BreakingModern — Some people take great pains to display, on shelves in their home, the books they have read. I prefer to display the computer games I have played. In my game library I even have some ancient and rare games, which I proudly highlight. However, something has drastically changed in the past five years or so.
I have not purchased a game delivered with physical media since November, 2008 when I purchased World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. I searched my library of games, and that is the last boxed game I purchased. Now, I buy all my games via digital download, and most of the time I use the Steam service developed by Valve Corp.
One Service to Rule Them
Steam is a free service that you install on your PC. It acts as central hub for all of your games. Using Steam, players can buy games, download them and then launch them. But there is much more to it than that. Steam also applies patches to your installed games to keep them up to date and running smoothly.
In addition, Steam acts as a social media hub where you can contact your game-playing friends using email and chat services. Even better, you can use Steam as your voice chat service which makes cooperative multiplayer games much easier to enjoy as they were intended. My nephew and I have spent many hours playing cooperative games of Total War: Shogun 2 and Civilization 5.
In addition to traditional community services, Steam also provides a place for modders to share their latest creations. Modding games is one of the reasons I prefer computer games over console games. Very creative people, with apparently way too much time on their hands, add quests, items and areas — to otherwise reinvent games that make them playable over and over again. There are thousands of mods alone for just The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
When Steam first arrived, it was released as a requirement to play the highly anticipated game Half-Life 2. That release was a public relations disaster, and the Steam service was resoundingly panned by everyone. But, as time passed and the serviced matured, Steam eventually became a great success. Players now routinely load the Steam service and hang out online with their gaming friends.
This success, of course, raised a few eyebrows with some publishers, who subsequently decided to create their own versions of something similar to Steam. Electronic Arts has a service called Origin, and UbiSoft has a service it has dubbed Uplay. Both services do about the same thing as Steam, only they provide the platform exclusively for their games. Personally, I think those publishers are making a mistake because the last thing I want is more clutter on my gaming computer. But then again, I’m just the guy buying games, so what do I know.
It’s the digital download age when it comes to gaming. Even console games require an Internet connection so they can download additional content and patch bugs. The day of the game box with a DVD or two in it are quickly going the way of the Dodo, and I think we are better off for it — even though my gaming library has become a bit stagnant of late.
If you are a computer gamer, Steam is now a must-have application. Also, Steam often has supersale weeks, where it sells $60 games for less than $10. I love when that happens.
Featured image credit: © nikkytok / Dollar Photo Club
All screenshots: Mark Kaelin