Gaming on a College Budget

Let’s face it. College is a perpetual state of being broke for most people. There are those lucky few that who get great jobs or have a trust fund, but most of us are barely scrapping by. When you’re face with the decision of food for a couple of weeks and the newest release, food (normally) will win. Don’t fear all you poor college gamers out there. There are ways that you can take the meager pennies left over after paying the pizza guy and turn them into a worth-while gaming experience.

Rent or Trade, Don’t Buy

Most console games, brand new, cost about $60 dollars. That translates into about 2 tanks of gas (if you’re lucky), 12 $5 Dollar Hot-n-Ready Pizzas from Little Caesars, or 1 (cheap) wild night out on the town. Unless the game has on-line multi-player, it isn’t likely you’re going to play it more than once. Why shell out all those Jacksons for about 20 hours of enjoyment (if you’re lucky)? Sometimes you never know if a game is going to blow. You may have just paid for the clunker of the year. Renting from your local video shop can at least give you an idea what the game is like for a few bucks for a weekend. If you really like it, you CAN buy it, but if not, you’ve only spent about $5 dollars.

Another alternative is to trade your games with other people. You could do it among your friends or in the dorms, but there are game trading websites out there. I use Goozex. I must say, I have had very few problems with them and when there have been ones; they have been quickly taken care of. This is how most game trading websites (or at least the good ones) work. You sign up for an account, list all the games you have to trade out and the ones you’d like to receive. You’ll get matched up with someone else to either send a game to them or get a game (if you have enough points). Points can be bought or received from positive trades. It’s all fairly simple. These sites make their money through ads and a small trading fee. With Goozex you need to have tokens to receive games, but the tokens cost something like $1. In the scheme of things… one dollar is ALOT better than sixty.

There’s an interesting promotion going on until the end of January 2010.

Starting today, all registered members that have a “.edu” email address on file with Goozex will receive free trading through January 31, 2010. This means no trading token required to trade games or movies for all students!

We understand students across the country are over-burdened with high tuition costs, cost-of-living expenses and Holiday shopping.  Often times they need to give up a large portion of their entertainment budget to keep up with raising living costs on- and off-campus. Thia “no trade fees for students” promotion intends to help students get access to more games and movies during the Holiday season.

This promotion applies to all existing and future Goozex members that register their account using a valid “.edu” email address (email address must be confirmed and account activated).

Another “trading” that can be done on the PSN(PlayStation Network) is content sharing. I don’t own any Sony consoles (or handhelds), so I can’t tell you exactly how it works (or if it is legal or not). I did a little research into it and found answers both ways. So if you are going to do this, it’s at your own risk. Here’s an article from Examiner.com’s Pittsburgh PS3 Examiner, Sean Krick, on the subject.

Libraries

Libraries aren’t just places for books anymore. Today’s library, especially in larger cities, is a whole multimedia experience. From books to DVDs, you can just about find anything in the library (because libraries are awesome). The best part, library cards won’t cost anything if you live within the library’s district. Some libraries will charge a nominal fee for renting a video game. You can blame all the losers that steal the games for that. Remember people, libraries are poor. Stealing makes them poorer and they buy less of what you want because, when it comes down to it, most books are cheaper. Check out my rambling on Video Games in Libraries Part 1: Libraries==Blockbuster? for more in-depth coverage.

Your library may not lend out games, I’m not making a promise that they do. Like I said before, a lot of libraries can’t afford to buy games, but they still want to lure gamers into the bowels of the library. They might not have a circulating collection, but many will have gaming days and tournaments. While you don’t get to take the game home, you can still play. It’s especially cool, if you’re like me and can’t afford every console there is. Check out your local library and Part 2 of my VGnL series: Ye ol’ Tourney.

Campus Sponsored Slacking

Universities noticed the influx of gamers onto their campus and have responded accordingly. No, not by limiting bandwidth and banning video games, but by encouraging gamers (and non-gamers) with campus sponsored gaming centers and events. In the Union at the University of Michigan is the Billiards and Game Room which houses all sorts of gaming (board, billiards, and yes video). For UofM students interested in the costs, look at this page for prices for the Xbox 360 game stations. If you aren’t a total hard-core gamer and are just looking for a couple of hours every once in a while to play by yourself or with a group $2.50-$3.50 per hour isn’t that bad. For the price of an Elite and a game that’s 100 hours of gaming. From the signs around campus, it looks like they also have some Wiis for the Nintendo freaks out there. Sorry, PlayStation fanboys (or fangirls), no love for you. Maybe you should stage a protest in the Diag like everyone else seems to.

UofM and EA Sports also sponsor video-game tournaments. Check out this page for there wheres, whens, whats, and hows.

