Geeking on a Budget

Here’s a modified column proposal I just posted in the Punch On Australia forums in response to a call for a new column:

Look in any paper or read a newsfeed nowadays and you’ll easily come across articles about how times are only getting tougher. Electricity’s going up thirty percent. The RBA is playing jack-in-a-box with interest rates. Carbon taxes. Disaster levies. The Coles / Woolies supermarket monopoly. All these things conspire to bite into our budget for our little luxuries.

We gamers are certainly not exempted from this. I myself am in a situation where around ninety percent of my wife’s and my combined income is going on the basics and the things we’re comitted to paying for, like mobiles and Internet. What little we have left over might, if we’re lucky, cover tickets to a movie or even (gasp!) an evening at a restaurant. The last triple-A title I bought at launch was Halo: Reach, and before that, Mass Effect 2. I own the one console (an Xbox 360, naturally) and I last upgraded any of my PC’s internal componentry in 2007.

Yet if I believe the advertising, the review websites and the forums, gaming still seems to be all about plunking down over one hundred dollars ever three months on the next Halo, Call of Duty or Gears of War sequel. So what’s a gamer like me to do in these these tough economic times?

The answer is the same one that you can apply to every other financial problem: Get disciplined and get creative.

In this column, I’m going to detail how I’m maintaining my gamer lifestyle on a shoestring budget. While other sites and columns wax lyrical on how awesome the next AAA title is going to be, I’m going to look at the older AAA titles that you can find in the bargain bins. I’ll hunt down the alternatives to the next and current big things that don’t hit the wallet anywhere near as hard. I’ll highlight the Steam sales and Xbox Live Marketplace weekly deals. I’ll discuss using achievements and trophies to get more life out of my existing gaming shelf. And I’ll even detail how I’m actually (gasp!) saving for those big games that I’d love to get my mitts on at launch.

Sometimes, in all the hype surrounding the next $120 title that you wish you could afford, you can forget that there’s still fun to be had at one tenth of the price.

This is something I’d like to start blogging about more regularly, and I’d like to try and broaden it out into more general geekdom stuff too – sometimes it seems you have to be made of money to be a geek nowadays, and I’m sure there are alternatives.