How Much Does a Game Cost?


I think about productivity a lot. I also think about video games a lot. So, naturally, I occasionally think about where those subjects intersect. Creatives are sometimes famous for wasting time. Our minds are working so hard on creating stimuli, that they can easy chase any other shiny object and forget to create altogether. In recent history, no shining object has perhaps been more prolific than video games. And why not? Games are a great avenue for creativity, from creating expansive and gorgeous landscapes from scratch to writing compelling stories that would never work in other mediums, games are a creator's dream. As an extension of that, it's easy for creatives to get lost in a game, because it's no struggle for us to wholly plummet into that world.

So, in the interest of taking a closer look at where games and productivity meet, let's answer the titular question: how much does a game cost?

Many might be inclined to jump in and answer pragmatically, "A new A-list title costs $60!" and many would be right. But is that the only cost?

Here's some full transparency: I currently work a full-time job, part-time job, and I freelance design, video, animation, etc. If I average my rates across those venues, my time is roughly worth $20/hour. So how much time does it cost me to buy that game? Three hours. Is it worth working for three hours to buy that game? Maybe. If it's a good game, and I rarely early adopt with games, so I make sure they're a safe bet.

Let's take this a step further, however. With a large game like Assassin's Creed Origins, which I am currently playing, I am likely to log 40 hours or more of gameplay (if I haven't already, c'mon, it's Ancient Egypt). There's another cost to consider, and that's opportunity cost. If my time is worth $20/hour, then how much has this one game really cost me? $860. Actually, I got it on sale, so just $840.

$840. That's an expensive game.

Your time is worth money, and your money is worth time. Time you can never have back.

Let's keep thinking through this, if I invest that $840 in an IRA or something worth 10% returns (high, but easy math) can you guess how much it would be worth in 30 years? $14,658. Now that's an expensive game. How many games do you buy a year? Let's say you (conservatively) buy 3 games a year, with that same 10% interest rate, in 30 years, those 3 games are worth $39,261.Now, investment stuff easy to talk about, but much harder to practically get involved in, and it's pretty intangible.

Now, investment stuff easy to talk about, but much harder to practically get involved in, and it's pretty intangible. But let's talk about something more approachable: writing.

If those three games account for 120 hours (probably conservative, if one of them is Skyrim), then how much writing time am I losing out on? I write about 60 words per minute, last I checked. Above average, but not stellar. If I decide to not play those 3 games in a year, how many words could I get in their stead? Over 400,000! So, not only does each video game potentially cost me over $800 (or more) but it's also costing me a few novels and a full blogroll.

Yet I still find it hard to find time to write?

Now, I'm not saying games are inherently evil. Relaxation and creative stimulation are necessary elements of life, especially for creatives. But be mindful of how you manage your time. You could be losing out on valuable resources (you could pay an editor that $800 to edit your book, or a designer to design a great cover), or time (that which you'll never get back, don't waste it!)

Next time you are shopping for something, think about how many working hours it takes for you to buy that, and how many working hours you'll sacrifice to have it. Is it worth it?