Some (More) Shockingly Simple Math

Use Future Value to Pave Your Way to Financial Independence.

The easiest way to make money is to not spend it. Have you ever asked yourself: What would the future value of the money I’ve spent be if I had invested it instead? If you knew the answer, would it cause you to re-evaluate your spending habits across the board?

This article deserves a shout out for its inspiration. I recently finished reading Grant Sabatier’s book: Financial Freedom. It is a fantastic read, cover to cover. If you’re looking for an in-depth take on how to build wealth and retire early, please check it out. Like many books I’ve read about Financial Independence and financial savviness, it left me with some new ideas to consider. One of my take-aways from his book was to look at the long-term impacts of my spending habits. 

By examining our spending habits, we can start to think creatively about how to increase our retirement savings. What I appreciated about Grant’s approach is the numerous ways he does this. He recommends using a future value calculator to help guide purchasing decisions. He also suggests finding ways to increase your savings by 1% increments, along with quantifiable dollar amounts. Making this a fairly regular, almost daily process can lead to some strong habits to help increase our wealth.

I really like Grant’s strategies. An example he gives is the impact of a regular day’s cup ($3) of coffee, purchased every day over the course of a  year. Such a purchase would amount to $1,095 in a year’s time. The comparable example that immediately comes to mind is the $60 new release video game. Combine this with the fact that software accounts for around 80% of the gaming industry’s sales. So, $60 seems like an amount we as gamers are comfortable paying on at least a semi-regular basis.

While working part-time jobs in high school, and later college, I often didn’t put much thought into this $60 before buying the newest games. For fear of missing out, playing with friends, or simply wanting to play it by myself. But what if, instead of buying one $60 game, I had invested that money? What could money I spend today be worth in ten, twenty, even thirty years from now? Let’s find out.

The math itself isn’t overly complicated. The power of compounding interest cannot be understated. To find future value, we can break down this equation: 

FV = I x (1 + R)T

Where: I = Investment Amount, R = Interest Rate, and T = Number of Years Invested

(Investopedia – Future Value)

This equation is used as a base reference, but for the sake of this post, I’ve created this awesome chart for you by using a future value calculator graciously provided by (Grant Sabatier’s blog). Here are some assumptions:

  1. The stock market has historically returned 10% on average, reduced to 7% after accounting for a 3% inflation rate.
  2. $60 is currently the MSRP standard for a newly released video game.

If I bought one game today, at $60, here’s what that same $60 would be worth in one, five, ten, twenty, and thirty years from now.

TimeValue Over Time
Present Day$60.00
1 Year From Now$64.20
5 Years From Now$84.15
10 Years From Now$118.03
20 Years From Now$232.18
30 Years From Now$456.74

That same $60 doubled its value in just ten years, and is worth over seven times that thirty years from now. $456.74 is nothing to scoff at, especially if my goal is to retire as early as possible. If I were paid $20 an hour, that amounts to almost 23 hours of work. That equates to valuable time I’m able to reclaim. 

Here’s another scenario. What if instead of buying a game each month for an entire year ($720), I invested it instead, allowing that money to grow?

TimeValue Over Time
Present Day$720.00
1 Year From Now$770.40
5 Years From Now$1,009.84
10 Years From Now$1,416.35
20 Years From Now$2,786.17
30 Years From Now$5,480.82

Here’s where we can truly see the power of compounding. If instead of buying twelve $60 video games, I invested that $720 into a total stock market index fund, in thirty years I’d have $5,480.82. Truthfully, I’d much rather have that $5,480 years down the road when I could really use it, no matter how much enjoyment I gain from twelve video games.

Finally, say that I continue to buy video games, once a month at $60 each, over a thirty year period. This is of course assuming that a video game’s suggested retail price never exceeds $60. What would that same sum of money ($21,600, periodically invested monthly in $60 increments) be worth with the driving forces of the stock market behind it?

TimeValue Over Time
Present Day$720.00
1 Year From Now$742.82
5 Years From Now$4,271.71
10 Years From Now$10,263.10
20 Years From Now$30,452.18
30 Years From Now$70,167.16

Now, the idea of buying approximately 360 video games over a thirty year period may seem a bit exaggerated. But, let’s consider a different frame of reference. Ask yourself this question: Am I in a position to afford investing $60 more a month into my financial future? If you, you’re able to illustrate the meaning of the saying “pay yourself first.” Are there other areas where you can cut spending? If you’re able to invest $60 a month (or more) over a period of 30 years, say hello to an incredible boost to your wealth.

Personally, I recall two decades ago buying games for Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox at $50 each and not batting an eyelash. I’d say, on average, I added around six games to my collection a year. Using the formula above, say I continued those same spending habits. At present day, I could have $12,298 more to my name if I had invested it instead. By 2050, I would have $121,958. This is a prime example of letting your money work for you, and not the other way around. This $120,000 would be three years of an annual $40,000 salary. It might afford a sizable chunk of, if not cover, a child’s college education.

This article, of course, isn’t meant to be critical of video games. If they bring you joy, like they still do for me, that’s  awesome! What I am trying to highlight is the real opportunity cost to purchases we make on a day-to-day, month-to-month, yearly basis. There’s real benefit to objectively evaluating (and periodically re-evaluating) what we value. What we value determines how we spend our money. After all, we trade our precious life energy (our time) for money. 

Hindsight is 20:20. Coincidentally, it’s the year 2020, and I think I’d prefer that $12,000 in my possession today, not permanently gone. This number doesn’t even account for the money I’ve spent on consoles, controllers, online subscriptions, and more, which increases that amount considerably. 

Perhaps instead of buying games once a month, it turns into once every other month, or once every three or four months. Our future selves will quite likely thank us. Perhaps we’ll stop feeling encumbered by having too many options, and instead enjoy what we already have.

Finally, I purposely didn’t include the time I spent playing those games I purchased. It goes without saying: I don’t regret the time I spent playing games with friends and family by any means. As they say, “time enjoyed is not time wasted.” But holistically, the time we have on this planet is finite. While I do enjoy gaming as a pastime, it’s not what I want to solely define me. At the end of my life, I’d much rather say: “In my life, I feel I made a difference.” This sounds so much more purposeful than: “In my life, I was really entertained.”

So buy video games, collect video games, play video games, whatever you fancy! But in addition to doing that, take some time to consider your financial future. The reality is, video games are not an investment tool. Leave that to the low-cost, total stock and total bond index funds in your portfolio. Contribute as much money as you can, as often as you can, and enjoy the ride.Whatever you take from this article, I hope I’ve illustrated the point that our money can and does buy us the ability to take our time back into our hands. I would like to thank Mr. Grant Sabatier for the inspiration I received from Financial Freedom, along with Mr. Money Mustache’s classic article The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement, where this article’s title comes from.


Minimalism and Hobbies

This One’s For the Games.

Today, I want to talk about gaming and minimalism. To do this, I’m going to focus on the time, money, and energy that we can put into gaming. I wish to pursue ways to purposefully play games without taking a toll on our wallets, limited physical space, and avoiding overindulgence. I hope to provide some useful anecdotes towards living a minimalist lifestyle and continue enjoying the hobby.

My friends and family know that I have two or three hobbies. Running. Soccer. You’re here, so you might ascertain the third is gaming. I’ve enjoyed games since I was a young kid. Here’s some of my favorite memories: beating the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game with my parents in Virginia Beach. The first time I played Sonic the Hedgehog on our family’s Sega Genesis. Exploring The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64. Simply put: gaming has been a past-time that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed over the years and has remained a constant in my life. A more recent development is my interest in minimalism.

Where to start?

While writing on this site, gaming and minimalism are two topics I’ve avoided mingling so far. I wanted to gather my thoughts before covering the subject. Here’s the three ideas I’d like to explore:

  1. Gaming can be very consumptive, specifically on your time and money, which it can easily soak up.
  2. Gaming can capitalize on physical space in your home. With minimalism in mind, I keep the games I love the most. Part with the rest.
  3. My time also comes with the mental energy spent. How do you game with balance and well-being in mind?
Years ago, my wife’s friend surprise-baked me a Sonic birthday cake. It was a great birthday. (PC: Mrs. TWG)

What’s Great About Gaming?

Gaming by far has been a social hobby for me. Whether I’m actively playing a game with a group of friends, or talking about a game with friends, they provide quality bonding experiences. Gaming can be a great way to build relationships with other people. Between sitting on a couch and playing a game with others, sharing tips or strategies to beat a game, or sharing our thoughts, reflections, and experiences with a game, these are all valuable experiences. I truly enjoy these aspects of the hobby.

Games are an artistic medium. I love the history of games, how technology and software have evolved over time, and how a series of games usually improves over time. I’ve never explored how they are coded and designed. Rather, gaming offers worlds that I can explore, stories and characters I can immerse myself, and challenges and puzzles I can solve. I can also enjoy their beauty and intricacies often at my own pace. They provide social commentary in engaging and thought provoking ways other mediums cannot.

I also enjoy gaming because it allows me to get inside my head a bit. I’m an introvert. I tend to do a lot of thinking when I play games. My work also revolves around people, to the point where I need a moment for myself at the end of the workday. An hour or so allows me to decompress and shed the day’s baggage if I need to. I don’t view games as an alternative to getting outside or exercising. Additionally, I end my screen time (usually) by 9:30PM.

What’s Not-So-Great About Gaming?

It can become quite consumptive. You can quickly form habits that simply drain your money and time, and sap your productivity. There are moments in my life where I’ve let a game or two consume me, for a day, week, or even month’s worth of my time. That’s not a place I like to be anymore. I realize now that the behavior can become addicting if you allow it. There’s one particular culprit that comes to mind…

World of Warcraft. A love/hate relationship. (PC: Blizzard Entertainment)

World of Warcraft

I used to play a lot of World of Warcraft (WoW), a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), created by Blizzard Entertainment. I grew up with Warcraft’s real-time strategy games, Warcraft, Warcraft II, and Warcraft III. I enjoyed the challenge they provided, and could play a round or two and be finished within 45 minutes to an hour. They were great games that offered a unique setting and a lot of strategy and skill.

