The New Deal

The New Deal
A Penny Saved Is a Dollar Spent

Rob Zacny | 8 Sep 2009 08:02
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There's no way my partner would go for this if she could claim the moral high ground on finances. But she has her own addictions to feed. In the first place, there is her love for all things Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. In the second place, she's a grad student in physics and doesn't think you can put a price on crisp, clean data. Even if you could have enough lasers, magnetic shields or rubidium cells (a point she will not readily concede), you could always still have better ones.

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So while I'm cradling Sins of a Solar Empire in my hands with a hopeful look, she's anticipating the next time she'll turn to me and ask, "Is it alright if I just put these magnets on the Visa? We'll be reimbursed soon, and I really need them for the next phase of my experiment." We both know that the word "soon" to a university bursar's office carries much the same meaning as it would to a California Redwood, but I'll be forced to relent. "By the way," she'll add, "when they're delivered, make sure they don't get within 20 feet of anything electronic or metallic. Seriously."

Inevitably, Sins comes home with us like a puppy from the pound. It lies shrink-wrapped to this day, waiting for the next time I have an entire weekend to burn. In the meantime, my collection keeps ballooning as I acquire far more than I have time to play. We may not be models of financial discipline, but at least neither of us is forced to play the perpetual bad cop - a far worse prospect than a few misspent dollars.

This equilibrium can be difficult to maintain, however, and it's only getting harder now that the bargains themselves have started hunting me. Steam and GamersGate track me down me every weekend with tempting offers, giving me only a couple of days to decide my fate. I may not have cared about Lost Planet on Friday morning, but by Sunday night, owning it is a moral imperative. At five bucks, can I really afford to ignore some guy on a forum who contends that the game is a misunderstood gem?

When a game drops to $5 or $10, it becomes almost devoid of cons. If it's lousy, I've invested the cost of a movie ticket, and I actually end up saving time because I'm not trying to wring fun from a shoddy game just to validate my purchase. Conversely, if the game is decent, it's easier to enjoy it on its own terms. I won't be playing Painkiller and resenting it for not being Half-Life, because I don't saddle a discount title with the same expectations that I often do with new game purchases.

Naturally, there have been plenty of duds and disappointments along the way. But even the misfires have their pleasures, and on the whole my gaming tastes have broadened greatly. Last year I bought Silent Hunter III for $5, despite having no interest in sub simulations, because the purchase was effectively risk free. Forty hours of gaming passed in the blink of an eye, until the Royal Navy put an ugly end to my burgeoning career as a U-boat skipper. I would never have experienced that suspense-filled masterpiece were it not for the out-of-the-blue Steam sale that clued me into it.

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