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3 Tips for Handling a Steam Sale and Accepting Your Mortality

You are going to die.
Image: Kryos/YouTube.

Forget Black Friday. Forget Cyber Monday. If you're playing games on your PC, the only hot deals that matter this time of year pop up during Steam's holiday sale, which started on December 22 and will end on January 4.

People like to joke about the the difficulty of resisting the allure of Steam sales, but if you don't have a plan of attack it can become a legitimate problem. On the one hand, how do you say no to an 80 percent discount? On other hand, there are going to be so many games that are deeply discounted, you're going to have to say no to something. You only have so much money. More importantly, you only so much time.


Over the years, I've developed a few techniques that help me get through this difficult shopping season. It's also the season for giving, so I'll share them here with you in hope that they can help you as well.

1. Organize your Steam Library

My Steam Library, which has held all of my PC games for about a decade, is divided into four categories.

First, there is the default "GAMES" category, where all new purchases wait until I sort them. From there, they almost always go into the "HAVEN'T FINISHED" category, where I keep the games I am actively trying to play to completion. Once I finish a game, I move it into the "FINISHED" category, where I'll keep it until I'm sure I don't want to play it again for a story I'm writing. Once I feel safe enough that I'm not going to play the game anytime soon, I uninstall it.

Finally, there is the dreaded "FUCK IT" category. It might as well be called the "shit list," where I keep games that I haven't finished, currently have no intention to keep playing, and which I probably rage quit out of literally muttering "fuck it" to myself. Most of the games on this list aren't installed, because a rage quit is usually followed by a rage uninstall.

This is the most important category. You're going to buy games that you don't like. That's okay. Use this list to guide your future purchases. Don't buy downloadable content for games that are in the "FUCK IT" category, obviously, and if Spelunky is already on it, maybe you don't need to buy another super difficult roguelike ever again, even if it's $3.00 on sale.


2. Steam sales aren't the only sales

The Steam Store is likely the first thing you see when you want to launch a game on your PC, so it makes sense to think that it's the best place to buy your games, especially during a crazy holiday sale.

That's true most of the time, but not always. Amazon also has a huge digital PC games sale, and it might have a better deal on the game you want than Steam. Most of Amazon's digital PC games redeem through Steam anyway, and it also has deals on games you can't get through Steam, like Titanfall.

Steam is rules the PC gaming landscape, but it's still always worth shopping around.

3. Accept the fact that you are going to die

The average life expectancy for a human being in the United States according to The World Bank is almost 80 years. That's pretty good, but still, none of us are getting out of this alive.

Even if you lived that long and spent most of your waking hours playing games, you probably wouldn't have time to play every game Steam has on sale to completion.

That's OKAY!

Games have taught us to be completionists. They reward players for getting all those 120 stars in Super Mario 64, or getting a platinum medal on every race.

Hell, even now, against my better judgment, I'm trying to get a 100 percent completion rate in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This is a really ill-advised endeavor, but I can't help it. It's a compulsion, but you can't indulge it all the time, even if you tried.

I believe this same completionist mentality makes Steam sales more difficult to resist. You start collecting games like Pokémon. Gotta catch'em all, even if you don't have the time to play them.

In previous years, Valve even played into this by gamifying sales, giving players free stuff for buying a certain amount of games or completing a goal in a game that was currently on sale.

The only way to be truly responsible during your Steam holiday shopping is to fully internalize this truth. Life is finite. You're not going to read all the books you buy and you don't have the time to play the games you want to buy.

By all means, go nuts. Buy games you wouldn't have bought otherwise, but remember you can refund Steam games, not time. If you don't like something, move on. Make use of that "FUCK IT" category, and remember that the there are no continues at the end of real life, only the abyss of non-existence.