I’ve been broke a few times. More than a few, actually. It’s at those times, when the dollars (or pounds or rupees) you have remaining in your wallet are so few that you can spend them on the next videogame or bread, that you realize what a truly expensive and addicting hobby it is we all share.

So, how do you cope? I’ve tried everything, from bargain bin diving to occasional and shameful acts of piracy. Yet, through both, my love for gaming has only grown. Diving the bargain bin led me to Red Dead Revolver, a flawed but magnificent game I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. The same holds true for Chibi-Robo, a game I still admire to this day.

As for piracy … well, I don’t like to talk about that. I’m not proud of it, but I would never have played Medal of Honor: Allied Assault any other way. That was one of two games I’ve pirated in my life, and I regret to admit I didn’t “pay for it if I enjoyed it” as so many thieving pirates claim they’ll do. I just stole it, plain and simple. Then I felt so bad about it I immediately went and got a better-paying job and never stole again. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Being broke led me away from PC gaming for the last time. I’d flirted on and off with giving up gaming entirely, selling games by the box-load to remove temptation (and for bread money), but so long as I owned a PC, the temptation was always there, and I would eventually succumb, buy a new game and go to town. By the mid-Ots, however, my PC would no longer handle new games. That party was over. I couldn’t afford a new one, and I’d upgraded everything that could be upgraded. So I bought an Xbox bundled with a couple of games on-sale at Costco, and commenced snatching up the back catalog at bargain bin prices. I spent a winter in gaming heaven, for less than it would have cost for a new PC alone.

So, sure, I know how to cope when I have low money, but what about no money? Can one game for free? Absolutely. And these days it’s easier than ever. From free-to-play MMOs to browser-based indie games, the array of games one can play today for absolutely no money is simply staggering. In those blessedly few and dismal times when I’ve had no money, I didn’t have those options. Usually, it was Solitaire or nothing. (I frequently chose nothing.)

Games, for the most part, are expensive to make, and correspondingly expensive to play, but in an industry well-known for frequent change it should be no surprise that this, too, is subject to the laws of entropy. In spite of the rising costs of production, there are now more low-cost gaming alternatives than ever. The best and most explosive gaming experiences may always require a steep investment, but for those without the coin to keep abreast of the latest AAA happenings, there are always alternatives.

This week, we celebrate the joys of being broke, with issue 301 of The Escapist. Enjoy.



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