Gaming on a budget

Now the point of this site is to provide advice to those who’re, well, gaming on a budget. I have always tried to keep the games I review at under £20, and I don’t review more current games because well, I can’t afford them. I’d be no good at it, but I’ve been playing games since I was a child and I’ve never had much money. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from all that, it’s that gaming can be both cheap and rewarding.

Play Free Games
Too obvious? It goes without saying that nothing is cheaper than something with no cost, and James of Extra Credits once set himself the task of playing games with zero cost for a whole week. There are casual games like Farmtown, little Flash ones, social ones like Echo Bazaar and a wealth of demos on services like Steam and XBOX Live.

Just last night, I tried half a dozen demos from Steam, and its only by loving the demos for Tiny Bang Story and Bastion that I bought the full games.

Even more than that, there’s an increasing number of free-to-play MMO’s that you can choose to spend money on if you want, that will give you some nice extras features if you decide you want to splash out.

Team Fortress 2, one of if not the most popular online shooters, is now free-to-play and the excellent point-n-click classic Beneath A Steel Sky is available for free at And you strategy fans, try out Battle for Wesnoth, a free turn based strategy game with an open source code and strong modding community.

For that matter, are you aware of mods? People work to create custom campaigns, challenge maps or characters/factions for many PC games to increase the challenge or simply include a bunch of fun stuff. You’ll need to be a little tech-minded or willing to read a fair amount of FAQs to install one, but a good mod or two can really increase a game’s lifespan.

Own decent consoles
Not every console has a great range of games, and is it really worth buying one that’s only got half a dozen titles in its entire catalogue you care about? If you’re stuck between buying two consoles like say a PS3 and an XBOX 360, look at the exclusive titles and think about what you’re interested in and what genres you want to play.

Personally, I think the cream of the currently available crop is a decent laptop that’ll let you play stuff from Steam, a 360 (I prefer it over a PS3 because it, DVDS rather than Blu-Ray and the games are cheaper, and I prefer the 360 exclusives over the PS3 ones), a Nintendo DS and a PS2.

Between them they can cover pretty much any genre you care to mention, sometimes with the best stuff available in that genre. And hey, if you’ve got a smartphone that has access to gaming apps, there’s a cheap way to turn your phone into a console.

Buy good games
Again, this seems too obvious to be worth mentioning, but there is just so much junk out there. Whether its derivative, bland, repetitive, a multiplayer focused title disguised as a single player epic, a lazy cash grab or simply overpriced is something you can discover before you buy it.

Read reviews, ask your gamer friends, talk to the guys in the game store. And when you do these things, don’t just here what’s being said and take it at face value. If someone says they hated the timed platforming sections, don’t assume the game is bad, ask yourself whether you mind that.

Gamers might seem elitist because you’re not playing ‘classics’ or the hottest new thing, but don’t let that put you off. Some gamers will be like that, and if you’re having fun with Super Smash Bros Brawl, don’t let some insufferable jerk with no life tell you how it sucks because its more ‘casual friendly’.

Don’t get caught up in fads
The reason everybody and their dog and their dog’s grandma bought either a Wii or a DS is because it was a fad. Halo was a fad. Even my beloved Professor Layton was a fad. No matter how big these are, that doesn’t always mean they’re good or that they’re right for you. It doesn’t mean its something you should get into after the fact because its the only thing you know about.

The Wii does have some really fun games, but it suffered from poor third party support (translation: good games not made by Nintendo). And yes, fad titles like Halo or Professor Layton didn’t wholly undeserve their hype, but instead of Halo, why not try Bioshock or Fallout 3? And instead of Professor Layton, there’s always Monkey Island, Ace Attorney, Broken Sword and Ghost Trick that’re equally fun and readily available.

Look, if you want a game in a certain genre, you can buy it without breaking the bank. Don’t be afraid to take risks on strange or obscure titles if the price isn’t too high. Don’t jump to get Final Fantasy XIII, ask a few fans what they think. Consider Kingdom Hearts or Crono Trigger instead. Not because Final Fantasy XIII is a bad game, but because you should know your choices and put some thought into your purchases.

You’d be pretty pissed if you paid £15 for a terrible film or book, so don’t spend £15 on Grizzled Macho Brown Shooter 5: The Bloodening of Space Death.


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