At first, WoW was novel — Exploring the World (of Warcraft) was something awesome. However, WoW is designed specifically to capitalize on the investment of time you put into the game. There are some skill-based aspects, but MMO’s in general and WoW in particular are gaming treadmills. Your focus is to upgrade your in-game character with new levels and equipment, gearing them out, sometimes for several hours a day. Perform a task in the game. Improve your character ever so slightly. Receive a little shot of dopamine. Rinse and repeat. It can amount to a second job, one that costs you, $14.99 a month. I would love to see Blizzard’s analytics for average time in-game spent per user. They’ve made billions of dollars, but did you know as of 2012 (more recent data needed), over 5.9 million years of human time have been spent in the game? That is truly mind boggling.

For some people, they are able to limit themselves to how much they play WoW. They can play an hour or two and have no attachment. For me, I don’t think that’s the case. I’d often get sucked in and lose all sense of time. I wish I had the capacity to better moderate myself, but WoW is a game I simply can’t indulge any longer.

What has transformed me away from WoW? Discovering mindfulness, and developing strategies around digital minimalism. How much technology I consume (in the mental sense), is of my own choosing. Living into this, I tend to spend between an hour or two an evening playing video games every few days. I admit there are moments where this is challenging.

The Monetary Cost of Gaming

We’ve established that games can eat into your time. What else does gaming do? Gaming can be costly and can also lead to large amounts of physical stuff. Fact: I still have virtually all of the games I had as a kid. Many of them were given to me by my parents, friends, and family over the years. There’s memories and nostalgia attached to them. I love them. And of course, I have many games I purchased myself. In periods of my life I’ve been both a collector and a gamer. I frequently purchased the newest games when they came out, often paying the full retail price. Can you relate to any, some, or most of these?

There’s the consoles, controllers, and software, which can all pile up to significant amounts of money. It adds up quickly if you’re not budgeting what you spend. New consoles usually range in the ballpark of $300 to $500. Want another controller? That will be $60, please. New game? $60. Tack on a $60 yearly subscription cost for online gaming services. Given these costs, I’m usually never an early adopter of the newest technology. Instead, I wait for a price drop or a fantastic sale.

In terms of physical space, video games take up household real estate. Some gamers have large personal collections in a room solely dedicated to gaming. There’s nothing wrong with collecting. I think it’s important to do what you value and what brings you enjoyment. It amounts to a personal decision. I myself used to have a pretty large collection, around 500 or so games. It took up a majority of a second bedroom. I decided I had too many games that I’d never play again. At this particular junction in my life, I want to be able to enjoy my games, and hold onto most important ones.

Today, I have a small personal and curated collection of the games I love. Everything is organized in a tidy manner, kept in place and orderly. I display the game consoles on a cool custom shelf my dad made me. My games are stored on a shelf I built. As a family, we’re likely to move to somewhere more permanent in the next three to four years. Having less to move will definitely be a benefit.

I’ve also explored my thoughts on this a bit on my Decade of New Aspirations Post.

Find Balance and Truly Enjoy Gaming:

At an Arcade in France. My wife was awesome and found an Arcade for us to explore. (Photo Credit: Mrs. TWG)

Time: I limit the amount of time spent on screens. By 9:30 on weeknights, if it has a screen, I’m done with it. Honoring this rule of thumb really helps me avoid the overindulgence I’ve had with games, where I lose all sense of time and what’s going on around me. Additionally, I feel more mindful and present when I limit my technology use, and it allows me to appreciate the time that I do spend with gaming. I’m much more intentional about what I choose to play, and don’t get hung up on what I might be fearful of missing out. If this appeals to you, check out Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

Budget: To avoid sounding redundant here, I’ve talked about this topic extensively on the site. Pursuing Financial Independence as a Gamer is the backbone for my budget. Games are not an investment strategy. Money spent on games is money not going towards our financial future. A lesson learned is that pursuing financial independence has also made me content with what I have and more choosy about what decide to buy.

I purposefully budget gaming expenses, to keep costs reasonable. Over the past several years, I have kept track of every expense for my hobby. I don’t take any liberties. If I purchased or sold something, it’s logged. I’ve continually reduced what I’ve spent on my hobby drastically over these years, with the ultimate goal to pay nothing out of my own pocket. Here’s what I have logged as averages each month, for the six years I’ve kept track:

2014, I spent $124 a month.

2015, I spent $80 a month.

2016, I spent $40 a month.

2017, I earned $21 a month. (Beginning of FI Journey)

2018, I spent $60 a month.

2019, I earned $2 a month. (I made a decent sum selling, but I used the proceeds to buy our couch.)

Over these six years, I’ve spent an average of $562 a year, or $47 a month on gaming. This is such a tiny tiny portion of our limited household income. I’m aiming for even less spent. But, this span of time has been a great learning experience. It has provided two incredible take-aways: 1. being content with what I have, and 2. curbing unnecessary, impulse purchasing habits. It has allowed me to play down my backlog. I take joy knowing the past few years have really tapered my spending down to something very manageable.

Stuff: Collecting isn’t the goal. I am content with the games I have. My collection has grown, shrank, and ballooned throughout my life. It’s pretty cumbersome to move. With minimalism in mind, I’ve pared down plenty of games I have no further interest in. Now, I am much more selective of whether or not I decide to keep a game. Will my friends enjoy playing it? One day, will my child enjoy playing this game? Is it from a series I love? Will I enjoy playing it again? Usually a game has to satisfy most or all of these criteria whether or not a game stays.

So, the games I do have, take up far less space. Eventually, I do want to display what I have, in a cool, unique and pleasing way. I’ve thought about moving to digital games, but I’m just not there yet. The games I have carry a lot of meaning. They’re cool. They look great on a shelf. They make me happy. I enjoy them. That’s plenty enough justification to them to stick around.

My downsized, curated collection. About 90% of the games I own are displayed here.


I hope this article brought forth some fresh ideas. I enjoyed exploring the gaming hobby, an activity that often expects us to part with our precious time, money, and energy. Incorporating a minimalist approach, I hope I can continue to enjoy more of the positive parts of gaming and say goodbye to the negative aspects of our hobbies. Does this translate to the leisure activity you enjoy? If so, are there things you’d change? Ways to cut costs? Get rid of that unused stuff that’s sitting in your closet? I’d love to know! One way or another, I hope you’re having a good week and thanks for reading!



A New Decade of Aspirations.

Financial Independence, Minimalism, and Gaming in the 2020’s.

It’s one of my rare Saturdays off. I’m waiting to see the film 1917. My wife isn’t a fan of war movies, so I’m on my own for this one. It’s a real treat to be given this leisure time. After a tiresome week home with my toddler, who’s experiencing his first cold, it’s nice to have a break. So here I go to the cinema close to home, in the chance I needed to be home quickly, as we are not fully on the mend yet.

The theater is in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Dallas, Highland Park. As I park my Subaru, I find I’m surrounded by BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover, and other luxury vehicles. I also spy a Lamborghini a little further down. The storefronts are strewn with names like Jimmy Choo, Cartier, Leggiado, and plenty of other designer brands that I’m unfamiliar with. I simply know that I cannot afford them. This is doubly reinforced by the doormen I see standing as security by the front doors. Out of curiosity, when I’m home, I check out a few websites for these stores. On their online storefront, I see that Leggiado has “cotton sweaters for sunny days”, and they’re only $295 – $450. Cartier has fine jewelry that ranges from a sizable down payment on a car to around 20% of a down payment on a house. Yowza!

Thanks, but I’ll pass Leggiado. You do you.

None of this really bothers me, but being here definitely puts me out of my comfort zone. This is definitely a world I have no experience in navigating, and I am content with leaving it that way. I could never justify spending $300 on a sweater; such a sum nearly feeds our family for an entire month. If you’ll pardon this long-winded introduction, I promise there’s a point. As I sit and people watch, I see all sorts of status symbols. Whether it be automobiles, clothing, handbags, and jewelry, people buy this stuff! There’s so much disposable income all around me. I have to consider the possibility that perhaps it’s not disposable income but voluntary consumer debt? These companies exist because people purchase their products.

Living My Values Into the 2020’s

During my brief visit to the shopping district in the Capitol from The Hunger Games, I’m provided a good reminder of why we’re pursuing Financial Independence. My wife and I are pleased with our values concerning money and how we choose to spend it. We strive to live into those values pursuant to our larger financial goals. What we value is spending time with our families, being healthy, and getting outside in nature as often as possible. A main aspect of this is avoiding unnecessary purchases that could delay us from achieving our retirement goals. We’ve realized most consumer purchases often don’t bring lasting happiness but a briefly satisfying shot of dopamine. Since we live away from our families for example, we tend to eat 99% of our meals at home, but save restaurant dining for when our families are here. After all, their visit is a special occasion and a few meals out helps us live our values and marks these moments with pleasant memories.

The Monk and the Minister

As far as simple living, I recall JL Collin’s mention of the famous parable of the monk and the minister, in his book Simple Path to Wealth:

‘“Two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king.

Years later they meet up again. 

As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk. Seeking to help, he says: “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”

To which the monk replies: “If you could learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king!”’

JL Collins: A Simple Path to Wealth.

I love this parable. I interpret it partly as being beholden to a system of consumption, based on maintaining one’s image. So, my resolution for this next year decade is to be content with what I have, and to clearly distinguish my wants and needs. I’m not saying we have to subsist on rice and beans, but we’re also not going to go overboard. I don’t want to confuse my material wants as needs. I need clothing for warmth. I need healthy food and clean water to nourish my body. I need exercise to bring a sound body and mind. There’s probably a few other explicit needs that I’m not thinking of at the moment. But for the sake of simplicity, anything additional is a want, and not necessarily essential. Knowing that this is a state of mind I repeatedly find myself in, perhaps it’s time to check out some books about Zen Buddhism! Aside from this, this state of mind has also made me reflect about my goals around gaming for the 2020’s. I came up with these three main goals.

  1. Avoid collecting
  2. Play what I have. Buy Less.
  3. Take a more minimalist approach.

That said, in this new decade I want to strive for simplicity, minimalism, and the essentials. A rare treat — like this matinee-showing of a film, complete with a coke and popcorn, is just that, a treat. I think in the span of our child’s life, I’ve been to the theater twice. It hardly reaches overindulgence. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to sit down and enjoy a film, without having the worry that I need to tend to a hungry, soiled, sick, or otherwise upset baby. We all need breaks. I for one am appreciating and pausing to reflect in gratitude, and tell you about it!

Goal: Avoid Collecting.

