I’m sitting at the airport, trying to use my time productively as I wait for my plane. When it lands in just a couple hours and all us passengers are herded onto it, I will be on my plane back to Switzerland. I came back this summer to enjoy time with family and friends where I used to live but perhaps this time I will be gone for longer as I finish my second year of college and scour the four corners of the Earth for an internship or job that will take a chance on a Literature/Creative Writing major. Although I am as anxious as last time to be embarking on this adventure, even for a second time, I am stepping onto that plane a little wiser than before. I now can speak Italian competently, I will now have a part-time job as a receptionist at school (wish me luck at my interview on Monday), I have a plan for the year to work hard and play hard, and I now know what little of my life I can stuff into my luggage.

     T-shirts with names of places I’ve been to display to people who don’t care; dress shirts and dress pants that will never be ironed when I am in need of them; shiny black shoes destined to get scuffed when I stumble up the first stairs I’m required to scale; over the counter medication because I don’t want to imagine trying to describe my symptoms to a Swiss pharmacist in Italian when I have a hard enough time pronouncing my symptoms in English with a stuffy nose or a pounding headache; dozens upon dozens of pairs of socks that will be reduced to – if I’m lucky – five pairs by the end of the first semester; not enough flannels (can’t have enough flannel); my custom made Rainbow Dash scarf; running shoes and running clothes (I’m known as that crazy dude that runs around in his underwear which are really tights); not enough books; my stuffed yellow bunny (Mario), cat (Mr. Mumbles) and dog (I still need a name for him. Anyone got some ideas?); and a Playstation 3, Wii, 3DS and GameBoy Micro.

     Video games have always been a part of my life and I will be damned if a 12 hour plane flight will stop me from carrying a huge part of it with me halfway around the world in my carry-on. I’ll have to adjust my gaming habits because not only will college work provide me with less time to play but the European lifestyle is different for gaming. While browsing my local store, shopping online or playing games online I am always amazed to see how gaming is so different and alike in Europe than in the US. Here are the major things that have struck me as a gamer in the past year being abroad:

1. The Price of Gaming

     With console games at $60, handheld games at $35 to $40 and PC games for $50, we Americans are spoiled by the price of gaming. When I first walked into a video game store in Switzerland I was floored by the prices. New console games were ranged from 70 to 80 Swiss Francs (roughly $71.50 to $82), up to 90 Francs at times. 3DS and some DS games were 60 Swiss Francs ($61.50) a pop. Anywhere else in Europe is worse with the Euro because a game that costs 70 Euros is $85 thanks to the exchange rate. I just usually purchased PC games because I didn’t bring any of my game consoles with me the first year so the prices were not too bad: 40 to 50 Swiss Francs for a copy ($42 to $52).

     It is not too hard to find cheap PC games. The store I frequent carries many PC games from 10 to 20 Francs. When I can’t find a certain game there I will check on Amazon UK and Steam. They both use the British Pound (Steam in Europe is located in Britain), so the money can add up quickly (20 Pounds? That’s a good deal! Oh wait, that’s 32 dollars plus shipping…), but sometimes their prices are better than in America. For example, while Dead Rising: Off the Record was selling for $40 in the US; I bought a PC copy on Amazon UK for roughly $20, shipping included.

     Cheap console games are harder to come by. In the States I have become so used to walking into a GameStop and perusing the “Used Games” sections, snagging a good deal or two for not much more than $20. While there are GameStops scattered around Europe, they are not as numerous. The nearest GameStop for me in Switzerland is three hours away by train. I will stop by the store when I’m in town on other business but I won’t spend $60 on a round-trip train ticket just to visit GameStop to get a cheaper price. My local game shop does have used games but the large selection I’m used to and cheap prices (there are few used games below $20) are not there. Even when prices are lowered, the Euro exchange rate doesn’t do me any favors, though it’s not as bad for the Swiss Franc.  

2. Region Locking

     My first mistake as a gamer in Europe was buying a 3DS game. I had just bought Pokémon: White in Italian and it played perfectly. Resident Evil: Revelations had just come out and knowing I could probably change the language settings if I wanted to (the dialogue of Resident Evil is not much more complicated than Pokémon) I picked it up the first week it was out. Being a huge RE fan my soul was crushed when I realized I wouldn’t be exploring any abandoned ship anytime soon. It was really embarrassing having to go back to the store and explaining to them my mistake. Luckily the guy gave me a chance but warned me not to make the same mistake again.

     There is no region locking for PC games but both the Wii and 360 have region locks too. The Wii is region free for GameCube games but will not play any Wii game out of its region. The 360 is more lenient with region locking, leaving region locks up to each publisher/developer. This does mean more games are available to purchase but not all the games are region free so if I wanted a certain game I would sometimes be out of luck. The PS3 is thankfully region free for all of its games but Sony won’t tell you that if you ask them via email. Oddly enough, PS2 and PS1 games are not region free. It’s a shame because I remember seeing the original Silent Hill available for purchase last year.

3. Language Barriers

     The main reason I shelled out 60 Francs for Pokémon: White was because I wanted to better immerse myself in the Italian language; I thought having something familiar like Pokémon would help me learn better. It really did as its language was simple enough and I made a lot of connections to Spanish words the way it was written. I will continue to try buying Italian language games – L.A. Noire must have some intense Italian – but languages in games are not the only language barrier.

     The first game of Left 4 Dead 2 landed me in a Scavenger game on a French team. Contrary to all beliefs, they didn’t back down from any challenge and were constantly communicating, rapid fire French coming through my headset. I can understand a little French as it’s a romance language but when they began to chastise me for not doing as they said, I had to meekly ask if they spoke Italian, Spanish or English. They laughed and two of them called me a “n00b” but one was kind enough to direct me with his elementary school level English.

     The next day I was in a Spanish game of Counter Strike. The day after was a German game of Team Fortress 2.  Thankfully the day after the next I found a British game of L4D2.
    In multiplayer games where people are in constant communication be it text or voice language is important. I can usually get away with the three languages I know or not speak at all but it is embarrassing to ask them to speak a different language as I’ll usually be the only one out of the loop.

     On the other hand, it’s also a good way to practice. It felt good bringing down the Blue Team in TF2 with my adequate Italian last year. It was funny when I had a German team cussing at my team when they lost at Versus in L4D2.

    I am sure most users on Game Informer Online are from the United States like me and I am not sure how many European users there are. The latter must be either laughing with my crash course in European gaming culture or nodding their heads in agreement. For all of my American friends out there, I hope this gave you a glimpse into my changing video game habits. If you enjoyed this I’ll be sure to continue sharing stories of my European gaming experiences.

Have you ever studied outside the country? What places have you traveled? Did you bring any gaming stuff with you? Leave your thoughts and comments below. Gracias por leyer. Grazie per leggere. Thanks for reading.