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Measuring the Value of our Hobby

The problem we all face is simple: there are too many games. I state this truism with confidence for two reasons. Even if money is no option for you, time still is. Even if you limit the scope to one genre, between commercial and indie games, you're likely to never run out of challenges to tackle. Such is life. Because we can't have it all, we have to be selective with the games we buy and play. To do so, we create value scales factoring in highly abstract and subjective qualities like fun and satisfaction. With these subjective values many of us have waged war over the internet. Not only do we (I'm generalizing so just work with me) hate it when people tell us that our value systems and judgments are wrong (or worse, slightly off!), but we seek to find others who share our values as a means of bringing some order to the chaotic world of video game experiences. 

It's not unusual to want as much bang as we can get for our buck. Most of us were raised to be conscious of the limitations of money. Recently, more than I can remember, the industry has wrestled with pricing dilemmas new and old. The industry has considered how much to charge for ports of old games, remakes, reboots, indie games, subscriptions, digital versions of physical media games, DLC, iphone and other hand held games, micotransactions, rental services, new technologies, the multiplayer in used games, and tweaked versions of hardware.

From what I understand, the industry is bigger than ever, which means there's less money to go around. While I can't fill your pockets with money with the intent of passing it along to developers, I can share some wisdom that may make your gaming purchases more frequent and more cheerful. Listening to the discourse on pricing, I've challenged my own thoughts. Now, I' have a simple outlook on the issue that's best expressed with a brief bullet point history and some examples. 


  • When I was a kid my brother and I recieved games for our birthdays and for Christmas. Each game was rare, and each was played to death. With developing skills, it must have taken us hundreds of hours to beat a game like Zelda: A Link To The Past. Part of the beauty of being a kid is that those wonderful hours flew by. Even for terrible games like the Tick for Sega Genesis, we made a point of suffering through until we reach victory. 
  • Later in life, I believed in the dollar-per-hour rule for gauging the value of my games. This rule is much more strict than movie tickets/DVDs, yet much less strict compared to a magazine or book purchase. While the rule is simple, I was never automatically disappointed in a purchase if my hours played on a game fell short. Perhaps because I was always willing to play through games again.
  • Almost all my multiplayer games racked up more hours per dollar, but single player games are different. I'm always cautious when buying full priced single player only games for my Wii, PS3, and DS. Only after listening to comments, reading reviews, watching videos, and playing demos do I make the decision to get a game or not. I never want to "waste the money" on a disappointment. But really, that's like saying I don't want to take a chance on a game. Now my attitude has changed again. 
  • With so many inspiring, and amazing indie games that are free, so many multiplayer games I own that I can always go back to, so many challenges to complete to 100% games, and so many games I have yet to study/write about, I will never be without meaningful gaming experiences. In other words, I really have little to lose for taking a chance on a game. If I spend 60 dollars on a game that I love and beat it in only 2 hours, time wise everything balances when I take everything into consideration. 

Here's a list of a few games that I bought, didn't like/couldn't get into at first, and ended up really enjoying much later. 

  • Wario Ware Smooth Moves
  • Sin & Punishment
  • Base 10
  • Mario & Lugi 3: Bowser's Inside Story
  • Maboshi's Arcade
  • Scribblenauts

Games that I currently own and am not happy with:

  • Shatter (PSN)
  • Trine (PSN)
  • Dragon Quest Wars (DSi)
  • Orbient (Wii Ware)
  • Viewtiful Joe 2 (Gamecube)
  • Dr. Mario Rx (Wii Ware)
  • Cave Story (Wii Ware)


If you still need convincing, I challenge you to convince yourself by checking out your Nintendo Channel. There's a button that shows you how many hours you've played every Wii and downloadable game on the console. With every game you've played, try to guess how many hours you've clocked in. Then ask yourself how satisfied you are with the gaming experience. Then factor in how much you paid for the game. If you have games that you've gotten a ton of mileage out of, how can you be so upset at other games that fall short? 

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Reader Comments (6)

thank you for your post

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPsn Code

Great post. It reminds me of something similar that Jeremy Parish wrote up on the value proposition and game reviews. You might also find it interesting.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Primed

I'm curious to read you discussing further the odds of Cave Story (Wii) and Shatter (PSN), as I found Cave Story rather convincing so far although I don't own a Wii to give the Wii Ware version a try. Same for Shatter : I only played it once through an evening but it seemed as promising as Space Invaders Extreme to me.

Btw, "Apple Assault" reached (imho) its final state and I was able to integrate most of your comments on the gameplay. It has been estimated ~1$€ in a recent poll.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersylvainulg

I'm interested in the problems with Cave Story as well. I played through a good portion of the PC version and it seemed incredible.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan Rosander

"While I can't fill your pockets with money with the intent of passing it along to developers, I can share some wisdom that may make your gaming purchases more frequent and more cheerful."

Purchases? :P Honestly, there is so much going on in the indie scene, and so many games I wish to revisit, that I'm really giving it thought to ignore the RPG genre for a couple of years completely. Just after mass effect 3 comes out. And oh, dragon age 2 is done with... You see what they're doing to me!?

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAva Avane Dawn

@ everyone

Thanks for all the responses. I will post a follow up very soon and address Cave Story there.


Yeah. I had read that article before. And after listening to a discussion on gaming and money on Weekend Confirmed a few weeks ago, I set this article in motion. J.Parish is one smooth dude. I wonder if I'll ever get to meet him on the battle field.

@ Ava Avane Dawn

Oh, I see what they're doing to you.

November 16, 2010 | Registered CommenterRichard Terrell (KirbyKid)

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