As it relates to gaming, I find it rare to play for a long, uninterrupted span of time nowadays. I feel like I’ve covered this topic well in my “Being a Parent and a Gamer series of articles.” Ever since this limitation of time has been a reality, I felt like my identity as a gamer is changing. To compensate for this, I have been feeling a pull to embrace the collector-side of the gaming world. It’s definitely appealing; a leisurely stroll down Instagram can open up a world of amazing game rooms and vast collections of rare games. They’re no doubt awesome and leaves most of us nerds salivating. 

However, a quote from Theodore Roosevelt holds true: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing my modest collection of games to other collections I find while browsing social media, brings forth feelings of desire and inadequacy. It can also drive impulsive buying urges. “I remember that game! I have to get it. Man that setup is amazing. I want one just like that!” Not only does it fuel impulsive thinking (and occasionally, your decision making), it can be really consumptive of your precious time.

This afternoon in Highland Park has helped me draw a conclusion about my consumption with gaming. Reconciling these thoughts and feelings, I know collecting would hinder me from reaching my goals and living my values. For that fact, I think collecting would leave me with guilt, disappointment, and regret. Though I don’t know the exact sums that are sunk into large collections, without a doubt they’re usually significant. I know that any spending on amassing a collection is money that’s not getting into our path for financial freedom. The opportunity cost is apparent: I can amass a collection, or that money can be invested and build wealth. Instead, for the past three years, I’ve not spent any of my own money on games I’ve wanted to play. I am still able to enjoy the games I’m excited for without incurring costs. This is a practice that I’m continuing into this next decade. 

Goal: Play What I Have. Buy Less.

I want to be clear in saying that if people really value and get joy from having a large collection, go for it. I’m not trying to “Yuck!” someone’s “Yum!” My goal isn’t to rob someone of the joy and satisfaction they get from collecting an entire NTSC Nintendo 64 set. However, when I look at game rooms with thousands of games stacked on shelves, the reality is my values aren’t aligned with collecting. If I had thousands of games in my collection, I’d argue that’s simply too many games that I can thoroughly enjoy in my lifetime. I don’t want this to come off as didactic. Collecting gaming and playing games are not diametrically opposed. It’s simply a matter of different choices, values, and goals, not opposing viewpoints. I just can’t personally enjoy collecting anymore.

I know if I purchased en-masse, a large collection of games, it often meant a large backlog. Deciding what to play would be hard. I’d simply be paralyzed from all the choices available to me. Say you’re eating out at a restaurant. When it’s time to order, you’ve been trying to narrow down from 100 different entrées on the menu. How would you handle that? For me, that is very overwhelming. I’ll likely fall back onto something pretty standard, or ask for a suggestion. That’s how I view a backlog, it becomes hard to narrow down exactly what it is I want to play. Perhaps I have esoteric interests and tastes, but I think there’s beauty in simplicity that comes with fewer choices. So, I purchase games only as often as I’m able to play through them. I end up saving money this way, as I don’t rush into most games on their initial day of release. I also end up being able to play down my backlog.

Goal: Take a More Minimalist Approach.

This blends into my other goal, that I have not directly named yet. I believe it goes hand in hand many ways with financial independence, that is the goal of minimalism. With tens of thousands of games out for the masses to enjoy today, if I have a “collection” at all, I want it to be curated with my favorite games on a system. I once had almost 200 of the 248 US-released Dreamcast games. The realization I came to was that within that library there were a number of excellent, good, and poor games. Some of them weren’t the money or time I put into acquiring and playing them. So, I cut out the poor, mediocre, and even some of the good games. I let go of the goal of having a complete Dreamcast set. 

A Dreamcast checklist. I once had 200 Dreamcast Games. I wanted all 248.

I conceded that while a complete Dreamcast library may look good on a shelf, it also takes up a lot of space. This is further compounded when I’ve got other systems, each with their own library of games to choose from, all occupying their own space in our home. Being in a somewhat temporary living situation (we’ll move again within the next 3-4 years to a more permanent location), I don’t want a collection taking up too much space in our abode. This comes with the added burden of having to lug across the country, in a few years time. It is what it is. I also have a little one that delights in innocently pulling these off the shelves, much like the books on his bookshelf. 

So now, I have around 70 Dreamcast games, with my favorites, the heavy hitters, and system defining games. I also have a number of other consoles that I was gifted, grew up with or purchased as time and life went on. At times I’ve felt like I have too much of a collection, and I’ve contemplated trimming down to the games and systems I truly love, left with the games and systems that consistently get played and replayed. I’ve also had the thought of shedding all of the physical software and becoming a gamer that plays games exclusively digitally, be it Steam or e-shops. – A really sharp game room.

With this thought in mind, I’m swept into various minimalist Instagram accounts, admiring their small collections and sleek, clean setups. In the process I’m falling into the mental trap of comparison again. “That’s such a nice room, I have way too much stuff!” Then, I also realize that a lot of these video games I own come with the powerful nostalgia of my childhood. It becomes that much more difficult to part with them. I also don’t want to regret selling something, that later on, I’ll wish I had back. At an impasse, I write down on a notepad that this isn’t a decision that needs to be made now. I simply need to get the thought out of my head. For now, I can occasionally brainstorm a more refined idea of a collection or game room, at the next place we call home. For now, I’m fine with where things are at, and stop swirling about possibilities that simply aren’t feasible at this moment in time..

Bringing it home…

I know that I am a quirky person. Mrs. TWG can certainly attest to that. I’m but one of the billions of other people who have their own interests, values, behaviors, and personalities. On a species-wide basis, I find it interesting what we become our hobbies, past-times, or what we choose to spend our disposable income on, if we’re privileged to have it. I’m really trying to hone in on what will continue to be important to me in the future: my family, creating memories together, and planning responsibly so that we have “enough”.

Sure, games are great as a pastime, and I hope to be able to enjoy gaming as I grow older, but they’re hardly essential. Right now, if I had to choose between spending (on a semi-regular basis) $60 of my own money on a new game or dropping that same $60 into VTSAX, it’s not a difficult decision. That $60 will have more potential having time to grow in the market.

For now, I am aspiring to become more minimalist (both materially and mentally) and keep pursuing FI. I am also aspiring to keep these two goals intertwined into my gaming hobby, starting with 2020, and reflecting when I reach the next year. Thanks for reading my outpouring of thoughts, and I hope to hear what you’ve thought about it too!


Andrew (Tightwad Gamer)

PS: 1917 was awesome. As a lover of history, I thought it was a really cool tale of the First World War. If you haven’t seen it, you should! 

Shenmue 3: Continuing the Journey

It’s no secret that the Sega Dreamcast is one of my favorite consoles of all time. I remember getting mine on a cold winter day at a Circuit City in Northern Virginia shortly after Christmas my freshman year of high school. I have fond memories of exploring Ragol with fellow players during sessions of Phantasy Star Online. I smile when I think of playing Bomberman Online with my friends until the early hours of the morning on my 16th birthday. Then there’s the quirkiness of Samba de Amigo and peculiar nature of Seaman. There’s no shortage of interesting and delightful games on the Dreamcast. However one particular game tugs on my heartstrings most of all: Shenmue.

What makes Shenmue Special?

Shenmue was unlike any game I experienced before. Created by renowned Sega developer Yu Suzuki, Shenmue was originally based off of a character in the Virtua Fighter Series. In its introductory scenes, the main character Ryo Hazuki frantically runs home to discover his father in the family dojo locked in battle with a strange man. Coming to his father’s (Iwao’s) defense, the man who we come to know is Lan Di, demands a mirror or threatens to kill Ryo. After Iwao tells Lan Di the location of the Dragon Mirror, Ryo watches as Lan Di murders Iwao. Days later, the game drops you into Ryo’s shoes and you set off to discover the identity and motives of Lan Di. Along the way you’ll fight adversaries with a battle system similar to Virtua fighter as you set forth on a path bent on revenge.

What makes Shenmue unique is the interactivity, attention to detail, and scope. Ryo can interact with virtually anyone in the game. Ryo will ask people for clues as to advance the plot. Each unique character has a daily routine. Ryo can visit many locations within his neighborhood of 1980’s Yokosuka. In the course of the day you’re free to practice your martial arts, play minigames (including Yu Suzuki’s arcade hits Space Harrier and Hang-on), and explore. The game has an ingame clock and calendar, weather corresponding to historical weather records, and entirely spoken (albeit cheesily voiced) dialogue. One could also upload high scores using your Dreamcast’s built in modem.

Ryo looking for sailors: awkward and hilarious dialogue.

For a game arriving before the age of huge open-world games, Shenmue had both breadth and depth. Without being critical of games like Grand Theft Auto, the MMORPG genre, or most recently, games like Assassin’s Creed, Crackdown, and Watch Dogs, Shenmue felt robust. Early open-world games felt large but empty and isolating. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the GTA series, and the story-telling in Assassin’s Creed. With Shenmue however, there’s something that has stuck with me.

What happened next is a bit of a history lesson. Sega announced that it was no longer going to produce hardware (console gaming systems) and instead focus on being solely a software developer and publisher. This was unfortunate, as Shenmue’s story ended on a cliffhanger. Fortunately, Shenmue received a sequel, aptly named Shenmue II. The game was released on Dreamcast in Europe and Japan, and in the United States, exclusively released on Microsoft Xbox. The story picked up on Ryo’s journey to find Lan Di and avenge his father. The gameplay elements, storytelling, and fights embodied the first game. Even more unique, if you played on Dreamcast, your saved game files could be imported to bring your inventory, proficiency of martial arts, and resume your quest in alignment with the in-game date and time you finished the first game. So did Shenmue II conclude the story? Nope, yet another cliffhanger ending! Gah! Fans were treated to a dramatic ending that embodied something close to magical realism. That was 2001.

Shenmue and Shenmue II’s were not commercial successes, though they were fan favorites and gathered a cult following. With Sega navigating its transition and restructure to a software only company, it appeared Shenmue was a series that would fall to the wayside. When it appeared that Shenmue II would not get a sequel, fans started voicing their appreciation of the series and begging for Shenmue III. Despite the games appearing on many shortlists for greatest games of all time, Shenmue appeared to be not on Sega’s to-do list. Fans were relentless however, and would frequently take to social media to let their voices be heard.

The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter brought Shenmue back from the dead. Rise from your grave!

Shenmue Saved!

