Image by Flickr user Dave Carter (CC)

How Gamefly Made Me See Games in a New Light

Image by Flickr user Dave Carter (CC)
Image by Flickr user Dave Carter (CC)

Earlier this month, my household bid a gracious farewell to Gamefly. We signed up for the service in 2009 and quickly enjoyed having access to a wide array of games for a number of systems.  When we originally became members, we were on Gamefly’s two-games-a-month plan. About two years ago, we downgraded to the one-game-a-month plan. In that time (about 24 months) I think we rented around a dozen games. Rather than immediately beating a game and then sending it back, the games would sit, often unplayed, for weeks. And then a new game would come out and we’d think renting over buying was the way to go. Only then would we actually log into the service and make use of what we were paying for. As our interest in playing all the games all the time dwindled, it just wasn’t worth it for us to continue to pay a monthly subscription for games we weren’t playing, especially when that money should have probably gone into buying games we seriously cared about.

When we first discussed getting rid of Gamefly around the end of last year, I was a little reluctant to say goodbye. Because we were “long time” members, we had built up a number of rewards with Gamefly, and we used those rewards to purchase used games. In fact, over the past six years, Gamefly has been our primary source for used game purchases. Having been burned by making a few lousy choices in purchasing used games through Amazon and Gamestop, we found that discs that were vetted through Gamefly always worked (they were guaranteed to do so) and its prices were usually competitive (though our rewards went a long way in discounts). The only downside there was that Gamefly didn’t offer all its rentable titles for sale. But it wasn’t like we were trying to overload our already overloaded backlog. We simply liked using Gamefly to both try and buy games.

So why switch things up now? Well, there was the money issue, yes – why pay to keep a game for three months when we could buy the same title (if we really hope to play it) or buy a game we actually want. But I think it has more to do with, at least for me, my changing perception of video games as I try to figure out what role I want them to play in my life moving forward.

For several years, video games have been my preferred source of extracurricular entertainment. Generically speaking, if you were to place in front me a book, a movie, and a video game, I’d go for the game if only for the sole fact that video games are interactive. Not only do I get to follow a story, but I also get to participate in the action. My tastes in gaming have evolved over the years, and so too have the games themselves. I now ask more from my games, and lots of modern games can provide just that: more. More story. More interaction. More immersion. But I also want games to be akin to jacks-of-all-trades, to fill a variety of different roles, and fill them capably. I want a game to fill time, help me escape, inspire me, tackle a new strategy, challenge my beliefs, and question reality. And because I want more from my games, I’ve begun to see them investments rather than simply “games.” I want my sixty dollars to stretch far beyond a single game disc or download. I want my sixty dollars to pay for a lifetime’s worth of emotions and experiences. Now-a-days, if I don’t see a game as a good investment of both my money and time, I’m not going to buy it.

And going back to the point of this whole spiel, I’m not all that interested anymore in renting first to figure out what’s worth investing in and what isn’t. Here and now, I know exactly what I want to get out of a game, and I know where to go for what I need. Okay, so it might have taken a few decades and wads of wasted cash to realize this, but I’ve honestly never been one to play a game simply for the sake of playing it anyway.

But there’s a problem here, isn’t there? By locking up my wallet and saying that I’m only going to buy games that I see as good investments, I could be passing up any number of diamonds (and diamonds in the rough). That’s the risk. That’s always been the risk in gaming. No matter how up-to-date you are with all the latest titles, something is going to fall through the cracks. And when I first started using Gamefly, I thought that it would really help me stay on top of games; that I’d eventually fall into a rent-finish-rent-finish routine and would no longer miss out on the flavor of the week. But even if through the most fanciful means I was somehow able to turnaround a game a week, I know an endless backlog would remain.

There’s no reward in feeling burdened, and that’s what Gamefly really became. A burden to bear all in the hopes of keeping up with the Joneses. Games mean a lot to me, now more than ever. They aren’t trophies to “win” and admire on a shelf, but rather they are vessels of knowledge, effort, and wit that are also filled with the blood, sweat, and tears of the people who believe in them. I don’t have a bad word to say about Gamefly – it was a good and useful service for awhile, and it will continue to be a good and useful service for many gamers. I’ve moved on, and I’m glad to say that Gamefly played a necessary role in that evolution.

