because, unless you’ve been living under a rock, the price of gaming has skyrocketed in South Africa. The weak Rand has made a $60 game go from R300 – R400 a few years back to easily R800 – R1000 now. To put that in perspective, that’s 5-7% of the average South African person’s monthly salary per game.
Quite shocking isn’t it?
1 year ago I became a dad. Suddenly all the disposable income I used to have disappeared in to nappies, clothes, daycare etc; My gaming days seemed numbered. Now throw the weakening rand and computer component prices in to the mix and it seemed really, very bleak for my gaming as a hobby. So over the last year I have streamlined my gaming experience by being conscious of what I buy, when I buy and what value the game will have overall.
It is possible to game on a smaller budget even on older hardware. There are games that offer months worth of gaming and change regularly enough to keep a person fairly entertained. Your biggest enemies against affordable gaming (Especially on PC) are short, cinematic games. Games that offer maybe 6 hours of gaming tops are the enemy of affordable gaming. They may have some tacked on multiplayer modes but that rarely allows for entertaining a person through lengthy periods of gaming “drought” where you cannot afford to buy a game. You are ideally looking at getting games that have features that will keep you coming back. This does mean that you’ll more than likely require an internet connection as you’ll have to play mostly connected games. Even though I really don’t like the always connected gaming vibe for single player games, it has its benefits for games that are constantly being updated and kept fresh.
So which games are we talking about? Well let’s start with my list of what I believe to be the best games to keep you going without being forced to spend a fortune every quarter when new games release. This will hopefully help a person stay in gaming as a hobby.
There is no shortage of First Person Shooters on the market. There are so many it often becomes quite daunting to decide what to play. I’ve found Planetside 2 to be one of the best go to options for my FPS action needs.
What makes it good?
With so many competitive FPS games out there it becomes a pain to try and keep up with the community unless you have the time to spend gaining levels and and getting the best equipment so that you don’t end up playing a match feeling utterly useless. Now Planetside 2 is no stranger to this, but what makes it different is that you don’t actually need all of that. You see there is so much happening in the game due to its scale that you have hundreds of players that can be around you at any given time. You are in the thick of things so often that it doesn’t matter that you have a smaller rifle compared to your opponent. With so many other players, attention is split and you don’t ever become a “weak” point for your team. You never really feel bad if you don’t level and get better gear because the community is far more forgiving than in games like Battlefield or Call of Duty. There are so many players that it rarely matters to the general community if there are a few low level guys. That means that you can always find a way to be useful and enjoy your experience. There is nothing like storming a map point as cannon fodder infantry while you have 20 tanks around the parameter bombarding the stronghold with heavy fire. It feels exhilarating even if your kill/death ratio is low.
Planetside 2 is one of the best jump in, play, jump out games. You don’t have to spend hours to gain levels, you don’t need to grind for gear. The game is balanced enough with competitive and fun elements to keep it a go to FPS that is at home in any gamer’s library.
The best part is that it’s free. No frills, no fuss. Download, play whenever you feel like it. Even if you only have 10 – 20 minutes to waste.
Diablo 3 had a rocky start to say the least. It felt like a half finished game and had I written this article in the year of its release it wouldn’t have had a mention other than to say “don’t”. But now the game has changed and has become a staple of my gaming life.
What makes it good?
The game has replayability going for it now that keeps you coming back for more. With the addition of Seasonal Characters that introduce new items each season, adventure modes and Greater Rifts pushing you to try climb the difficulty levels higher and higher, it really is a game that doesn’t seem to have an upper limit. If you want to spend some good money on a game that will last, this is a definite yes. What allows it to slot in to affordable gaming? Well if a game can last you a year off one purchase then it’s absolutely worth it. You’ll spend money one time on a game that will keep your top down RPG bug in check.
Path Of Exile
So this is an article on affordable gaming and if you cannot spend the money on Diablo 3, then Path Of Exile is an excellent alternative. It’s the go to game that many Diablo players went to when Diablo 3 first didn’t live up to expectations.
