Hand-me-down Gamers

A second graders dream come true

A second grader's dream come true

My brother recently gave me his old Xbox 360.  It got the red-ring of death.  I mailed the console in for repair while he bought a new one.  I’d wanted an Xbox 360, but was intimidated by the cost plus equipping it with the hard-drive and controllers.

His gift reminded me of how so many of my consoles were second-hand.  I also got my Sega Genesis in 2nd grade as a gift from a cousin who had two because of divorced parents.  I finally got my SNES in high school from a generous classmate who didn’t play his anymore.  Many of the games I played were borrowed, second-hand, on sale, or bootlegs.  As a kid, I always over-stayed my welcome at neighbors’ playing their games.

New games are expensive.  A new $60 game is more than a day’s wage if you work a minimum wage job.  But I’ve known plenty of poor and working class folks who grew up gaming.  For some folks, perhaps gaming was the luxury instead of buying CDs or going to the movies.  For others, perhaps they found more creative ways to access games.  (I, for the record, did not grow up poor, but my working-class parents were frugal.)

Has anyone else grown up as a hand-me-down gamer?  What other tactics do broke gamers use to access their hobby?

About Lake Desire

Lake Desire, real name Ariel Wetzel, has been blogging about feminism and videogames since 2005 at her blog New Game Plus. Lake also writes at Feminist SF - The Blog! Lake Desire is an English graduate student at University of Washington, studying science fiction, feminism, and cyberculture. At work, Lake participates in rank and file labor organizing and the anti-budget cuts struggle. Lake believes in direct democracy, queer liberation, and opposes white supremacy, patriarchy, and imperialism. Lake is white, queer, feminist, anarchist, and of course a cyborg. Lake may not sound like your typical gamer, but has been gaming since a toddler and never managed to quit.
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16 Responses to Hand-me-down Gamers

  1. Seraphina says:

    GameStop’s buy 2 used get 1 free deal is amazing. Not to mention I’m a total Steam addict. Cheap games that I can download whenever I want? Yes, please.

  2. Deirdra says:

    I’ve got family in the Philippines, where the cost of living for most is far too low to justify the price of a new game in wealthier parts of the world such as the country in which I currently reside. As such, piracy isn’t just rampant, but pretty much the only option. Last time I visited (ought-threeish or so), legitimate copies of games were pretty much nowhere to be seen. There’s an interesting article on this subject that I came across a while ago, which can be found here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_158/5045-Piracy-and-the-Underground-Economy

    Now, as a game industry professional, I’m more than a little torn about this issue. I don’t engage in piracy myself because I can afford not to; indeed, I don’t have enough time to play a lot of games in the first place, so that limits my spending considerably. I also have a preference for supporting smaller indie titles, whether they be freeware or scratchware. But I recognise that for many reasons, a lot of people all over the world can’t afford to buy games at the standard price points. This is a big reason why I do a lot of solo freeware work, and why I’m experimenting with funding models such as the Street Performer Protocol, where a certain number of people donate to fund the game, and it becomes available to everyone once the funding goal is reached. Time will tell whether this sort of thing can be sustainable, but I think it’s worth a try.

    • Brinstar says:

      Similar situation for me as well. Some of my family in the Philippines are well-off, and even for them, buying legit copies of games is way too expensive. On one of my trips back, I asked them about it, and they said it was virtually impossible to find non-pirated games. Many trips to the malls and shopping centres confirmed this. Most of my cousins my age grew up gaming, like me, but their financial situation was, of course, much different to mine. If they wanted to play games, they had to pirate.

      Like you, I also feel torn about the piracy issue and the grey market. While I can afford not to pirate games, I also understand that it’s the only option of a huge number of people in the world.

  3. 8mph Ansible says:

    Back in the day I borrowed or played games at other kids’ houses. There was also rental stores like 7-11 then Blockbusters. Blockbusters I haven’t done that for a while when they seemed to constantly raise prices. Might try something like Gamefly one day.

    Once in a while I work up the to go inside Gamestop and peruse their used game bin–but that’s usually when I’m pushed to take some of my nephews there.

    At random times I’ve done emulators of for old gaming systems (e.g. NES, Genesis, SNES, GBC, etc.) or play some sort of flash of even older games (e.g. pac man, space invaders, etc.) either in its original form or dressed up in a new theme but same gameplay.

    And there’s always the good ol’ wait for however many months for the price to go down then shop around everywhere, offline and online, to see who has the lowest price.

  4. Ronijn says:

    I’ve actually been trying to buy consoles/games used if I can. It usually a) saves me money and b) is more environmentally friendly – why buy a new console/game when I can get a used one? I’m lucky that I have a Gamestop alternative in my town so I can get some pretty decent deals.

    I also rent a lot – mostly because I only want to buy games I really like and will play over the long term, otherwise, I feel like it’s a waste. Also some games I can generally finish in a week or so, which is the rental length, so why would I buy it outright? I’d rather just pay the $7-ish to rent. If it’s good, then I will buy it at some point and a few games I do rush out to buy right away (i.e. Uncharted 2 and NSMBWii).

    I also play quite a bit on flash sites like Kongregate or NewGrounds – Free for me and they have some interesting different stuff. Some really simple but really original and it supports budding game makers. I will also pay up for some indie games (like Machinarium) or older titles on Steam that I just never got around to playing in the past – a good storyline will always suck me in! Oh and of course some emulation of old games, most of which I already own, but am just too lazy/lack space to set up.

    The issue of games being so prohibitively expensive in developing countries that they are only available on the black market is interesting – I never thought of that. (Side note: I remember paying $80-90 for a brand new SNES game in the 90s compared to $60 for a new PS3 game today) I wonder if that market would buy games at a more reasonable price point or if piracy would be be seen as a historical ‘norm’ and people still would not buy… sort of like people who grew up in the age of Napster and won’t purchase music if they can get it for free.