A new trend springing up in universities all over the US is the integration of video games into the scholarly aspect of the “college” experience. No longer left to just student life, professors and librarians are grabbing a hold of the cultural phenomenon that is the video game industry and running with it. University libraries and others have taken it upon themselves to help preserve a huge part of recent history that, for the most part, was ignored by modern historians and other sorts of libraries and museums. The Computer and Video Game Archive at the University of Michigan and University of Texas’s Videogame Archive are at the forefront of that movement. I can’t speak for UT, but I know that students are allowed to come in and use the facilities at UofM’s CVGA for recreation. So if you’ve been yearning from a little N64 action or even the original Frogger, these are the places to hit. Yes, your time may be limited here, but for a chance to play something that you haven’t seen in years, it’s worth it. Warning: You may learn something with a trip to a video game archive.

Try a Different Flavor of Gaming

For those of you who don’t know it, there is something beyond that console/handheld, that you are so fanatical about. AND you may not even need a disc to play those games you are so in love with *gasp*. You’re in college to open your mind to new possibilities, so why not try another flavor of gaming life.

PC

Let’s face it. It’s hard to get through college without SOME sort of computer, whether it’s a laptop or a desktop. Did you know that computers are good for things other than writing papers and looking at porn? Really! You can play games on them! PC games are normally cheaper than console games as it is, but there’s also a lovely service called Steam. Steam allows you to buy and access games from their library on any computer, because it isn’t tied to the machine itself, but to your account. They are downloads, so if you don’t have an internet connection, you’re out of luck. If you’re paying attention, you can sometimes find really good deals on there like

LucasArts Premier Pack for $49.99 (Individual Price: $127.84) through 11/30/09

Includes: Star Wars Republic Commando™ , Indiana Jones® and the Fate of Atlantis™ , Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, The Dig® , Armed and Dangerous® , Star Wars Galaxies™: The Complete Online Adventures, Indiana Jones® and the Last Crusade™, LOOM™, Star Wars Starfighter™, The Secret of Monkey Island™: Special Edition, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, Star Wars: Dark Forces, Lucidity™Xbox

Xbox

Live has a couple of services that are worthy of note to budget strapped gamers.

LIVE Arcade

Better known as XBLA to Xbox gamers, these games are only available for download distribution from the Live Marketplace.  There are some awesome games out there AND they’re cheaper.  These aren’t your mainstream games like Mass Effect or Fable 2, but there are gems in there that you should check out like Castle Crashers or Splosion Man.  There about 265 titles on Arcade, so there are a lot of choices for you to waste your time with.

Indie

Of course, the company describes their product much better than I can.

Looking for something a little different? Xbox LIVE Indie Games are creative and original indie games made by the community, reviewed by the community, and played by everyone.

This is a place where up-and-coming talent shines, and where anyone with an idea can bring it to life on Xbox 360!

I was going to recommend Games on Demand, but after looking at the prices there AND the prices on Amazon… it’s cheaper to buy it on Amazon and you actually own the disc. The only plus side to Games on Demand was when dealing with old Xbox games that you can’t find discs of anymore (or people want like $40 bucks for it!!!! Grrr…). I’d still check eBay first.

PlayStation

The PlayStation has the PlayStation store. According to the PlayStation site:

PlayStation®Store offers 24/7 access to games, exclusives, movies and more for PlayStation®3 and PSP® systems.

With your PlayStation®Network account, you can visit PlayStation®Store for downloadable games, PS one® Classics, free demos, movies, TV shows and more to enjoy on your PS3™ and PSP® systems.

I don’t own any Sony systems, so I can’t tell you from firsthand experience how this all works. I do know that it’s hard to find out what they have at the PlayStation store since you can’t browse it easily on-line.

Wii

For the nostalgic gamer in you, Nintendo offers the Virtual Console. VC is full of all those games you loved as a kid from the NES, SNES, N64, Arcade, Commodore 64, Master System, NEOGEO, Genesis, and TurboGrafx 16. Points cost about $1 = 100 with games starting out at 500 points. The only extra purchase you may have to get is the classic controller which costs about 20 bucks. However, I think it’s worth it to play old favorites like Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros. 3, or Super Metroid. For a full list of games, click here.

Another Nintendo offering is WiiWare… I’ll let Nintendo explain this one since they have a handy-dandy video.

Game Over

As you can see there are a lot of other options then spending your last dime on a video game.  Give a few a try, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you can get.  Whether you decide to trade, rent, or try some of the alternative gaming, you’ll stretch that money Grandma sent you quite a ways.

When all else fails, there are always the Holidays and Birthdays!

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~ by reluctant_gamer on November 25, 2009.

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