If I asked you to name a few unique qualities about Pakistanis, you would probably say that we love cricket, spicy food and bargaining. Yep, that’s us! Our dads will negotiate throughout the day with the corporate crowd, while our moms would haggle with the fruit vendor – or whoever stands in the way of her saving that last rupee. Thus I decided to look at gaming from a different perspective, taking into account the cash we cough up for our passion of gaming. So how does gaming stack up in the critical eyes of our beloved parents? And what is the cash per entertainment value with respect to other entertainment sources? Time to put the nerd glasses on.
The first step in calculating the worth of gaming logically means focusing on the console itself. You skip and run like a little girl to the shop to get yourself a spanking new console. The shopkeeper smiles to himself, “time to make some dough”. Approximately 28,000 rupees are “invested”, and the result is either an Xbox 360 or a PS3. That was easy. Now to the expenses that are often overlooked. The dilemma here is that there are two ways to go about accessing video games (either opt for piracy and risk online playability or buy original). I will try to cover both aspects but will only discuss in detail the path most taken.
Scenario No.1 The first scenario involves you exclaiming to the shopkeeper, “There is no way I’m paying 5,000 rupees for a single game”; and then thinking of a workaround, “Where can I get my console modified?”. Hearing this, the shopkeeper smiles ear-to-ear, and yells for his chotey to make an appearance. Soon you see a kid running up to you, taking your console and asking you to wait. Meanwhile, you buy the top 10 games you found on internet for around 1,000 rupees and wait. After another 20 minutes, and another 2,000 rupees spent (the more you loiter, the more you spend) chota finally comes running back, and you brace yourself for some action. Just as you’re about to leave, you realise that you don’t always play the Xbox by yourself. What if your friend Zulekha comes over? You should definitely get another controller – just in case. That’s another 3,500 rupees down, and you haven’t even reached home yet.
Scenario No.2 Now, had you opted to play the original video games, the picture painted would have been quite the contrast. An original game on DVD or BlueRay costs you around 4,500 rupees (less if you don’t buy it near launch date or if it’s not an AAA title). Also, if you intend to go piracy-free then you would love to play it online. I mean it’s one of the major perks of playing an original game (besides the obvious doing-the-ethically-right-thing). Gaming on the PlayStation Network is free, but that PlayStation Plus subscription sounds so tempting (with its free content and pre-launch goodies) that it’s almost impossible to resist it (I mean if you’re willing to spend money for a full-on experience, you might as well go all-out!). Xbox 360 users have to buy a gold membership to even consider playing online. The cost of going online with the extras is about 3,000 rupees for both systems, but with a normal PSN account you can play for free. Another charge that we should put on our list of expenses is the cost of buying the downloadable content (DLC). Imagine all your friends are playing modified maps and stages, with customised costumes and quirky characters, while you run around in your stock pajamas skin, looking totally “un-customised”. You would come off as the odd kid on the block; now, we don’t want any of that, do we? Thus, the wallet goes another 2,500 rupees lighter.
Better of two evils Phew! Finally that’s done. So for those keeping tab on our charge sheet, that’s approximately 34,500 rupees for a pirated experience and 41,500 rupees for an original one. To keep the boring calculations simple, let’s take an average cost of 38,000 rupees and go with it. Now parents reading this with an ‘Oh-my-God!-that’s-expensive’ look on their faces, calm down. Believe me, gaming is perhaps the cheapest and safest option for your kids. Let me clarify by comparing gaming with other popular entertainment options. Not everyone owns a 60-inch screen and going to the movies takes up around 600 rupees on each visit. Add to that the fact that there is no replay-ability and that you have to drive to the cinema. You might retort, saying that you can always download movies from the internet, without spending a penny. But one thing you seem to overlook is that movies aren’t an interactive form of entertainment. You can’t just pause, save or return to a movie without disrupting the whole experience. Buying a computer, a DVD player or, ironically, a gaming console to play movies all require a certain amount of investment. The story-filled experience of movies only lasts a couple of hours, while most good multiplayer games can easily clock over 50 hours (which parents could see as a good thing or a bad thing). Gaming provides us with a content-rich experience that keeps gamers completely immersed in the form of entertainment; that’s good value for money.
Playing outdoor sports is another option; but buying the right equipment, going to a location to play it, sports injuries, buying membership to the club and nearly always needing someone else to play with, are things we usually don’t account for. For those who think that video games make you physically lazy, I should say that gaming nowadays is not only limited to couch potatoes. Motion controllers have changed that significantly. With security concerns in Pakistan being a reality, the safety of playing video games from the comfort of a safe environment is another benefit. As far as the “being-social” argument is concerned, gaming does provide you with opportunity to meet new people online everyday from all around the world. You directly interact with people from all ages and walks of life, being digital is the new social.
Keep it diverse I am not arguing that gaming is all that one should do for entertainment. Movies, sports, etcetera all have something going for them. They provide you with benefits that are essential for general well-being, but none of them immerse you in the experience as deeply as a game. Spending 38,000 rupees for something you own, with a life cycle of over 10 years; something that provides you with incredible stories, drool-inducing graphics and intense action is worth every penny. In my opinion gaming surely offers excellent entertainment value for your buck.