By: Brian Ziegenhagen
Not all gaming has to be restricted to home consoles like the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360. PC gaming has made a resurgence in recent years thanks in large part to the digital distribution platform called “Steam.” One of my contributors, a new father named Brian, is so much of a fan that he was more than excited to share his thoughts on the subject with us. Here they are:
For a family on a gaming budget, Steam provides a lot of ways to save a buck and still have a good online and offline gaming experience. There is a bit of chatter from some gaming parents about potentially adding a parental control system within Steam. In the meantime, people seem to be very happy with a program called GameNanny (http://www.steamnanny.com/index.php) It has an excellent feature where you can have multiple settings for multiple users on a single Steam account.
Steam also keeps a log of play time which is handy in making sure your kids aren’t over doing it. (Editors note: For sake of information the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children have no more than 2 hours a day of screen time.) While I’ve no need for it with my five week old boys, there are ways to work a time limit into Windows. It just takes a quick google search and a little knowledge.
I’ve pulled together a list of pros and cons for to give you an idea of ewhat the service has to offer if you haven’t already joined the Steam Community.
Gaming on a budget is my primary concern and Steam has no membership fees. So, this is an important feature for me. They also have sales every day and will run massive site wide sales every3-4 months. This can be dangerous to your bank account if you don’t have the willpower to not buy all the discounted games. If you catch a big Steam sale, which happen fairly often, you can grab yourself a few big budget, high price games sometimes as low as 75% off. When is the last time you’ve seen a 75% off sale at your local game shop? They just don’t happen.
Windows or Mac fanboys, here is some equal ground. Steam is basically George Takei. Stay with me people. Finally, Mac(trekkies) gaming fanboys (those are a thing?) and PC (Star Wars junkies) gaming fanboys can hold hands and play together. You are both welcome in the steam community. On top of that, you can access and play your games purchased on Steam through a Mac or a PC. Purchasing a game gives you download access to both versions of the game. Your cloud saves translate between all computer types as well, which is really nice. Thank you for accepting my forced analogy. With limited hard drive space, a nice feature for me is that you can download a purchased game as many times as you want. Don’t worry about your saves or your DLCs, Steam has it covered. No need to backup files at all.
Bug reporting is fairly quick and easy. Steam is always moving forward fixing general bugs and improving their online framework. Steam still provides the leaderboards, avatars, friends lists, achievements, text chat, voice chat and forums. Steamworks is a champ at online community gaming. It casts a huge net allowing for easy to distribute user generated mods and helps with multiplayer matching. With such a wide net being cast you can catch some undesirables, like cheaters. Steam’s cheat detection bans offenders from dedicated servers.
These were a little tougher to come up with. They all feel like small gripes that aren’t really an issue but I’m going to list them in the interest of fairness.
First, You need a Steam account to play your game. It is, however, quick and easy so I don’t really see an issue. You have to sign off on their TOS and UELA which don’t have anything irregular in them.
The Steam client, which is required, is 1.5 MB and has some updates over time that will take up a little more room. The Steam client DOES need to be running in order to play a game on your Steam account which eats up roughly 10MB of memory resources. Though you can access your Steam account through any computer, you can only be online with your account with one computer at a time. Meaning multiple people cant play the same individual game from separate computers online. Lets be real, this isn’t so much a con as a reality. It’s a licensing issue. A big one which I understand completely is one that people see as a bit of a gamble. Should Steam’s company Valve ever go under they will no longer support the games through their application. Though, Valve has said they will unlock all games that wont be supported. So long as they keep their word this wont be an issue.
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