In 2015, we were all treated to delightful news. Shenmue III would be given the chance to become a reality. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo, as part of Sony’s press conference, Yu Suzuku announced a Kickstarter crowdfunding initiative to bring Shenmue III into development. Within 7 hours, Shenmue had raised nearly $2,000,000. Within a month, Shenmue raised $6,000,000. To this date, it is the highest funded video game Kickstarter campaign. The crowdfunding campaign ended in September of 2018, with 81,807 backers contributing over $7,000,000. This is such a unique time to be alive. For a fanbase so passionate about this game, I have to believe that there are plenty of other positives that crowdfunding campaigns can accomplish. With funding in place, Yu Suzuki’s team assembled, and further support from Sony, the game launched into the development phase.

Shenmue III was not without its setbacks. Yu Suzuki’s team was much smaller than the original that produced the first two games. The game was delayed on multiple occasions. Though a small amount of fans were irritated by the game’s delay, the majority were comforted that Shenmue III would arrive and be more polished rather than a rushed end product. Another small controversy was a one-year exclusivity deal for Shenmue III to be distributed on PC via the Epic Games Store, as opposed to earlier mentions that the game would be available on the Steam platform. An agreeable solution was offered for backers to select another platform or a refund. All during development however, fans were treated to numerous updates, trailers, and interviews with the developers. The original voice actors would reprise their roles. The game appeared to bring modern polish, while retaining the spirit of the first two games. This sounded promising and reassuring.

Which brings us to November 19, 2019. After four years of development, I held in my hand, my very own backer-copy of Shenmue III. I was one of the 81,807 who gladly contributed my money to help make Shenmue fans’ wishes come true. It has been 18 years of wondering where Ryo’s journey would lead him. Would he realize the dangerous cycle of revenge, and choose a more virtuous life to lead? For the longest time fans have these questions and many others.

There’s been two generations of consoles between Shenmue II and Shenmue III. Since then I’ve fallen in love with Sega’s series Yakuza. Many consider it a spiritual successor to Shenmue. There’s exploration, great characters, a robust fighting system, and cheesy over the top dialogue and plot. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s plenty of contrast to both series, but I believe they’re both excellent on their own merits. With so much time in between games, would Shenmue III keep the charm from its first two games but also meet the standards of modern-day games. In that sense I hope that Shenmue III, which helped pave the way for many open world games, is reviewed fairly and be met with critical acclaim and commercial success. 

To everyone’s surprise, in 2018 Sega released an HD version of Shenmue I and II all on a single package. Regarding reviews of Shenmue 3, I feel like to understand the series and review the game fairly one should experience the first two games. I don’t necessarily know from which vantage point most reviewers critiquing the game are writing from. Still, I can understand the perspective of reviewers who may think the game is dated or that it can’t compete with modern triple A studio games. Of course, a studio of 75 can’t compete with a developer like Rockstar or EA, that’s an obvious conclusion. Most importantly, I want to avoid plot spoilers (reviews often spoil plot details) at all costs. With these premises in mind, I’ve been avoiding reviews of Shenmue 3, as to let the game wash over me and let me form my own perspectives and opinions on it. Realistically, Shenmue has always been about the journey. The first two games hooked me with a sense of exploration and wonder. And to be able to experience this again is a special feeling.

A Gamer’s Journey Beyond Shenmue

I can’t help but reflect on my own journey. In 18 years, I’ve graduated high school, and completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree at my alma mater. I’ve moved multiple times, started new jobs, lost my grandmother, got married to a wonderful woman, discovered the financial independence movement, had a child, and recently moved to an entirely new part of the country. Life is so dynamically different and more complex than it was 18 years ago. But despite this, holding Shenmue III in my hands gives me the feeling that I’m a teenager again. Perhaps it’s nostalgia to a degree, but I never thought that I’d be walking in Ryo Hazuki’s shoes after such a long time. Ryo has remained ageless, still stuck in the 1980’s. Even though I’m now in my 30’s, it still gives me great joy to experience a new Shenmue game. Even cooler, I can’t believe that I’m in the game’s credits!

What a time to be alive. It’s amazing that a devoted fanbase can help create a movement and pool resources to help realize a dream. I’m sure there will be some that don’t enjoy the game. There will be others who will love it. If I was given the choice between having Shenmue III and not having it, I’d certainly choose being able to play Shenmue III. To that, I wish to offer the most heartfelt of thanks to Yu Suzuki and his team, the Shenmue community and all Kickstarter campaign backers, Sony, and Shibuya Entertainment for helping Shenmue III materialize into what it is now. So, without any further remarks, I’m off to experience the next chapter of Shenmue. C’mon Ryo, let’s track down Lan Di!

Pursuing Financial Independence as a Gamer.

The Intersection between Hobbies and Financial Freedom.

One of the biggest goals my wife and I have is to be financially independent. What I mean by this is having secured enough money to do whatever it is we want with our time. We’d no longer be dependent on any job solely to sustain our livelihood. Make no mistake, the career I’ve had the past ten years has been fulfilling, rewarding and engaging. However, I believe human beings can sometimes stumble into the pitfall of anchoring so much of our self-image and self-perception on what we do for a living. In turn, we ignore or mute other parts of our life that can be equally important in defining who we are. For me, even though I’ve been an educator, I’m also a husband, parent, gamer, and lover of the beautiful game of soccer. I also enjoy traveling, being outside and consider myself a lifelong learner. If I never had to work another day in my life, these things would be my main focus during the remaining time I have on Earth.

With that in mind, my wife and I began a journey a few years ago pursuing FIRE, which is Financial Independence / Retire Early. We wanted to get to a place where if we wanted to retire, we’d have the financial means to do so without being dependent on a job for our livelihoods. In turn, we can prioritize our time in the ways that we see fit. Whether that be spending time with family, exploring and traveling, volunteering, or pursuing hobbies, FIRE is something that we constantly have in the back of our minds. For the sake of this article, I’m going to write from the assumption that you’re aware of FIRE and its general principles. But for context, FIRE involves these very basic guidelines:

  1. Avoid debt.
  2. Set a budget and spend less than what you make.
  3. Invest the remainder, preferably in low-cost index funds rather than mutual funds or individual stocks.
  4. Stay the course and don’t let market fluctuations test your resolve.

Rather than prattle on about what I think FIRE is, I will refer you to some fantastic resources that are both entertaining and packed with tons of great learning materials. For an audio format, the Choose FI podcast is wonderful, perfect for commutes or road trips. Mr. Money Mustache is by far one of the most popular bloggers on the topic and has a great sense of humor. If you’re more of a socialite / forum user / redditor, I’d point you to the /r/financialindependence subreddit. If it’s a good old-fashioned book you’re after, Your Money or Your Life, The Simple Path to Wealth and The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing are both great reads (not affiliate links!). These are all great ways to learn more about the FIRE movement. I hope you take the time to use some of these resources because they can be truly empowering in your own life. So, how does this all line up with my interest in gaming? 

Gaming and Its Meaning to Me.

From a very young age, video games have been a part of my life. I love the creativeness that games bring. I really enjoy a great story unfolding in front of me, delighting my senses. Exploring the imaginative world of an action game or an RPG is fun. The satisfaction of completing a gripping, suspenseful game is a great feeling. I love to support the smaller studios that bring new innovative gameplay and unique aesthetics to the field. I like the technological innovations that new systems bring. I love revisiting games from my childhood on older systems. If it hasn’t been stated enough, there’s just something wonderful about video games that I deeply appreciate. Some of my favorite series include: The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, The original Halo trilogy, Animal Crossing, and the Team Ico games (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian). I think it’s a hobby that often brings people together, too. Game nights hanging out on the couch with friends is still a pastime that is important to me, though it happens less frequently as I get older.

Yet, I take issue with a few things in the current state of the gaming industry, several of which I think are counterproductive to the goals of FIRE. I’d say the current climate is focused on consumption. It vies for your precious hard-earned dollars. Be it systems, games, or the dreaded in-game purchases, you can drop a fortune on gaming without giving it much thought. There’s the nonsense about games needing day one patches to fix issues that should’ve been resolved before hitting the market. Practices like this make me feel the money I put in isn’t providing a comparative amount of value. I also think it’s horrible that some companies take advantage of their employees, forcing them to work extremely long hours during crunch time before a game’s scheduled release date. However, even with my minor gripes about the industry, I still show my love of video games by purposely not supporting studios and companies whose practices are abusing consumers’ trust. To that I say: vote with your wallet.

Personally, I used to frequently buy games on release day or shortly after, paying the full retail price for games. Sometimes carelessly and without much mindfulness, I could easily drop a few hundred dollars on games I was excited to play. When the new gaming systems came out, I’d eagerly pick one up, seldom waiting for a price drop or Black Friday deal. These were moments in my early twenties where living in the moment was my focus. Amassing a huge collection of games as quickly as possible seemed exciting. I allowed my spending to get the best of me, and setting a budget often wasn’t something in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I think I was operating from my own fear of missing out. There were times I’d lose my sense of time to the point of affecting my overall wellness. I learned I needed to set limits on how frequently I played. It took a while, but I needed to establish some healthier habits involving my time and money.

Financial Independence with a Gaming Approach.

Do we as gamers not seek to master the games we play? Of course we do — we look for secrets, tips, and tricks to gain an advantage against the AI or another player. We’re constantly seeking more efficient ways to solve problems or puzzles, or easier solutions to the boss we’ve been stuck on. We like those achievements and trophies that pop up along the way. We might also consult a guide or FAQ when we get stuck. Thinking about my finances as a video game, I considered some critical details about my financial life. I had five figures of student loan debt after graduating in 2008. Over a span of five years, I set a goal, timeline and budget to aggressively pay off my student loans and get out of debt. This is where Dave Ramsey’s Budgeting Forms and Debt Snowball was really influential. My key takeaways here were setting a budget, developing strong habits of self-discipline around spending, and keeping my goals in mind. By November 2013, just shy of five years after graduating from university, I became debt free. Shortly after, my wife and I had to buy a new car just before our wedding. We did take on a small car loan but didn’t incur debt for our wedding or honeymoon. We used the same approach as we did with my student loans to pay off our car quickly. In full transparency, we were each making around $30,000 a year in our mid to late twenties.