My questions to all of you, from the collectors to the non-keepers: what roles to video games serve in your life and have those roles changed over time? What are your thoughts on renting vs. buying games? And if you’re a former Gamerfly-er, what made you quit the service?

6 thoughts on “How Gamefly Made Me See Games in a New Light”

  1. I’ve found that I’ve settled into a “I know what I like” attitude when it comes to games. I used to try new things whenever I could, but now that I can’t always spend my money the way I’d like, I find myself taking less risks when it comes to what I buy. It’s not that I won’t try anything new (in fact I love it when new twists are added to old conventions), but more like I won’t try new games that fall into categories that have always been outside my interests. My friends could sing a game’s praises all day long, but if it’s a fighter, shooter, sim, or anything else I’ve never liked, it won’t matter.

    I agree with the idea that games are investments. You don’t want one that you’ll only play once. You want one that will bring you back year after year, even if there’s only one feature in it that made the game worth your time.

    As long as you’re happy with what you’re playing, it doesn’t matter that you haven’t played everything right?

    1. Precisely! MY number one gaming notion has always been to play what what makes you happy. I have to admit though that my own sense of this wavers every time we enter the spring and fall when there’s always a flurry of new games released. Even if I have absolutely no interest in a new game, when I seeing e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e playing it, I think that I must be missing out on something. But then it only takes one look at my backlog of games to know that I already have games, games that I like, that need attention.

  2. I was sort of interested in the service Gamefly provided, but seeing how my life currently runs right now and already having way more than enough bought games waiting to be played at home, I decided against going for the rental service.

    I’m usually pretty good at picking the games I want and knowing I’ll enjoy the experience on some level. I’m also lucky enough to have friends who seem to know or at least has a good bet on what games to buy me as gifts. So far the games I’ve gotten from them have been true gems. The ones I’ve played anyway. Overall, I think getting a rental service like Gamefly wouldn’t be worth my time and money. I already have a tough time watching everything I want to see on my Netflix stream. Yikes!

    1. Yeah, I think Gamefly is only worth it if you have time to complete at least a couple games (or more) a month. If not, then, like we were, you’re just paying a monthly fee to be allowed to keep a game or games indefinitely. Not a great way to spend money. Now if you’re completely against keeping games, that’s another matter. But if you’ve got a solid game stash (and friends who know what you like 😊) then having Gamefly wouldn’t make much sense.

  3. I’m really in the same situation as you right now. I love video games, but I have less time for them than I used to, and just lately, I’ve been having to rethink what games seem like a good investment. I have become far more picky on what games I buy, and I will no longer buy a game just because it looks vaguely interesting. I have passed up on many games other people enjoy because I don’t think that I, personally, will get what I want from it. I want games that mean something to me deep down, and since games are so personal, only I know what games are right for me.

    I’ve also been using this criteria to add games to my “to-sell” pile. Kirby’s Yarn, for example. Other people may enjoy it, but I just felt rather empty on my second attempt to play through it. It held no meaning for me other than a silly way to pass the time, and I gave up after ten minutes. It’s for that same reason I have doubts I’ll end up getting that Yoshi game that’s supposed to be similar. It’s a cute idea, but I don’t think I pay money for “cute” anymore.

    To answer one of your questions more directly, I like to buy games, not rent. I’d rather play fewer games and own them than play more and rent. I want the games I love to stay with me, not to be returned to some company when I’m done. It would be like giving my friends away. I can’t do that!

    1. I like the idea of thinking of games as friends — I’d hate to give up those most precious to me as well!

      Recently, I’ve been purchasing fewer physical disks and more games digitally. It helps that the price of digital games i pretty low. It doesn’t help that you need someplace safe to store all that data. But I’ve found myself going back to the digital games much more than the disks I already have. Well…when I’m not trying to slog my way through Xenobalde Chronicles, that is…

      Anyhoo, I also get what you mean about cute games. I’m really conflicted about Yoshi’s Wooly World. Like, I know that I want to play it, but I don’t want to pay for it right out of the gates. I’m thinking it could be a digital download somewhere down the road. Or…I may seek to borrow it from one of a few gamer friends with young kids. Can’t go wrong with free. :)

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