One year ago, when valve announced the Steam Deck, I was absolutely fascinated. I’m not a PC gamer – after eight to 10 hours of work a day the last thing I want to do is be at a desk – but this new device offered something different: the ability to play PC games on a handheld. Before it arrived, anyone who wanted to play such games on the go had to hope they would be available on Nintendo’s Switch. The Steam Deck offered an attractive alternative, allowing gamers to transfer their games from Steam to a handheld and take them anywhere.
So I ordered one. Or at least I tried. Like so many others, I logged onto the Valve website when bookings opened in July 2021 and was soon met with website crashes. Eventually I was able to reserve one, but when I finally received the email inviting me to buy the device (a year later), I hesitated.
I would read the reviews. I had done the research. I knew what the capabilities of the device were and what they weren’t. It’s not just a handheld console, it’s a PC that sometimes requires workarounds and tweaks to get things running smoothly. It is also a device without a mouse or keyboard that is intended for playing games that require a mouse and keyboard. It has a short battery life. (That last shortcoming was actually a bonus for me. The short battery life may work as a built-in timer.)
Ultimately, my hesitation wasn’t about the functionality of the Steam Deck. It was derived from a cost-benefit analysis. There are people who choose the Deck who have a huge catalog of Steam games, who will buy this thing and play it all the time. It is not me. I spend less and less time on video games, that’s why I rely more and more on mobile games. In the meantime, it’s not a cheap device. I felt incredibly guilty for splurging on something that I knew I would only use occasionally. But then I realized: I don’t have to use something all the time for it to be valuable to me.
Often the advantage in my cost-benefit analyzes is that of time. But that logic doesn’t hold up—I bought Horizon Zero Dawn on sale for $15 and I paid full price for Forbidden Horizon West. I love both of these games so much. What matters to me is how much enjoyment I get from something, not necessarily how much it costs – and sometimes you can get as much enjoyment in two hours as you can in 20. Sure, it’s good to do a good deal, but that’s not what matters in the long run.
Of course, I don’t want to pay a lot of money for something I know I’ll never use. But it doesn’t have to be “indispensable” either. It’s okay to splurge on a “would be nice” once in a while, as long as it stays within what I’m lucky enough to be able to afford.
And you know what? I’ve played the Steam Deck every day since it arrived. Sometimes it’s only 15 minutes while I have lunch, but it’s so good to have that option. I hadn’t realized how nice it would be to have Garrus Vakarian with me wherever I went. (Yes, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition works great for me on the Deck, and y’all know how I feel play this game again.)
Will the Steam Deck become my platform of choice? No, it will still be a PlayStation. But he doesn’t need to become my one and only. If you’re about to splurge on a Steam Deck for similar reasons, I’m giving you permission you don’t want to give yourself. It doesn’t have to be necessary to be worth it.