A year ago, when Valve announced the Steam Deck I was absolutely riveted. I’m not a PC gamer—after eight to 10 hours of work every day, the last thing I want to do is sit at a desk—but this new device offered something else: the ability to play PC games on a handheld. Before its arrival, anyone who wanted to play such games on the go had to hope they were available on Nintendo’s Switch. Steam Deck offered an appealing alternative, one that let players 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 Valve’s website when reservations opened in July 2021 and was immediately met with website crashes. Eventually I was able to reserve one, but when I finally got the email inviting me to purchase the unit (a year later), I hesitated.
I would read the reviews. I had done the research. I knew what the device’s capabilities were and what they weren’t. It’s not just a handheld console – it’s a PC that sometimes requires workarounds and adjustments to make things work properly. It is also a device without a mouse or keyboard that is meant to play games that require a mouse and keyboard. It has a short battery life. (This last shortcoming was actually a bonus for me. Short battery life can act as a built-in timer.)
Ultimately, though, my hesitation wasn’t about Steam Deck’s functionality. It arose from a cost-benefit analysis. There are some people who pick up in Deck, who have a huge back catalog of Steam games, who will buy this thing and play it all the time. It is not me. I’m getting less and less time for video games as it is, so I’m increasingly addicted to mobile games. Meanwhile, it’s not a cheap device. I felt incredibly guilty throwing away something I knew I would only use occasionally. But then I realized: I don’t need to use something all the time for it to be valuable to me.
Often the advantage in my cost-benefit analyzes is one of time. But that logic doesn’t actually hold – I bought Horizon Zero Dawn on sale for $15 and I paid full price for Horizon Forbidden West. I love both of these games equally. What matters to me is how much pleasure I get from something, not necessarily how much it costs – and sometimes you can get as much pleasure in two hours as you can in 20. Of course, it’s nice to get 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 a “must-have” either. It’s perfectly fine to throw out a “would be nice” once in a while, as long as it’s within what I’m lucky enough to be able to afford.
And you know what? I’ve been playing Steam Deck every single day since it came out. Sometimes it’s only for 15 minutes while I eat lunch, but it’s so great to have that option. I didn’t realize how nice it would be to have Garrus Vakarian with me wherever I went. (Yes, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition works wonderfully for me in the deck and you all know how I feel about playing that game again.)
Will Steam Deck become my go-to platform? No, it will always be a PlayStation. But it doesn’t have to be my only one. If you’re on the fence about splashing out on a Steam Deck for similar reasons, I’ll give you the permission you won’t give yourself. It doesn’t have to be necessary to be worth it.