Soon after, still newlyweds and newly debt-free, we realized there was much to be learned about the world of retirement savings. It’s amazing we’re never given much of a personal finance education, especially considering how much of the investing world tends to be laden with jargon and confusing details. Dave Ramsey’s expertise, though excellent guidance for paying off student loan debt, wasn’t necessarily geared toward FIRE. I read a few introductory books like The Millionaire Next Door and The Richest Man in Babylon (both great for philosophy and principles), but the most influential and step-by-step resource book on retirement investing proved to be The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing. This ignited our thirst for more knowledge and brought us to other resources like the ChooseFI podcast, Mr. Money Mustache, Paula Pant’s Afford Anything, Go Curry Cracker, and more. It really started to feel like there was a lot of knowledge here that we could apply and fine tune in our lives. From the many resources above and fellow people within the FI community pursuing the same goal, it felt like we were tapping into a strategy guide toward a financially independent future.

From the insights gained, we really honed our strategy over the next few years. We could have easily chosen to indulge more with our hobbies (me – gaming, my wife – photography), traveling, eating out, or purchasing other consumer goods. All of the money I had been throwing at loans for the past five years wasn’t allocated to anything now. This is where the FIRE journey truly began, and how I started to look at this like a video game. We scrutinized our budgets and cut a lot of the excess. We adopted an aggressive strategy towards our retirement savings. This entailed how much we wanted to invest each year and investing that money into low-cost index funds as opposed to actively managed mutual funds. In many ways, our pursuit of FIRE felt like taking a complex problem or puzzle, not unlike one you would find in a video game, and applying strategies to reach our goals. However, real life doesn’t necessarily mirror the speed of progression you find in a video game. Real life moves far more slowly, more incrementally. It can be hard to see your own progress and easy to lose sight of the big picture, so it’s important to find tools that help you keep track. Personally, I get a lot of enjoyment out of tracking performance and progress, usually through our budgets, spreadsheets, and graphs. With our goals clearly defined and practices in place to help us reach a financially independent future, I wanted to examine my gaming hobby and wondered if I could apply similar strategies.

Applying a Financial Independence mindset to Gaming.

Here’s how I’ve applied a FIRE mindset to gaming. I set specific goals for spending and firmly stick to my budget. The habits I’ve built around delayed gratification and avoiding impulse purchases have been key to my success. I have found I enjoy gaming more when I am selective about what I purchase. I usually skip release day; but if there’s a game or two I buy at full price, I do it through Gamer’s Club Unlocked (RIP, the program has since been discontinued by Best Buy), which offers a 20% discount. I frequently seek out and wait for deals, like the Summer Steam Sale or Black Friday, or I simply wait until I can find a game used where it will usually be heavily discounted. I’ve learned to refurbish and resell games and gain a reasonable profit to fund my purchases. I’ve become much more cognizant about how frequently I game and how long individual sessions last. I’ve learned to be much more efficient with the time I have and be intentional about what I want to play. I think all of these strategies have become even more important because of two key factors: I’m now a stay at home parent and we are currently a single income household. Both our financial resources and our time are a bit more limited.

While being a stay-at-home parent is definitely a full-time, demanding job, it’s undoubtedly changed how I view my time. It has felt like a sabbatical from the grind of a 9 to 5 job. Even further, this experience has felt like a glimpse at life when perhaps both my wife and I are FIRE’d. I’m getting to take care of a tiny little human dependent on me for his every need, but with that I’m also getting to enjoy lots of little moments: taking him to story time, going to the park, and watching him learn and play. That’s time in his life I otherwise would’ve missed out on had I been working full-time.

I’m also enjoying this amazing opportunity to spend time in between his needs doing what I want, even if gaming is obviously taking a backseat. We’re valuing our health, exercising regularly and I’m cooking healthy meals during the week. Likely when our son begins school, I’ll jump back into the workforce and we’ll have two incomes to use to better our financial future and achieve FIRE. My point is that for these past five months, I’ve had control over my time. I’ve been able to make choices that have led to a healthier, more balanced me. So, what has gaming looked like this year, you ask?

The past several months with limited time and money has made me more appreciative of the time I do spend gaming. I’m still getting the opportunity to enjoy video games from time to time (occasionally when kiddo is napping but mainly when he is put to bed for the evening), be it visiting my local arcade down the street or firing up my Switch for an hour or so to unwind a couple evenings a week. This has been a refreshing experience because I can actually look forward to sitting down and enjoying a game with some very real finite time limits in place. In the past, gaming was a mindless activity that occupied my time and (occasionally) teetered towards the unhealthy side. In some ways I think spending my own money on games meant feeling obligated to play them, even when my enjoyment started to fade. It was a vicious cycle I don’t care to repeat. I don’t see myself going back towards overindulging; I am appreciative of the balance I’ve found and want to stick with it.

Similarly, I’ve yet to spend a single dollar of my own money this year on gaming, which is a goal I set each year and helps keep FIRE front and center. I still enjoy the games I have. In fact, I’ve beaten 9 games this year already, and only purchased 3. I have ditched the collecting aspect that sometimes goes hand in hand with gaming, playing games that have been in my backlog instead. My point is, you can enjoy gaming immensely and it doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby. It can actually be a pretty affordable source of entertainment. So if you’re pursuing FIRE, are already financially independent and/or retired, or simply trying to reel in your gaming-related spending and stick to a budget, there are plenty of ways to enjoy gaming without impacting your budget, bank account, or retirement savings.

Closing: Gaming and our Financially Independent Future.

When we achieve FIRE some time in the future, I am hopeful I’ll still be interested in video games as a hobby. When that day arrives, I plan to continue keeping a budget and finding clever ways to help keep costs on gaming to a minimum. As long as the hobby is still affordable, gaming shouldn’t be an issue. I’m looking forward to the satisfaction of completing new games, revisiting past favorites, hosting game nights, playing games with my children, and discussing them online and in person. I’m trying to keep an open mind; I might not enjoy the hobby as much as I did when I was younger, and that’s okay. 

Still, it’s exciting to picture a life where a full-time job/career isn’t occupying the majority of my week. Instead, we can explore, travel, spend time with family, play games, play soccer (c’mon knees, stay healthy!) learn new things, whatever it is we want to do. Those prospects are really the driving force for the future we want to build. To accomplish our dream of FIRE, we’ve been making some deliberate and intentional choices now. To reiterate, those include saving an aggressive percentage of our income, being frugal and budget conscious (reducing our cost of living), and avoiding impulsive spending that could set us back from our goals. It’s a constant exercise in delaying gratification and being disciplined about how we spend our money. I’ve found a lot of enjoyment and challenge in my very own Tightwad Gaming side-quest. Exploring ways, tips, and tricks or hacks to make my gaming hobby affordable helps me keep FIRE in mind while also not feeling like I’m living a life of squalor or deprivation.

Overall, I have to say the path to FIRE has been a great adventure so far. I’m sure there will be lots of great lessons along the way and wonderful people we can learn from and swap stories with. I’ve shared a lot about our journey, but would love to hear your own thoughts. Are you pursuing FIRE? Are you also a gamer? Had a question to ask? I’d love to hear from you!

Being a Parent and a Gamer: Part 2.

Making the most of your precious (little) free time.

As a continuation from my last post, I wanted to keep sharing perspectives from gamers who have become parents. We’ve written this article in conjunction with a snapshot survey of the Racketboy community (A fantastic, definitive retro gaming site) — I wanted to capture the responses of fellow gaming compatriots who have children. Have they continued to find enjoyment (and time) in gaming as a hobby? (You can read part one here.) Our interview questions focused on the intersections of being a parent and enjoying video games as a hobby. Outside of time spent gaming, have the types of games they’ve played changed? Do they see their children taking an interest in gaming? Their insights I really appreciated as a new parent, and I hope they are relatable or provide some take-away wisdom. Today, three new Racketboy forum members step up to the plate: Reprise, Marurun, and BogusMeatFactory. My own reflections will come in a follow-up conclusion to this article series.

Amount of Time Spent:

As a parent, has there been a change in how frequently you are able to play games?

Reprise: “Absolutely. Honestly, nothing prepares you for the huge change that is having a baby the first time. I don’t even think it’s naivety per se, it’s just nothing prepares you for it. It’s a huge change. Free time? Say goodbye to that for the first few months, especially the very first weeks. I used to game all the time (retro and modern), but don’t do as much anymore. I also cancelled my PSN subscription because I don’t feel I can justify paying for it anymore (I don’t even play any online games on my PS4 anymore).”

Marurun: “Yes. I can now only play games pretty much after the child is in bed, because he’s still too young to involve him in my game-playing.”

BogusMeatFactory: “There has absolutely been a change in how frequently I play games. When becoming a first time parent, a vast majority of my time was spent taking care of them versus spending personal time playing games. “

How many hours a week on average did you play before your kid(s) were born? Did this change when your kid(s) were just born or very young.

Reprise: “Several to be honest. I’d game most evenings and all weekends for the most parts. There were the odd patches when I wouldn’t game as much, but on an average week, I would play a game at 2 or 3 evenings in the week and then put in several hours over the weekend. When they were first born, I didn’t game anywhere near as much in the first few weeks. Then I slowly started building it up again. I feel like I still got plenty in as when they’re so young, you are quite limited with what you can do with them and they do sleep a lot. Does that sound terrible? Haha, I don’t mean it to.”

Marurun: “Between PC and consoles, maybe 7-20 hours a week, depending on what games I was involved with at the time.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I spent roughly 20-40 hours a week…I gamed a lot. After my first daughter was born, I spent roughly 8 hours a week at a maximum depending on the situation.”

How did this change as your children have gotten older?

Reprise: “As he got older, I started to manage more of a schedule. So during nap time, I’ll game a bit. Sometimes I put in a bit in the evenings after he’s asleep. I also stopped gaming in front of my son. Especially because I’m not comfortable with the more adult nature of a lot of my games (not just GTA or anything adult rated, but just the general levels of violence or bad language in a lot of normal games) and also because he needs me to be focussed on him and engaging with him.”

Marurun: “When the child was still a newborn I didn’t have time for almost any gaming that wasn’t on my phone. Once he was old enough to largely sleep through the night I was able to start playing some games again. I think I peaked at about 8 or 9 hours a week, and only because I was determined to finish a particular game. More casual gaming activity was less than 4-5 hours a week.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I have had a lot more time to play games as my daughter grew up. She is 3 now and I have more time to play games and more time to play games around her. My playtime is now around 20 hours-ish a week at maximum.”

Types of Games:

Before you were a parent, what were the most common genres you enjoyed?

Reprise: “I don’t know, as I like most genres and games. I guess adventure games, platformers, FPSs, cinematic games.”

