Gaming on a college budget: Part 1

Turn that extra coin into hours of entertainment with part 1 of our gaming guide for budget-conscious students

WRITTEN BY: Jason Evangelho
Image Source: TheDarkThing via Flickr

Let’s face it: College is a perpetual state of being broke. There are those lucky few who get fantastic jobs or have a trust fund, but most of us are barely scraping by. When you’re grappling with the decision of buying food for a couple of weeks or the newest "Call of Duty," food (normally) will win. Fear not all you cash-poor college gamers. There are multitudes of ways you can take those meager left-over pennies after paying the pizza guy and turn them into a worthwhile gaming experience. Part 1 of our gaming on a budget series,  according to Samantha Bigger, a gaming blogger,  is all about getting your game on for as few dollars as possible.

Rent or Trade, Don’t Buy
Most new console games cost about $60. That translates into about two tanks of gas, 12 $5 Dollar Hot-n-Ready Pizzas from Little Caesar's, or one (cheap) wild night out on the town. Unless the game has an online multiplayer, it isn’t likely you’re going to play it more than once. Why shell out all those Jacksons for about 12 hours of enjoyment? Renting from your local video store - before it goes extinct - can at least give you an idea what the game is like for a few dollars. 

GameFly is another strong alternative for game rentals, and fans of Netflix will feel right at home. For $15.95 per month, the service allows cash-strapped gamers to rent one game at a time, for an unlimited duration. You’re able to queue up anticipated releases months ahead of time, and the newest games are normally available within the first month of their release. Even if you cycled through only one game per month (perfect for RPG’s and single player adventures), GameFly is still a substantial saving compared to having to ante up $60 per title.

Another option is to trade your games with other people. You could do it among your friends or in the dorm, but there is a professional game trading community out there called Goozex , and it destroys your local Gamestop in terms of value. Trading at Goozex is accomplished by a software algorithm matching buyers and sellers. Buyers request games with varying conditions (complete box, disc-only, etc) and are then matched to sellers through a queue system. The cost per trade is only $1 plus shipping, and receiving games on your wish list only requires Goozex points, accumulated by trading out your software. This is where the site trumps outfits like Gamestop in terms of value. Games like "Final Fantasy XIII" or "Call of Duty: Black Ops" retain their full-priced value for several months. Put simply, this means that instead of that measly $20 credit from Gamestop, you’re getting the Goozex-points-equivalent of full price. (1000 points = $60.) If the math sounds fuzzy, just head over to Goozex and sign up. Yours truly has used it for years, and you’ll be impressed by the service.

Libraries
Libraries aren’t just for books anymore. Today’s library, especially in larger cities, is a complete multimedia experience. Best of all, library cards cost nothing if you live within the library’s district. Your library may or may not lend games, but it’s worth finding out. Ones that do may charge a nominal fee for renting a video game. Even if your local library can’t afford to buy video games for a circulating collection, they still want to lure gamers into the bowels of the library. Watch for library-hosted gaming days and tournaments.

Campus Sponsored Slacking
Universities have noticed the influx of gamers onto their campuses and are responding accordingly, not by limiting bandwidth and banning video games, but by encouraging gamers (and non-gamers) with campus-sponsored gaming centers and events. In the Union at the University of Michigan, for example, is the Billiards and Game Room, which houses all sorts of gaming (board, billiards and video).

A new trend springing up in universities all over the U.S. is the integration of video games into the scholarly aspect of the "college" experience. No longer left to just student life, the cultural phenomenon that is the video game industry is taken up by professors and librarians, who are are grabbing hold and running with it. University libraries have taken it upon themselves to help preserve a huge part of recent history that, for the most part, was ignored by modern historians and other libraries and museums. The Computer and Video Game Archive at the University of Michigan and University of Texas’s Videogame Archive are at the forefront of this movement. Normally, students are allowed to come in and use the facilities for recreation. So if you’ve been yearning for a little retro N64 action or even the original Frogger, these are the places to hit. Yes, your time may be limited here, but for a chance to play something that you haven’t seen in years, it’s worth it.

Coming up in Part 2
After you’ve checked out the rental and trade scenes and explored your own campus for inexpensive gaming options, come back later this week for Part 2 of our budget-conscious special. We’ll tell you how to get the most from Xbox Live Arcade, Steam and the Playstation Network. We’ll even explore high-definition gaming without the need for a high-end PC or video game console.

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