The Dangers of Browsing

Perhaps I’m a freak of nature or just plain weird but I just don’t seem to have as much problem resisting shopping as others. I think perhaps that I never particularly enjoyed the experience of going to the mall without having something specific to buy. Or as Cait pointed out recently on her blog that the danger really isn’t the shopping itself but rather the browsing.

For me, I generally don’t browse much to start with. Rather I tend to keep a list of things I might be interested in getting and let that sit for a week or two before I consider even shopping for the item. Thus most of the time my browsing is kept well chained and I don’t worry about my occasional minor impulse purchases for something like a ten pack of TimBits. Well except for the last two years where I realized I had developed a problem with one particular type of purchase: video games.

Pardon? Well perhaps a bit of backstory is in order. You see I stopped buying video games entirely for a few decades after finishing university as I was busy with other things in life. The decision wasn’t really intentional but rather accidental. I just was busy with other things and didn’t do it. Then several years ago we bought a Wii for the family and then bought the occasional game for that. Often more with the kids in mind than myself. So yes I played video games with them and enjoyed them but never too often and I never really had a browsing issue.

Yet that all changed back in 2015 for two main reasons. First up was I bought a new laptop that actually had some decent hardware and could actually run some games if I wanted. This was a first as up to this point in life I didn’t really consider running video games when buying a computer. Up to that point I tended to replace my laptops once I have problems running software that I need (like antivirus or tax software). So by virtue of that we tend to keep out laptops for five years or more at a cycle. The the second main reason things changed was a friend introduced me to a website called Gog.com, which stands for ‘Good Old Games.’ Here I found copies of videos games that I wanted to play from before my decade long drought at reasonable prices. So I got an account and bought a few classic games.

Then the trouble started as I realized something very shortly about the site. Just about everything on it goes on sale at some point during the year. So I got into the habit of browsing for titles and add them to my wish list and then check that list once a sale occurred. Then the site added a feature where they would email you to let you know when an item from your wish list went on sale. This lead me to become a regular shopper when they had a big sale which seemed to occur every few months. Then finally in 2017 things started to get a bit out of hand. I began to realize that I was buying far more games than I really could play in a reasonable amount of time.

So I began to control the spending in 2017 a bit more by setting flat amount of money that I would be willing to spend per sale. Typically this was $20, which isn’t a lot but can start to add up over a year. But this little trick also got me to start buying some games because they looked vaguely interesting and they were heavily discounted. Like in some cases for a dollar or two. I justified the behaviour because I thought I was ‘stocking up’ prior to leaving work in 2017.

Yet at the end of 2017 I had to face the facts. My collection on gog.com contained over 90 games and some of which would take over a 100 hours to play while even the shortest ones were like four or more hours. All in total I likely had years worth of game playing time ahead of me and I wasn’t playing them as fast as I was buying them. I had managed to develop a browsing and shopping habit that was on the very start of being unhealthy in my mind.

The one event that really brought this into focus was talking to a friend one day who also liked video games and he showed me an app that calculated the total game play time on all his various accounts (his GOG account alone was over 300 games) and it was literally more the the rest of his current lifetime assuming he didn’t sleep. To me that was crazy! He wasn’t buying games to play anymore. He was literally just collecting them and I saw just a bit of myself in his habits.

So with that shock of horror I realized I was turning into a collector I started a shopping ban for 2018. No buying video games from Gog.com for a year. Yet after reading Cait’s article I recently concluded that while I wasn’t buying games for months now I still had a browsing problem. I was still going to the site periodically to browse even when I had a ban on buying anything. While it had not been a problem yet, I was setting myself up to fail if I wasn’t being very careful. So now I have to sort out how I want to control or limit my browsing habit and I’m debating just going cold turkey.

And to clarify my horror about turning into a collector wasn’t really about the money involved. All in total I was spending $100 or less a year on video games. The money isn’t the issue here but rather my concern had to do with my time. By buying these dirt cheap games I was setting myself up to hours and hours of my time to even just try out a game even if I didn’t finish it. So with each purchase I was committing future me to more and more game time which I really didn’t want to do. I enjoy video games as a form of entertainment, but I don’t want to commitment too much of my life towards them. I have other hobbies and interests I also enjoy.

So what do you have a browsing problem with? How did you get over it or control it?

One thought on “The Dangers of Browsing”

  1. One of the things that helped with my GoG/Steam habit was a hard limit: I get one new game a year. If I want to get more than that, I can, under one condition:

    No unplayed games.

    Zero. I can’t buy more than 1 game a year unless I’ve actually played the games I have.

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