Marurun: “I mostly played FPS shooters and action-RPGs on PC, occasionally taking time out to complete a recently acquired classic console title. I liked leveling and loot mechanics in games, so I did kind of gravitate to those for PC-fare.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I played a lot of multiplayer games, MMORPGs, Online Shooters and games with a heavy community focus. I also played a lot of co-op games with my wife. Usually I played a lot of games that were time extensive. That required a lot of focus and for long periods of time.”

Did you have a preferred platform for gaming?

Reprise: “PS4 and PS3 for modern gaming. Dreamcast, Saturn, Mega Drive and PS2 for retro. “

Marurun: “PC, 75-90%, other older classic consoles, 10-25%. Mostly PC Engine, Genesis, or Wii in recent years.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I played mostly PC and Nintendo platforms pre-child.”

Did becoming a parent change the types of games you enjoy or the types of platforms you play them on?

Reprise: “I play a lot less retro and the PS4 is no longer my preferred platform. Handhelds like the Vita and the hybrid Switch are now my preferred platforms because CONVENIENCE. I rarely play retro games now to be honest, just because it’s a bit more of a faff…”

Marurun: “I haven’t played enough games since to be able to say for genres, except that I’ve been largely handheld/mobile exclusive for the past year. Everything I’ve spent any real time with has been on DS or Switch. I will tentatively say no, except with PC largely out of the picture it has mixed up what’s available to me. There are lots of PC games on my Steam account that I would probably have played that I haven’t.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Having a child absolutely changed what platforms I play games on. I didn’t have a lot of time to play games on my PC, because it was not conducive to taking care of a child. Add to that, a lot of my playtime shifted away from online games so that I could pause or dedicate time to help out at a moments notice. If it was late at night and my daughter would wake up and cry, I could immediately stop what I was doing and help her. Having the Wii U was a huge help during that time though, as I could hold a sleeping baby and play certain Wii U titles.

As my daughter grew older, I had more opportunities to play online games thankfully. Using things like Steam Link to my TV and the Nintendo Switch have really opened up a lot of opportunities to play the types of games I used to enjoy late at night while also taking care of my second child. Also, a very strange thing occurred recently. Games have been more accommodating to people with disabilities and I have been able to use that to my advantage. Wearing headphones is difficult, because I can’t hear a baby cry and having sound on my games could easily disturb my family (my wife works as a nurse and needs to be asleep by 7 PM on nights). Some games, like Fortnite offer a hearing impaired mode where sound is simulated visually in the game and has been a boon to me, allowing me to play without restraint (and honestly it gives me a slight advantage to be fair).”

Enjoying Games with your Kids:

Have your children become interested in video games as a free-time activity?

Reprise: “My son is just 2, so he hasn’t seen a lot. When I used to do more gaming in front of him, he showed a lot of interest. I even had to give him his own controller as a toy (it’s a third party PS3 pad), although I’ve since taken it off him due to fears he’ll bite the sticks off and choke on them.”

Marurun: Not yet, he’s too young.

BogusMeatFactory: “My first daughter is only slightly interested. She cares more about physical activities than video games. She is 3 years old currently and I try to introduce her to some of the classic Nintendo games, which she shows a minor interest in. I even built levels in Mario Maker to help introduce her to the concept of running left to right, jumping to get coins etc. Each level ramped up and introduced new elements to help her. She didn’t show much interest. I think a lot of that is that I don’t spend a lot of time in the day time playing video games. I talk to her about them, because I am interested in them and she loves the Nintendo characters, but doesn’t really connect them to the games themselves.”

Was there an age that you started enjoying video games together?

Reprise: “He’s too young, but hopefully soon. Like I said, he has shown interest. Also, he LOVES the new Shenmue 3 trailer.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Only now have I started being able to enjoy any game time with my 3 year-old. We have played Dr. Mario and the original Mario Bros. She is just now starting to grasp the concept of inputting commands on the controller and seeing it appear on screen as an action. I hope that she gets into gaming, because I found it to be insanely helpful in critical thinking skills, problem solving and reading comprehension.”

Are there specific games that your kids enjoy that you now enjoy (perhaps even begrudgingly)?

Reprise: “See above. At 2, he’s still probably a bit too young.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Not at all. My 3 year-old hasn’t done much gaming without me and I am very open to new and different types of play.”

Are there any restrictions as a parent you place on the games your kids play, content specific or amount of time?

Reprise: “There will be when he starts gaming. Currently, he’s not allowed to watch too much TV. It’ll be the same for games. I’ll also try and avoid anything inappropriate or violent until he’s older.”

BogusMeatFactory: “My daughter gets 1 hour a day maximum to do Tablet time, using the Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It comes pre-loaded with software and learning tools and a very rich parental control settings. We set limitations on her using the tablet for videos and games and require a certain amount of time in her 1 hour to do reading and comprehension, basic math and writing skills.”

Racketboy Honorable Mentions: Any favorite classics that you enjoyed as a younger version of yourself that you’ve gently nudged them into trying? How were the results?

Reprise: “Shenmue as mentioned above haha.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I’ve been trying hard to get my daughter in Mario and it has had mixed results. She loves Mario and Luigi as a character, but shows a minor interest in the games themselves. She has loved the colors and action of Splatoon (not to play, but to watch) and is my personal cheerleader when I play. I am looking to get her introduced into Animal Crossing when it comes to the switch and really hope that is her first game to really get into. It really encourages reading and writing skills, socialization and problem solving. Plus it allows me to indirectly interact with her townsperson and her world in fun and exciting ways.

I also got her to play some of URU: Ages Beyond Myst, having her run the character around, which she enjoyed, but had no idea what was going on. Mostly I want her to be comfortable with the idea of moving an avatar without fear of death so that I won’t discourage her. I do not backseat game as I want her to experience it at her own pace. Also, some of the games I treasure the most, I want her to experience without me being there, so that she can process it at her own pace and share with me. I am excited to see if she gets into games, but will not in any way be disappointed if she doesn’t. She is her own person who has a love and passion for things already. She knows I love to play games and the last thing I want to do is pressure her into thinking she needs to like them in order to bond with me. We will see how things turn out as she grows up.”

Thanks so much to Reprise, Marurun, and BogusMeatFactory for sharing their thoughts and perspectives on being a gamer and parent. I’ve really learned a lot from hearing their stories, from their own personal tastes, takes on how to purposefully engage their children on gaming, and making time for gaming despite having a family. In the next (and for now, final) post, I’ll share how gaming has changed for me with having a very young baby.

You can read part one of this article series here! Thanks for reading and please share your own story and journey with gaming and parenting in the comments below.

Being a Parent and a Gamer.

How to be a tightwad with your (little) free time. Part 1!

Photo Credit: Mrs. Tightwad Gamer.

It has been a great while since my last article, but this week’s article will open up as to why there’s not been a lot of content posted on the site. It’s my goal to get back to a regular posting schedule and publish an article every other Wednesday. I have a lot of hopefully cool content that readers will enjoy.

We welcomed our first child in October, and that brought a world of changes. It has been a truly life-changing moment for us. We love our little one so much and it’s been challenging, heartwarming, and full of awesome memories already. One emerging thought I had during the months prior to our son’s birth was if/how I’ll still enjoy gaming as a parent. Our site is really about being frugally minded while enjoying video games — frequently focusing on the financial side of things. Now several months into being a parent to a wonderful kiddo I’ve come to understand my free time is my most scarce resource.

I am writing this article in conjunction with a snapshot survey of the Racketboy Community — I wanted to capture the responses of fellow gaming compatriots who have children and continue to find time to enjoy video games. Our interview questions focused on the intersections of being a parent and enjoying video games as a hobby. Outside of time spent gaming, have the types of games they’ve played changed? Do they see their children taking an interest in gaming? Their insights I really appreciated as a new parent, and I hope either they are relatable or provide some take-away wisdom. Today, I’ll be sharing the responses of three people: Racketboy Nick, Tanooki, and BoneSnapDeez. Additionally, I’ll share three additional member’s responses and my own reflections in two separate follow-up articles.

Amount of Time Spent:

As a parent, has there been a change in how frequently you are able to play games?

Racketboy: “My little guy turned five this week — we’ve been playing games together here and there for a couple years. We probably play a little bit even other day together.”

Tanooki writes: “Yes, once she was old enough to start wanting to do things and not just play alone, and earlier when she was a baby or toddler. A lot more basic things were needed and lots of sleep at that age so time was more available than now.”

BoneSnapDeez: “Slightly. I actually never sank a ton of time into gaming in the first place, to be honest. I will say this: the potential to have an all-day lazy gaming day on a Sunday or whatever has been destroyed since having kids. That’s the only “big” difference I’ve noticed.”

How many hours a week on average did you play before your kid(s) were born? Did this change when your kid(s) were just born or very young.

RB: “Right before he was born, I actually wasn’t playing a bunch as I was in the middle of a lot of work/business stuff. I’ve picked up more in the last few years as work stuff has changed and I also share with him. I honestly don’t think it changed too much — sometimes you stay up late with the baby and play games or watch Netflix”

T: “I really don’t remember, it kind of depends on what game(s) I was into at the time. I had a best friend at work then though too so in the evening I’d put an hour or a few into the Guild Wars games until he died suddenly on Christmas a few years back. But during the day 1-2 hours, sometimes more if the game demanded it. I got lucky I had a baby/toddler that didn’t need to be fed, changed, and handled every hour of the day and night, good eater and sleeper so there was minimal impact.”

BSD: “Maybe 12-15 before. Dropped down to 7-10 after. Maybe less. When my daughters were newborns I don’t think I played anything for the first month or so of their lives.”

How did this change as your children have gotten older?

Racketboy: “As they have gotten older, I team up with them on games more. We just got a Wii U, so we are loving Nintendo Land together.”

T: “I’m mostly the go-to to take her to her activities after school and I do pick up so I’m up at 6 to work, off at 2 and head over that way at that point. Mostly I can game on a mobile device (Gameboy to 3DS or likely iPhone) unless it’s after 7 or so when it’s bedtime. I do play games with her though so there are times.”

BSD: “Gradually risen. Back to 12 weekly hours or so.“

Types of Games:

Before you were a parent, what were the most common genres you enjoyed?

RB: “Fighting games, strategy, platforms.”

T: “I don’t have a set taste, so nothing has changed about my choice, just when and where I can get away with it.”

BSD: “RPGs, platformers, simplistic old arcade and Atari type games. This is simply what I’ve always enjoyed.”

