Shopping Advice for Gamers

2012-11-13 by . 2 comments

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Shopping advice is another one of those topics that we don’t allow on Arqade. We did, once upon a time, and we attracted a couple of “canonical” questions on the topic. In an effort to preserve whatever value they have, as well as allow us to clean them up from the site, I’ve prepared this blog post. Remember, though, that asking shopping advice questions on Arqade is off-topic – the intent of this post is just to give people a pointer to some additional resources when we close questions.

What game should I play?

So you’ve demolished your Steam library, finished off your birthday or Christmas presents, rented and borrowed every game you can think of to rent or borrow, and you’re now bored. What’s next? The answer depends on what you’re looking for.

I want a game like X/with Y mechanic

Perhaps there’s a game you just finished or remember fondly that left you wanting more. Luckily, good ideas are shared and copied freely in the game industry. Chances are that even if the game seemed reasonably unique the first time you played it, if it was any good, it’s been cloned and copied and absorbed to death.

Most online game storefronts have methods of searching for games that are similar to the one you’re looking at. Steam is often mentioned, as it has a fairly large library and they are busily incorporating social features. There’s a whole recommendations page which is a good start, and at the bottom of every game’s store page is a set of recommendations for similar games.

Another way to find games like another game is to do a search for “(game name) clone.” Googling “gta clone” gives you an entire Wikipedia page full of examples of games that cribbed liberally from Rockstar’s formula.

If there’s some particular gameplay element that you are looking for specifically, both GiantBomb and TVTropes (among other sites) index games based on common gameplay elements. The results aren’t comprehensive, but they can point you in the right direction. Penny Arcade also offers the Decide-O-Tron which is an iOS app that can recommend games based on previous games you liked.

Finally, good games tend to have passionate communities. Chances are the community knows of other, similar games. You can bet that if they care enough to actively participate, they’re likely to have done a very similar search to yours, and would be happy to help. Try searching for “(game name) forums” to turn up potential community websites.

I want something different, or unusual

If you’re tired of the big-budget AAA releases, and/or you want to be able to say “I played (game) before it was cool” – have you considered checking out the indie scene? There’s a wealth of games available for fairly cheap. There are a number of websites dedicated to indie gaming, like IndieGames.

Yet another feature of Steam is Greenlight where the community can submit and pick games to be featured on Steam. There’s a wide array of games on offer, and the list of greenlit and released games can give you a good idea of the often “lesser known” games the community is excited about.

One way to end up with a few excellent games for cheap, while potentially supporting a good cause, is an indie game bundle. One of the early bundles (and arguably the most famous) is the Humble Bundle – it’s pay what you want, and you can can donate the money to charity if you so choose. The only downside is that you typically can’t pick the games you get, and they’re time limited. However, looking back at old bundles might give you an idea as to what indie games and developers are making waves.

A quick Google search for “Indie Game Bundle” will turn up quite a few other sites that run similar promotions. Likewise, Steam tends to run indie bundle deals from time to time, especially as part of larger sales.

I just want something good

If you’re looking for a good game, chances are you’re going to want to check out review and ranking sites. Metacritic is a good starting point, as they index and catalog a wide variety of critical reviews in an easy-to-digest format. They also summarize what’s coming soon, as well as what’s new and notable. GameRankings also serves a similar purpose, although they focus solely on video games. They’ve got some good “best games of all time” list views as well.

Individual game review sites tend to vary, and the things one site likes might not match your preferences. Try checking out a few to see what works for you. There’s a long list out there, but some of the heavy hitters are IGN, GameSpot, 1UP, Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun.

Is X better than Y?

Another common variant of the shopping advice question is “Should I buy this thing, or that thing?” The things involved might be different video cards, consoles, games, or even versions of the same game.

PC Hardware

PC hardware (CPU, Video Card, etc.) comparisons are actually relatively easy compared to most shopping decisions. Since it’s fairly easy to experiment and conclusively determine the performance of hardware, this is more of a science project than a religious discussion. Sites like TomsHardware and HardOCP both do heads up comparisons between most competing brands of hardware, in addition to comparing different models from the same brand.

When it comes to most hardware, and video cards in particular, I will tend to do a search for “(model #1) vs (model #2)” and see what pops up. Many hardware review sites will do large charts periodically, comparing virtually every model on the market against each other, which can help determine just how much bang a particular bit of hardware is going to give you for your money.

Games, Consoles, and Versions

This is a more touchy subject. An uncountable number of internet forum threads devolve into “lol (manufacturer) sux dood, (competitor) is way better noob.” For the most part, the decision boils down to figuring out what the differences are, and determining what you think is important.

For instance, each console has its own exclusive titles/licenses, controllers, friend systems, achievement doodads, and so forth. Some of these you care about, and some of these you don’t. Pick the important ones, and then determine which console provides the best experience in the areas you have prioritized.

Since these preferences are highly personal, consulting with friends who have similar tastes can be useful as well. Steam has a built-in recommendation system for games they offer, or you could turn to your social networks and ask for advice.

When it comes to comparing multiple versions of the same game, or different (but similar) games, we do allow these questions, if they’re properly scoped and as detailed as possible. So, if you’re considering buying a game and can’t choose between the console or the PC versions, if you can ask a specific question about particular features, you might have good luck getting an answer here.

Conclusion

“What should I buy/play next?” is sort of the eternal question of the gamer. Good stuff is coming out constantly, and we’re inundated with a torrent of things that are worth playing. With as many different things competing for our attention, it can be difficult to figure out what’s essential and what’s junk. In the end, though, the decision is really yours to make! As long as you’re having fun, there is no wrong answer.

Filed under Gaming 101

2 Comments

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  • Plutoknox says:

    Good stuff is coming out regularly yeah, fortunately not that much in this time of the year so people like me can catch up with all the good titles :D