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Perhaps Gaming Is In The Cards For Me, After All

Hold on to your wallets, boys and girls: the Steam Summer Getaway Sale is running from July 11th through July 22nd.
I just got my paycheck not too long ago, and have budgeted $100 towards entertainment expenses.  Just 5 days into the Steam Sale sale, I've blown through $88.44 of that, part of that being the $18.42 I spent on Phoenix Wright for the iPad, but the remainder going to Steam:
  • Castle Crashers - Initially an XBox Arcade game, this is basically a side-scrolling beat em' up in the style of Final Fight 2 or Golden Axe, except with medieval knights and a whole lot of tongue-in-cheek (at times toilet-ish) humor.  Great fun, all things considered.
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail - Haven't played it yet, but from what I hear it's a very well-done indy game that involves a lot of fighting.  Hope you don't mind anthropomorphic animal worlds, because this is one!
  • Total War: Shogun 2 - I call myself a PC gamer, and indeed I have played more than most, but I've yet to play a Total War game.  From what I gather, the Total War series is notorious for using advanced technology to represent breathtaking views of battle, often with hundreds of soldiers on screen at once.
  • Kerbal Space Program - Still a work in progress, this is essentially a physics game that focuses on easily the most realistic simulation of obtaining spaceflight I've ever seen in a PC game.  Design your own rockets or space planes, and see if they actually enable kerbalkind to travel the stars or if they instead just leave a fiery mess of incinerated astronauts on the launch pad.
  • System Shock 2 - Before Ken Levine went on to make the Bioshock series, he was making System Shock 2, the sequel to the Origin System's original, highly advanced, Sci-Fi first person shooter/role playing game.  There are many things System Shock 2 does even better than the Bioshock series does, mostly in the gameplay depth department, but I would say that System Shock 2 is genuinely scarier and very atmospheric even with 1990s graphics.
  • All the good DLC for Borderlands 2: its season pass, the mechromancer pack, psycho pack, creature slaughterdome DLC.  A cross between Diablo and a first person shooter that actually went well, Borderlands 2 has a bit of a pacing problem, so I'm not sure I'll ever come back to it... but, if I do, I'm prepared!
  • Penny Arcade's On The Rainslick Precipice Of Darkness 4 - I'm about 3 games in this series away from finishing it, but I guess I'm ready.  It's part nostalgic console RPG, part the Penny Arcade crew just tooting their own horn and being passably funny about it.  (Your results may vary.)
  • The one and only DLC I didn't get when I pre-ordered XCOM: Enemy Unknown, called Slingshot.  I guess it just adds 3 missions to the game and some additional gameplay features that were already unlocked when people figured out it was already in the game, just disabled.   Having already finished this game back at release, 8 months ago, I'm giving it another spin.
  • Puzzle Quest 2 - Sequel to the original Puzzle Quest, which basically married Bejeweled to a roleplaying game.  Puzzle Quest was good.  Puzzle Quest 2 was good.  Now, I wonder how many people even remember it?  Whatever, I got it on the cheap.
  • The Cave - The worst-received of the games on this list, The Cave is basically something best appreciated if you're an old fart gamer who wants something that might have a Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island reference, since one of the original developers were involved.    From what Zero Punctuation had to say on it, apparently being a veteran adventure game developer was not sufficient for Ron Gilbert to avoid making players retread old ground needlessly nor prevent him from shoehorning in a completely unnecessary moral choice system.  Ah well, it's a Double Fine game, I probably won't regret it.
A pretty significant amount of my wishlist has been eliminated.  But the initial problem remains: I don't make the necessary time to play the games I already have, so why am I buying new ones?!
Well, as it turns out, Valve has created an incentive for me to play games by introducing trading cards that are awarded for playing games at about the rate of 1 card per half-hour of play.  You're eligible for a certain number of "drops" just for buying the game and, after that, you must either wait for a "booster pack" (which is awarded at random) or trade/buy the remaining cards in a set from other players.  Complete a set to earn a badge.  Earn a badge, get steam experience.  Get steam experience and... well, it's mostly just for prestige.

I'm too old to get excited about completely cosmetic but otherwise meaningless McGuffins like trading cards, nor do I particularly find the prestige of having a higher arbitrary number than somebody else all that meaningful.  But you know what I do like about this system?  It gives me an excuse to flit between games, playing whatever still has cards to drop.  I might even be able to sell these cards to other players over the Steam marketplace, which amounts to a game-buying discount to me down the line.

This is a better reason to invest the time to play games than I had before, which was absolutely no reason at all.  I don't need to play most games; if boredom's ever a problem, I've probably got a better game, and I might be so sick of games that even that won't do.  No wonder I had a hard time motivating myself to play anything these days.

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