Did you have a preferred platform for gaming?

RB: “Mostly Sega stuff.”

T: “Primarily handheld, has been since N64 had issues 20 years ago. So right now it’s Switch, other mobile devices, my PC, then retro consoles.”

BSD: “Mainly 2nd-4th gen. Atari 2600, NES, SNES, PCE, and Genesis seem to get the most use.”

Did becoming a parent change the types of games you enjoy or the types of platforms you play them on?

RB: “I still enjoy the same [genres], but I play more platforms and party type games now.”

T: “Not at all. If I were a console gamer more than handheld it would have, it’s easier when you’re on the go, but since I wasn’t it hasn’t changed.”

BSD: “Platforms remain relatively consistent. I now play a lot more two-player stuff with my eldest daughter. Or, I should say, the two-player mode of games I previously always played solo — Contra, Mario Bros., Bubble Bobble, and so on.”

Enjoying Games with your Kids:

Have your children become interested in video games as a free-time activity?

RB: “Yup!”

T: “Yes. Funny little story I would play them when she was old enough to sit up after age one in my lap, and one day I was playing River City Ransom EX on my GB Micro and she grabbed it out of my hand. She mashed on the button a bunch and took a dude out, and it did the classic BARF! I never really got her into it, but she saw my stuff and got curious.”

BSD: “My oldest wants to do it most every day, yes.”

Was there an age that you started enjoying video games together?

RB: “Probably like 3 years old. But he would chime in on Guitar Hero when he was 2.”

T: “Aside from the story above, two years ago I got her her first device, a really sweet deal on a clean girl owned Gameboy Color berry colored handheld with a pokemon pikachu pouch and a stash of games on Labor Day. She enjoyed it a lot so it grew from there as my mom gave her her barely used pink DS Lite, and as they came out I got her both the NES and SNES Classic Edition which she does the Mario and Kirby games on. I now have a Neo-Geo arcade cabinet, a modern cocktail 60in1 iCade, and Pin-Bot and she loves that stuff. Really on the MVS she loves the Bust-A-Move games, various games like Pac-Man to Burgertime on the iCade, and Pin-Bot would be obvious as it’s real pinball. She can do tablet gaming as well, likes both.”

BSD: “Probably when she was 3 (almost 4?) or so.”

Are there specific games that your kids enjoy that you now enjoy (perhaps even begrudgingly)?

RB: “My son likes Guitar Hero/Rock Band more frequently than I would play. We like similar games (although he’s not old enough for all the stuff I like). It’s more about the convenient timing of the day (especially when you work from home)”

T: “She loves the 8bit and 16bit Super Mario and Kirby games console and handheld. As I pointed out already too Bust-A-Move games on the Neo-Geo and I got her a GBC version as well. A typical kid she loves the childrens games on GBA and DS usually licensed but thankfully some of the better items around Hello Kitty, Ponies, Nick stuff, and definitely those pet/horse care type games. She even likes those decent Famicom based Hello Kitty games too so I’ll pull those out as she likes to use my import games/kits on my consoles too.”

BSD: “I play certain puzzle games with my daughter now that I previously didn’t have much interest in — Bust-a-Move comes to mind, along with that Hello Kitty game on PSX.”

Are there any restrictions as a parent you place on the games your kids play, content specific or amount of time?

RB: “We are trying to work in a time system, but he gets to play maybe 30 min to an hour a day but then gets to watch if me or my wife play.”

T: “She has attention issues with focus, is exceptionally smart and gets stuff done, but a talker. So besides punishments for behavior slip ups at home or school, she’s allowed time to play and even has a kids fire tablet which on there it has a set cut off time for non-reading type fun stuff. The other it’s monitored, kind of just depends how it goes but she doesn’t waste hours on it so there’s currently no need to say you get 30 minutes and it’s over or you lose it. Content, we buy the stuff, so obviously it’s the K rated level stuff, nothing E10/T/M with the ESRB.”

BSD: “Content isn’t an issue with the older stuff, generally, though my wife got ticked when she saw us playing Streets of Rage, haha. Generally when I play a game with my daughter we won’t go beyond 30 minutes or so.”

Racketboy Honorable Mentions: Any favorite classics that you enjoyed as a younger version of yourself that you’ve gently nudged them into trying? How were the results?

RB: “Sonic and Mario were great successes! He’s enjoyed a lot of 16-bit stuff, but he’s also enjoyed NES and certain Atari 2600 stuff!”

T: “Well yeah, why do you think I got her the NES and SNES Classic Edition? The NES was a surprise got it the day they canceled the original run, and the SNES I smuggled into a closet as a just from me Christmas gift last year. I know her current limits so I got her more focused on the various Mario and Kirby games listed, and I’ll have her do others as she loves Kirby’s Dream Land 3 on my console. As I see her skills go I’ll throw her something on her system like Balloon Fight, Mario Kart, Dr Mario and see how it works out as a test and to spread it out. The results are mixed, just depends what she’s capable of. I got the NES in 1985 (dating myself) when I was 7 almost 8, so I can’t quite expect the same proficiency from a 5 and 6 year old around those things but she’s improving.”

BSD: “Actually, my daughter has recently been getting into RPGs. She’s made it through the first hour or so of Final Fantasy. Since I don’t want to torture her I’m having her play the GBA port rather than the NES original.”

I want to personally thank Racketboy, Tanooki, and BoneSnapDeez for sharing their stories and experiences. I’m signing off now to go give my kiddo a bottle, then perhaps when we’re done playing and reading I’ll fire up my PS4 and play through some Spiderman. Let’s hope he cooperates with naptime! If you’re a parent, going to become a parent, or if you have some thoughts, I’d love to hear you sound off in the comment section below.

Sizzling Summer Special – Traveling Tightwad

Summer Travels? Check out an arcade!

Hey Everyone! I must apologize for the lapse in content over the past months. Other aspects of life seemed to catch up with me and work and other projects outside of Tightwad Gamer took precedent. So, without a moment’s notice, I wanted to share with you part one of a summer-themed article I’ve had on my mind for a while. The first covers some gaming-related venues you should visit during your summer travels. The second article, published soon after, will center around great handheld games you can indulge during your journey.

Summertime trips often come with a final destination in mind. Yellowstone National Park. San Francisco. Denver. Boston. New York. Regardless of your destination, you may have a few stops along the way. Why not make a local arcade one of them? For me, arcades were the beginning moments of the hobby. Arcade trips as a kid were exciting, and is fun to look back on those warm memories. However, arcades aren’t a relic of the past; though video games have changed drastically, arcades have popped up in a lot of major cities (and others never left!). Visiting an arcade allows you to explore or re-experience wonderful gaming history, supports a local business, and is an enjoyable social experience that deserves to be an excursion during your journey. Finally, it also doesn’t break your vacation budget. Need some further convincing? Read on!

Reason 1: Affordable, charming fun.

Arcades are often a great venue for gamers of all ages. Whether it’s giving the kids (and yourselves) a break from the drive, or allowing the parents to hop on a favorite arcade cabinet from their childhood, an arcade can be a cheap part of your day out or a pit stop along the way. Depending on what your price range is, arcades usually have two different pricing models: an admission fee (machines on free-play) or coin-operated, either by token or quarters. Some also offer food and special packages that combine food and games in one price. Soon after, you can jump into the excitement of different sights, sounds, and feels of arcade games. These machines are usually well maintained and locally owned and operated. You’re likely to get an afternoon of enjoyable gaming and some good memories over the shared experience. Finally, it won’t be the same level of expense that buying a new game for your home console.

Reason 2: Exploring gaming genres

Arcade games come in all types of exciting varieties, each posing a unique challenge. Be it shooters, beat-em ups, puzzle games, or racing, you can dabble in a lot of different video games. The novelty of sitting down and racing a group of friends or family members in Daytona (DAAAYYYTONNNAAA!) USA on a linked cabinet comes to mind. Experiencing the six-person X-Men cabinet (though unforgiving if you’re playing with quarters) is certainly an awesome experience, too. Maybe it’s a winner-stays tournament of Capcom vs. SNK, Street Fighter, or Tekken. Your trip to the arcade can be a time to jump into a new gaming experience or a time to rekindle a love for a favorite game. I was able to play a Sega Astro City cabinet during my wife and I’s honeymoon, something I’ll always remember. You’ll be sure to find something that will surprise you.

Reason 3: Bond over video game history

As the next generation of kids settles into gaming as a hobby, it can be a great time to experience the history of gaming. After all, arcades represent a golden age of gaming, prior to the popularity of home consoles. There’s something timeless and enjoyable about playing Galaga with my Dad. Likewise, letting your kids experience gaming the way you remember it can be a fun way to enjoy gaming together. Whether it’s your favorite Ninja Turtles stopping Shredder and the Foot Clan, Jumpman (not Mario) saving Pauline from Donkey Kong, or the timeless challenge of avoiding Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, a trip to the Arcade is a great way to immerse yourself and the little ones over the rich history of video games.

Bonus Stage: Barcade.

A novelty that’s popped up in the past decade or so is the phenomenon known as a Barcade. If you like a social environment that lets you play awesome games and sample the local brews of the area, a Barcade can’t be beat. I love Barcades. I’ve played (and trash talked) during a NBA Jam tournament at my bachelor party. I’ve relaxed and played Ms. Pac Man over a nice summer ale. I like the social environment that also allows me to kick back, enjoy some games and a nice cold beer. A positive is the machines almost always have cup holders or drink tables near the cabinets, so there’s less risk to the machines in the event of a spill. And it’s always worth saying, please remember to drink responsibly!


Wherever your travels (or stay-cation) may lead you, I hope you consider dropping into an arcade in the near future. Check out Yelp or do a friendly internet search for arcades in the area prior to your trip. Hours, admission/prices, and a list of games are usually listed. I’ve also had good experiences contacting the business owners via Facebook if I have any questions. Shout out to the The Coin Slot in Traverse City, Michigan, for giving me the inspiration to write this article shortly after a family vacation of our own. Thanks for reading and safe travels!

The Do-It-Yourself Solution for Storing and Displaying Video Games.

Storage and display should not cost a fortune.

You’ve spent hard-earned money on games. Now how will you go about displaying them? Some gamers proudly display their expansive collection of games in their library. There’s something charming about perusing shelves and reading the titles on the spines. Others go for a sleek minimalist look, desiring ways to keep the collection out of sight. The truth is if you’re going to dedicate a space in your home where you play games, you should enjoy the look of it.  This article discusses some of the benefits of do-it-yourself projects that cleanly display your collection without busting your budget.

