What I've learned through my quest to buy zero new games in 2019

I have a problem: I buy almost every new game that comes out. I play games way too much. Sometimes I buy games and then don't play them. My friend—who streams videogames professionally—tells me there isn't a single game in his Steam library that I haven’t played for at least ten hours. My love of PC games is a Problem. So for my new year's resolution, I decided enough was enough—for the entirety of 2019, I will not buy a new videogame. 

After three full months of 2019, and a lot of hand-wringing over whether or not I should break my resolution for Baba is You, this is what I’ve learned.

Not playing new releases gives you FOMO, but playing similar, older games reduces it

You know how every time a megablockbuster movie comes out in theaters, a cheap direct-to-DVD ripoff with a similar name shows up in department stores? And then your grandma got you “Transmorphers 2: The Fallen Arise” because she heard you liked those movies and you were like “thanks, grandma” and you tucked it away in your DVD collection?

About the Author

Anthony Burch is a writer with nine years of experience in the videogame industry. He currently works at Santa Monica Studio.

I started doing the same thing with this year's popular game releases. Except the knockoff games I’m playing aren’t knockoffs, and they preceded the new releases, and they’re actually good. So, maybe not much like that.

All the positive launch buzz for Resident Evil 2 had me jonesing for a third-person-shooter-slash-survival-horror-type-experience, so I played The Evil Within 2. I’d ignored it at release, but I’m really glad I revisited it—its Resident Evil 4-esque survival mechanics play really well with its quasi-open world. 

All of the incredible reviews of Devil May Cry 5 have reignited my desire to slash and shoot demons, so I reinstalled Ninja Theory’s underrated DmC. Though I have to assume it doesn’t play as smoothly as Devil May Cry 5 (I can’t remember the last time I saw so many reviewers and players gushing over the feel of an action game), DmC is still stylish as hell and has charm to spare.

I’m still completely out of the loop in regards to what makes Mr. X so cool or why Nero is even more fun to control than Dante or whatever, but, hey, it scratches the itch—I get the general flavor of the type of game all the hype has given me a craving for, and that’s enough to prevent me from impulse-buying the latest and greatest games.

That’s also because I learned:

If I wait a week or so, my desire to spend money on a new game almost entirely disappears

I used to look forward to Tuesday nights. I’d eagerly sit by my desktop, waiting for Steam to unlock whatever new game I’d pre-ordered months before because I am gullible. The dopamine would kick in as the download commenced: a new game! Something bright, and shiny, and exciting that I haven’t grown tired of yet! Surely, this will be the experience that will bring a heretofore unexperienced joy into my life, and remind me why I love videogames!

Then I play the damn thing, and inevitably it’s, like, fine. Most of the time, it would turn out I was more excited about the anticipation than I was the actual game.

I was worried this anticipation would cause me to impulse-buy the Resident Evil 2 remake the day it came out. I was worried I’d impulse buy it the day after release, too. And two days after. Three days after release, I wasn’t sure I needed to play it right this second. Seven days after, I didn’t even think about it anymore.

Replaying older games can show how you have (or haven’t) changed

When I initially played Thief 2 a decade ago, I took great joy in meticulously knocking out every guard and disabling every robot. The point of the game, to my mind, was to take a hostile environment and slowly chip away at its defenses until I could sprint around the map at full speed without risking detection.

Today, the current American political situation has convinced me that individual action is meaningless in the face of a massive, cruel, and indifferent economic infrastructure. Today, I play Thief 2 by avoiding every enemy rather than taking them out. Today, I derive joy from the tension of hiding in a shadowy corner mere inches away from a patrolling guard, praying he doesn’t notice me. Thief 2’s levels are an intricate clockwork of moving parts. I used to enjoy smashing the gears; now I have more fun sliding between them.

Also, it turns out that most of the games I bought, played for a little while, and then abandoned because they weren’t for me? They’re still not for me. Nioh is still not quite Dark Souls-y enough for me; I’m still a little too stupid for Ironclad Tactics. It’s comforting, at least, to know that some things remain consistent no matter how long it’s been since I first played them.

There are tons of great free games out there 

Thank you, Apex Legends. You are not only the best battle royale ever, but you have finally helped the world realize that Titanfall 1 and 2 are some of the best FPS games ever, and that anyone who didn’t buy them sucks.

Thank you, Gwent, for your super weird mechanics and fantastic art. (Yeah. That’s right. I play Gwent and not MtG. I’m that kinda pervert.)

Thank you, Thief 2/The Dark Mod community and your seemingly endless stream of high-quality fan missions with charmingly amateur VO.

Thank you, Dota Auto Chess. Probably. I haven’t played it. It sounds complicated. But I could.

It’s been said before, but you can have a hell of a lot of fun on a PC without spending a dime. Even ignoring my current obsessions, I haven’t even dipped a toe into Path of Exile, Warframe, H1Z1, or Brawlhalla. If my new year’s resolution is going to be difficult, it certainly won’t be due to a lack of cool stuff to play.

Which is a good thing, because...

I still play a lot of videogames, even though I hoped I wouldn’t 

I am not a well-rounded human being. I don’t read as much as I should. I don’t have any interesting hobbies. I watch a lot of TV, I mindlessly browse the internet, and I play a ton of videogames.

When I made this resolution, I thought I might cook more. I thought I’d learn to play guitar. I thought I might start writing a novel.

Instead, I have put thirty more hours into Battletech.

So, you know. The resolution is going great so far, other than all the existential terror I’m experiencing. But I'm saving a lot of money.