I've got a new toy.
Yes, the title might give it away: I've bought myself a Steam Deck.
The truth is, it's now June and I pulled the trigger in April. What have I been doing waiting this long before writing a love letter to Valve?
Ah yes, that's it - I've been playing games.
I grew up in a booming PC scene. Dial-up internet was just becoming a thing for the masses, 2D Doom was about to see its successor - a fully 3D Quake - released, and the 3Dfx Voodoo was my dream GPU.
Wind forward through my teens into my early twenties and I've played all sorts on PC, from shooters like Duke Nukem 3D and Quake 2; to sims like Championship Manager and Rollercoaster Tycoon; to realtime strategy like Command & Conquer; to flight sims and driving sims and everything in between. From what started as a penniless teen begging his Dad for a gpu to a young adult earning money and spending it on upgrades, PC gaming was home.
Then, parenthood came and my priorities shifted. Money was spent elsewhere, time was taken up outside of those games. The scene started to pass me by as more and more games were released that I simply never got to experience.
Which brings me to the modern day.
The boys are no longer small children - they have their own gaming PCs, consoles and phones. They play more games than I ever did, more socially too thanks to the internet. I remember having to physically go to a friend's place to play with them when I was their age; they just pull on a headset and meet their friends. But I digress; the point is that I find myself with a little more time than I did when they were very little.
I also found myself conscious of the amount of games that I owned that I'd never got around to starting, or were unfinished: particularly on Steam where the sales are legendary.
This time+backlog situation made me look at the Steam Deck as a serious device that could fill a hole for me. And fill a hole it has! A week after my new purchase I was on holiday with the family and whilst I was lounging around in a lovely cottage, I finished Mirror's Edge for the first time. I sat in the sun and watched the kids play football whilst I was blasting through stages in Sonic Mania. I went to bed and played Sundered.
I've continued to find myself returning to or even discovering all sorts of things recently that I had simply missed in the past. I'm currently working through XCOM, and with two games and all the DLC to go I know it's going to be a while. But that's ok, the portability factor is ideal to pick it up, play a mission, put it down.
And I think that's the secret that Valve have discovered: the portability of the system means that I pick up and drop games on my schedule now. I'm not sure that PC gaming has ever had that before - waiting for a machine to boot, an OS to load, a game to launch seems so far removed from "screen on, play".
I'm delighted to be back PC gaming again and would absolutely recommend a Steam Deck to anyone!
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