    Sorry if my comment is a little all over the place… :)

  5. Lake Desire says:

    Wow, renting is $7 now? I thought $5 was a bit pricey!

    I remember new Genesis games in the 90s being at least $60. But wow… $80-90 for an SNES game! Why was that? Did cartridges cost a lot to produce? With inflation, if we still paid 90s prices, a new game would be over $100 dollars.

    • oliemoon says:

      I remember a lot of N64 games MSRP-ing at $80 too. My guess is that disc-based games are cheaper to produce and the increasingly more competitive market has driven prices down.

    • Ronijn says:

      Well I’m Canadian so yeah, it’s about that much for me… probably closer to $5 in the US.

      And yes, as the poster below me noted, discs are much cheaper than cartridges. That’s one of the reasons the N64 failed – it still used cartridges which were expensive but held less than the disc-based systems, especially the PS1.

  6. 8mph Ansible says:

    Ronijn :
    (Side note: I remember paying $80-90 for a brand new SNES game in the 90s compared to $60 for a new PS3 game today)

    *lmao because I remember those days too*

    That expense and lack of money was why I rented so many games on the SNES then and play emulators of some of them now. Though some games in this generation i still feel are still somewhat expensive, just not as much as back then. And I seem to remember games for like the Turbografix-16, 3DO and/or Jaguar being very high as well if I’m not imagining things.

  7. Thefremen says:

    I only was able to get a SNES in 1995 when I saved $50 to get one. I’m not sure about the costs of the games but at least when I was getting them they were around $10-$20.

    Anyways I usually just wait a really long time to buy systems, with the exception of the PS2. I had just moved into my first apartment and really wanted to get into that whole DVD thing everyone was making such a big deal about so I got a PS2 like 4 months after they came out.

  8. koipond says:

    I got a hand me down Turbo Graphix 16 when I was younger. I had to borrow all the games from my uncle who also had one and had disposable income to actually buy the games because they were rarer than platinum.

  9. Ronijn says:

    I think the $60 price point is kind of interesting. It is cheaper than in the past. The systems themselves are more expensive but also much more powerful. I think my SNES cost about $200 (maybe $250?) brand new back in the day (early 90s) and it came with 2 controllers and a game. Today, to get the same thing for a PS3 would cost $300 + $55 for another controller + $30-70 for a game. So that’s about $400 pre taxes to get started. Even a Wii, arguably the cheapest console would cost you another $60-70 to get another complete controller (nunchuck + wiimote), which brings the cost up closer to $300.. and you’re only playing Wii Sports at that point.

    So from a ‘start-up’ point of view, it probably more expensive today… but the games themselves are cheaper even though they arguably take much more time to develop and gamers in general demand more from their games. Wii might be the exception though because they are targeting a different market – new and casual players as opposed to seasoned ones generally. Wii game price points tend to be a little less – about $10 or so – which I wonder if it’s a function of the console not being so ‘next gen’ or if it’s because they are trying to get new people to play and the expense might be prohibitive for some.

    The $60 or so price point must be the sweet spot for developers – enough people will pay it to justify their costs.

    Also in my initial comment I forgot to mention haldhelds! I had an original game boy and also had the super game boy plug in cartridge thing for the SNES. For some of the more expensive games, I would simply buy the cheaper Gameboy game and then play it on the big screen. Generally, brand new, a game boy was about $30-40 which was half of the SNES game and it was generally very similar (the Jungle book game springs to mind). They haven’t really continued down that road have they? You can download games via a console for your hand held (PSP and DSi) but not the other way around… and I guess you *need* both the console *and* handheld to take advantage of this. I actually bought my DS new a few years back, and I remember doing so because I couldn’t afford/didn’t have space for a console. And with no one renting DS games, I would buy and trade them a lot.

  10. Teryaki says:

    Let’s see, since age 6 (1987), my hardware path has gone Intellivision->NES->GAME BOY->SNES->SATURN->PSX->long gap of PC gaming->DS->XB360

    Of those, the only ones I bought new were the NES (best. Christmas. EVER.) and the DS (which I wrote off as a business expense, heheh…). Consoles were always easy to get used after a few years; they’d turn up in pawn shops, or “fall off a truck.”

    But it was the games that always killed me. Paying $35-$60 for a game on top of the hardware investment you’d just made never squared with me even at that tender age. As such I always had the most laughably thin collection of titles of any kid on the block. The few that I did shell out for (or more often recieve as treasured gifts), I would play literally until they broke (a failed save battery in my copy of Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES once left me inconsolable for days).

    So I turned to rental and piracy. And toward the end of a system’s life, I would build my collection as Blockbuster cleared out their rental inventory for $10-$15 a piece.

    And piracy, well… let’s just say my highly-ranked preparatory junior high school had a THRIVING underground economy in the days before broadband. Shoeboxes full of floppies for the latest titles, gaming or otherwise, would be quickly converted into cash or grass. It only grew when CD burners become cheap, and music entered the mix.

    For me the trend pretty much continues today. A Chinese flash cartridge (itself a knock-off) has made my DS into a PDA/media player/ROM-loading/emulating toy. I’ll still steal pretty much anything I can play on my aging Windows PC. It’s only platform exclusives and the need to be social that have pushed me to FINALLY drop some money into Xbox titles.

    And I still check the bargain bin first. Who needs Halo:ODST if you haven’t finished #2 yet?

    • Thefremen says:

      LOL I know someone who was among the first to realize demonoid was back online.

      • Teryaki says:

        I fear the internets will burn if isohunt is ever taken down. Sooooo many furious geeks, suddenly with nothing do occupy their time!

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