What makes it good?
It’s got a complex, intricate and often times confusing skill tree, with countless optimisation options to suite your exact play style. It’s what Diablo 3 lacked and I guess still does to a large degree. For anyone who is a fan of the top down RPG scene and cannot afford to get the ones out on market at the moment, this is a must have. It will keep you going for months with the amount of customisation that can go in to each and every character. The look and feel of the game is also a lot more gritty like the top down RPG’s of yesteryear. It hits a person right in the nostalgia region.
I personally haven’t played in a while but when I did play it kept me busy for a long time and I wasn’t anywhere close to the end. Just like the games of old, you’d have to reroll a character a few times to get it “just right” and to learn exactly what works and doesn’t. Frustrating for some but perfect to bulk up your gaming options. This game sits perfectly in to the theme of affordable gaming.
Guild Wars 2
For a long time when you mentioned “MMO” people would immediately associate it with World Of Warcraft. The MMO genre was also seen as a money sink and not something you’d attribute with “affordable gaming”. It required monthly subs and unless you spent hours each day playing, it would be a waste of time to spend that money each month. But that all changed with new MMO’s popping up all over to try and vie for the top spot that World Of Warcraft held so long. Now granted WoW is still pretty much king of the hill, but if there is 1 game that I had to pin down as being the one closest to taking that spot it would have to be Guild Wars 2.
What makes it good?
The first one introduced the “Pay once, play forever” model of MMO gaming. This is what makes Guild Wars 2 not only a smart buy but a solid one as well. The maps are huge, the game itself is visually stunning and the Living World mechanics in the game make it the best MMO I’ve ever played. The content is more than enough to keep a person coming back for long time to come. The buy once, play forever philosophpy resonates well with me as an older generation gamer because that’s how I grew up. No funny business about paying extra to do anything. Yes, GW2 has microtransactions and the latest expansion has to be paid for seperately but it’s not something that is required to enjoy the game.
In fact, the base game has just recently been announced as Free To Play. This makes me all sorts of happy and it’s fantastic for the SA gaming climate if you can’t afford regular game purchases. The best part is even if you don’t own the expansion, you can still play with others who do.
Go out and try this one if you are on budget. This is the perfect time to do so and all it is going to cost is some bandwidth.
DOTA2 and LoL
Right, I include this because they are free to play and due to it being played almost exclusively with other players, each match always feels different. I may not enjoy the MOBA genre, but it is perfect for gaming on a budget especially when you consider that they are Free-To-Play.
Personally I don’t enjoy the competitive nature of the communities as they tend to be exceptionally hard on new players and can at times be downright nasty. But if being competitive is your thing, if you always have to compete with others and try be better, then you cannot ask for better games than these.
What makes it good?
I’m still trying to figure that one out. I just don’t get it.
Games are not all equal
This short list is simply what I’ve done for myself to make affordable gaming a reality. Filling your game library with lenghty, feature filled games is one of the best ways to make sure that you can go fairly long between AAA game purchases. I personally now only buy 1 or 2 AAA games a year and pretty much play the games that keep me entertained. This list above is not exaustive either. It is missing games like Skyrim that allow endless amounts of modding to keep it interesting. I simply felt like sharing something that has been an issue for me. Gaming is expensive and it gets a bit tiring seeing games release beyond my wallet’s capabilities.
But it’s not the end of my gaming days. With Free to Play games becoming a dime a dozen I don’t see a future where I won’t have some form of game to play. One must just be careful of the types of games you get. It’s so easy to just go nuts and download everyting that’s free and enjoy none of it. All that time and effort put in to downloading these games and trying them out can really tire a person out and defeat the purpose of affordable gaming. It shouldn’t feel like a chore choosing your games. The same can be said about buying a once off purchase that seems like it can keep you entertained only to find out the game is trash. Knowledge of the games is key here. Read reviews, research the game a bit before you download/purchase. Remember games are not all equal and you get gems among the stones and the gems in gaming are often as rare as in real life.
What about you? What’s your Affordable Gaming plan?