As much as I love video games, I, like most people, don’t feel like spending all of my money on them. So here are my suggestions for picking out and buying a game that will be worth its possibly hefty price tag and remain enjoyable for some time to come.
Let’s face it: Video games can be a pretty expensive investment nowadays. At up to $60 a game, $300 a console, and not to mention peripherals and monthly subscriptions for online play if you have an Xbox 360, it’s easy to lose track of the costs involved with an avid gaming habit. With these big numbers, unless you’re an oil sheik or a land baron, more than likely you’re not going to be able to buy every video game that catches your eye. So how do you find the good games among the not-so-good and make sure that you’re going to get the most bang for your buck?
My first suggestion is to find a genre that suits your style. Everybody has different tastes in what they find appealing (and unappealing) in a game. With first-person shooters (FPS), MMORPGs, music games, simulations, driving games, and sandbox games being just the tip of the iceberg, your options are endless. Finding out what interests you the most and looking to that genre first is probably your best bet to finding a game that’s going to knock your socks off. By the same token, if there’s a genre that you generally don’t like (for instance, maybe FPS games make your tummy queasy within five minutes of picking up that controller), you can narrow down your search for a game you’re likely to enjoy by crossing that genre off your list completely.
Make sure that you’re comfortable with the interface. If moving your character, avatar, spaceship, cursor, or whatever represents “you” in the game world is a pain in the neck (or other parts of your body best left unnamed), then you’re probably not going to have much fun with it. Of course, this is relative to your preferences; one person’s comfort zone is another person’s junkyard of discardable complexities. Someone who grew up in the ’80s navigating games with the simple joystick control of the Atari 2600 may find all the buttons of modern gaming console controllers a bit overwhelming. Of course, if you’re in the habit of purchasing your games online rather than in a store, you may not have a chance to test your patience with a game’s controls before handing over your money. Luckily, the Internet is full of people who like to offer their opinions on such matters and you can usually find reviews online that will red flag games with truly horrid interface problems before they wind up on your shelf.
Don’t buy a game on release day. Like movies, television shows, and albums, some games live up to the hype that’s generated around them during the months before they hit the market, but some fall far short of expectations once they’re actually released. If the hype is valid, then you’ll usually hear about it — the gaming community is pretty vocal in supporting what it likes (and in shooting down what it doesn’t). Advice: Don’t buy a game on release day. Wait a week or so to see which way the tides of hype have turned. If overall reviews seem positive, proceed with caution. If they’re negative — or, worse, nonexistent — then the game may well be worth missing.
Buy a game that you’ll want to play again and again. What fun is a game that you can only play once to see what it’s got to offer? “Winning” a game should be a challenge, and if you beat a game that’s got a storyline, for instance, you should want to play it again to see how different choices you make might give you different outcomes. I think Assassin’s Creed is a fun game at first, but the missions get to be repetitive and there’s no multiplayer option to add the extra attraction of human interaction. On the other hand, Tetris never gets old. Again, the idea of replayability will vary from person to person, so go with what usually works for you.
Don’t buy a game until you have done your research. Watching a two-minute game play video doesn’t always show you how much you’re going to enjoy a video game. My best suggestion for research is to play a demo or test out a game before you buy it. If you can’t find a demo, look for reviews whether they’re online, on TV, or in a magazine. Any of these options are a lot better than blindly throwing away $60. So do your research and save your cash.
Keep in mind that you should look at more than one review when researching. Don’t just look at a reviewer’s score; read the reasoning as to why the reviewer gave your game — and prospective purchase — that score.
And, of course, there’s always GameFly.
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