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The Thrifty Gamer: Five Ways To Play Games On A Budget

If your day-to-day hustle and bustle is anything like mine, you probably have a daunting backlog of must-play video games. Between new releases, the fast approaching next generation, and the classics, I sometimes feel as though I need a hyperbolic time chamber to catch up.

But gaming isn’t only a time-consuming hobby. It’s an expensive one, too. How can we even make a dent in the canon of great games out there at $40-$60 a pop? To help deal with that conundrum, and in light of the upcoming heat wave they call summer, I’ve put together a guide to ensure your time and dollars go as far as they can.



Public Libraries

Public libraries are grossly underutilized resources. Many gamers aren’t even aware that these tax-funded institutions, in addition to books, DVDs, TV series, CDs, and comics, often rent out quality video games to members, completely free of charge. I first learned of this incredible phenomenon in Cambridge, MA, where I found Xbox 360 copies of both Halo 4 and Red Dead Redemption on a library shelf near the DVDs. I didn’t pay a penny for console games the rest of the year.

Other libraries, like the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in Huntsville, AL and the Gilbert Public Library in Gilbert, MN, provide similar services. The Coshocton Public Library in Coshocton, OH held a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament for teens last month, and the Palatine Public Library in Palatine, IL now has free-to-use PS3 stations. All you typically need for these privileges are a local address and a library card.

It’s also worth mentioning that many university libraries rent out games to students. Libraries at the University of California Santa Cruz and the University of Oregon even rent out video game consoles.

All in all, public libraries can be a great place to get games that you want to try, but don’t necessarily want to buy. My library allows members to check out up to 150 games at once for a week at a time. With that kind of freedom, there’s no penalty for trying out as many games as I want.

I highly recommend you check out your local library today.



Downloadable Games

Do you really need a hard copy of every game you play? If you’re on a budget, it isn’t feasible to spend hundreds of dollars on games each month, especially when they’re games you’re only going to play once. Fortunately, digital downloads often provide a more affordable option.

Summer is a particularly opportune time to download games, as a number of annual online sales go live during July and August. Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade starts in August. PlayStation’s Summer Blast is on right now. Steam’s Summer Sale, which has run from late June to early July for the last two years, should be upon us any day now. Amazon, a dark horse in the digital game arena, is currently holding a Digital Games Summer Sale until July 14.

Also of note is the new Amazon Indie Games Store, which just opened in early June. It constantly offers downloadable games in the $1-$10 range, oftentimes selling entire bundles at extreme discounts.

Speaking of bundles, The Humble Bundle is a sale that every gamer should be aware of. For those not familiar with the concept, the Humble Store offers weekly, bi-weekly, and permanent sales on digital games, typically with an emphasis on independently developed titles. One of these sales is called The Humble Bundle, which uses a “pay what you want” method of sale for a collection of featured downloadable games. There’s no catch; you pay what you want for a bundle of video games. If you pay at least $1, you get a Steam code for the game. If you pay more than what the average buyer paid, you get extra content or additional games.

Mobile games, too, can provide quality gaming experiences for less. Critically acclaimed titles like XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Knights of the Old Republic have recently moved to mobile devices at a significantly lower cost than their PC and console counterparts. Moreover, there are plenty of solid mobile exclusives for under $5.

Click to the next page for three more money-saving strategies.

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