The art of woodworking.

An average shelf at Ikea will cost you around $40-60. Carpentry is an incredibly useful skill in contrast. You can make a variety of practical pieces of furniture at a very affordable price, often with better craftsmanship. The best part is the satisfaction that comes from building something yourself, learning new skills in the process, and later admiring your handiwork. For these reasons, I often choose to build things on my own, using sturdy but cheap (sometimes even free) building materials, borrowing tools, and assembling and finishing pieces, often with a good friend. The only costs incurred are the time designing, building, and finishing the product, along with some of the materials that I don’t have on hand.

You may be thinking, “TWG, I don’t have any tools or equipment!” I will let you in on a little secret: neither do I. Beside your basic home all-in-one tool set, I personally don’t own any saws, clamps, drills, etc. I’ve asked friends or family to jump in and help with projects, and in return do a favor or chore to help out. If that’s not an option, you can see if there’s a local woodworkers guild or workshop where you can rent tools. Whether you’re a novice or experienced, it is highly recommend to take health and safety precautions, like wearing proper personal protection equipment like gloves, goggles, and earmuffs. Make sure that if you’re a beginner you’re doing the construction with someone, this includes getting instructions on how to use the tools safely and effectively. For example, I didn’t make any of the initial cuts with the table saw we used on my first woodworking project. I was able to observe proper cutting technique and safety measures, before practicing myself. Be sure to consult someone with experience if you’re unsure!

What are the benefits of building your own furniture?


You can design and build to any specification your heart desires. Are you trying to fit your complete GameCube collection on a shelf? No problem! NES carts? Easy-peasy. You can build storage and display units that have the perfect amount of space in between shelves for any type of game case, etc. Simply measure the height of the case, add xxx inches for some wiggle room, and you’re good to go.

Beyond shelf height, you can also customize the overall size of the piece of furniture. Most of us don’t have unlimited space for our video game collections. By building your own custom shelving, you can tailor your design to the specific height, width, or depth that you need for your unique gaming space.

Finally, how many times have you brought home a bookshelf, only to find that it matches none of your other furniture? One of my favorite aspects of custom built game storage is  finishing, which includes staining and applying polyurethane to the untreated wood. You can choose what look you’re going for that matches your room, and create multiple pieces with exactly the same aesthetic.

The customization factor is awesome.


Depending on the materials you use, what you build has greater strength and will most likely last longer than anything you can buy in a furniture store. Most bookcases and media stands you can buy are a thin layer of veneer underneath MDF (particle board). They are prone to damage from moisture and over time begin to sag if there’s a lot of weight rested on them. When choosing materials for your custom project, consider oak or maple. These types of materials will ensure your storage will stand the test of time, which will also save you money in the long-run.

Price: On average, building your own will be much cheaper than most manufactured furniture. As long as you’re not using super-expensive cuts of hardwood, you’ll find you can build cheap, durable and good-looking furniture at a portion of the cost. See below for some specifics on pricing and materials.


Carpentry is a wonderful skill to learn, if you’re willing to be patient and take your time. It’s both relaxing and gratifying to build something with your hands. It will make you think more about the items you own and make you more likely to build something that will last, rather than something you are likely to throw away. There’s a wealth of resources on YouTube to make it simple and demonstrate before you begin.

Any drawbacks?


This is the biggest con, so weigh this out. If your time is valuable to you and sacrificing it is too costly, this might not be for you. Most projects can be completed in a couple of days but some range to a week or two, depending on how much time you have available. However, it can be well worth the time to have a beautiful, custom storage solution that may come in well below retail price.


Waste can be a potential drawback, so it needs to be mentioned. If you don’t plan well, or double check your measurements, this is what can run you into trouble. There is tons of wisdom in the saying, “measure twice, cut once.” If you’re not paying attention and don’t double check your math, you can venture into territory that will incur extra cost. So, make sure your measurements add up, have someone spot check your measurements and how much material you’ll need.

Tightwad Gamer Budget Categories for DIY Furniture:

Ultra Low-Budget Category: Re-purposed Pallets.

Most often, groceries, retailers, and other businesses receive their goods via shipping pallet. If you’re polite and ask, they’ll be willing to let you take a few off your hands for free. Most are made from safe, treated wood that can be used in a woodworking project. Before you use a pallet, check to make sure it’s not treated with formaldehyde or methyl bromide. This website provides a good guide. I’ve found excellent pallets that are made of maple, pine, and oak.

A caveat to using pallets is that the wood is rough cut and is often not planed or sanded. If you’re using a sander, however, you’ll make short work of this issue. Sometimes the pallets can become warped from repeated use, so check to make sure you’re grabbing pallets that are nice and even. Last, be careful of removing nails from the pallets; sometimes the elements can eventually rust the nails, so take proper precautions like wearing gloves (and having an up-to-date tetanus shot!) It’s for your health. 🙂

I’ve used pallets in several woodworking projects, leading to some awesome shelves that display my entire video game collection. I built these for around $10 each, where all I purchased was a box of screws, a can of stain, and some polyurethane.

(I built this shelf on the left out of a single pallet, to display my Dreamcast games)

Low-budget Category: Pre-cut lumber at your hardware store.

If you’re not all about the pallet option, you can also pick up higher quality, finished boards that you can assemble into a quality storage unit, entertainment center, or battlestation. Your local hardware store will have a variety of both hardwood (birch, poplar, maple and oak) along with softwood (usually white or red pine). If we’re sticking with the theme of a shelf, you might need a two 10’ 2×4’s or 2×6’s, a ¼ “ sheet of plywood for a backing. Most Lowes and Home Depot will actually rough cut the boards you need on site, so past that all you’ll likely need to do is assemble and finish. When all is said and done,, you might be in the ballpark of $20-$30 a shelf, depending on size..

Mid-range Category: Hardwood veneer plywood.

Now we’re starting to venture into the pricier options. Hardwood is it if you want a board that takes stain well, is heavier and heftier, and is less prone to dents and damage. You have the choice of buying specific lengths and cuts of hardwood boards. You can find decent deals on hardwood veneer plywoods. You get an excellent piece of wood that is affordable and is able to be finished with stain and poly. You can often find oak, birch, poplar, and maple plywoods. For this option, I choose birch plywood. A 4’x8’ sheet at Lowes  costs around $55. A single sheet allowed me to build a “consolecade,” which looks like a classic arcade machine that I use to play and display all my gaming consoles. I also used a second sheet to build both a computer desk and entertainment center for our TV. For around $120, I was able to assemble an entire set of furniture in the gameroom. These are quality cherished pieces that I’ll be able to keep for the long-run.

Parting thoughts:

I hope this article helps inspire you to get started on your next project. I’ve been able to build some functional, durable, and affordable custom storage at the cost of my own time at a vastly cheaper expense. For around $150, I’ve been able to piece together all the furniture I wanted for our gameroom: it’s custom, fits our collection and my space perfectly, and it matches everything else. If you have any ideas for projects, or perhaps you’ve actually built something that you’d like to share, please leave a thought in the discussion below!


PlayStation+ vs. Xbox Live Gold. A 2017 Tightwad Year in Review

Which Online Service Offered the Most Value?

2018 brings a new year for gaming, and for many of us, a new year for gaming resolutions. Maybe you will set out to beat more games than you buy. Or perhaps you’d like to be more present with family and friends by implementing a monthly game night. Regardless, we at Tightwad Gamer hope one of your resolutions is to PAY LESS, and PLAY MORE and this article aims to do just that! Today, we have a face-off: PS+ vs. Xbox Live Gold. Which service provides the most value?

One possibility to consider (or reconsider) when assessing your frugal gaming needs are online subscription-based services. These are typically required for online play if you have either a Sony or Microsoft console. But who has time to figure out whether these services are really worth it? (hint: we do).Today, specifically, we’d like to offer a detailed comparison on PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Live Gold (PS+ vs. Live Gold). Plus and Gold are premium subscription services for Sony and Microsoft consoles. Xbox Live and PlayStation Network each provide access to messaging and apps, including video streaming like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Ultimately, games on both consoles require Plus and Gold to take advantage of online play and communication services. Each service however does offer another unique perk: free games and special discounts offered each month. This article intends to examine both services and make an conclusion on which offered the most value in 2017.

Let’s cover pricing and terms. PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold both have the same pricing structure: $9.99 for one month, $24.99 for three months, or $59.99 for one full year. Free games span the following platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One for Xbox Live Gold and PS3, PS4, PSVR, and PSVita for PS Plus. All games can be played with an active subscription, but cannot be accessed if a subscription expires. There is one exception: 360 games are retained permanently once “purchased” through the Xbox store.


Before we jump into all the details that follow, here are the overall questions I focused on in this comparison:

  1. Which service delivers the most value in free games based on Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)?
  2. Which service provides the highest quality games based on Metacritic aggregate scores, as part of the free games it offers each month?

Calculating total retail cost provides an objective variable to determine overall value. This will not include the price of the same game bought in physical format, either new or used (as these prices are variable). Discounts on purchases will be omitted in this comparison. Another variable we’ll use is Metacritic aggregate scores to provide broad insight on the quality of these games. The intention is to see if any differences emerge. Games lacking a metascore will not be calculated into the final average, for fairness sake.

With this information, let’s take a look at the list of complementary games made available by participating in PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold:

Xbox Live Gold

PlayStation Plus

Name: Price (MSRP): Metacritic Score: Name: Price (MSRP): Metacritic Score:
World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap $19.99 80 Day of the Tentacle* $14.99 84


The Cave $14.99 70 This War of Mine $29.99 78
Killer Instinct Season 2 Ultra Edition $34.99 85 Blazerush (PS3) $9.99 70
Rayman Origins $19.99 87 The Swindle* $14.99 73
Azkend 2* $7.99 67
Titan Souls* $14.99 74
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime $14.99 82 LittleBigPlanet 3 $19.99 79


Monkey Island 2 Special Edition $9.99 85 Not a Hero $12.99 74
Project Cars Digital Edition $29.99 81 Starwhal $11.99 78
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed $19.99 73 Anna: Extended Edition (PS3) $9.99 75
Ninja Senki DX* $4.99 64
TorqueL* $9.99
Layers of Fear $19.99 78 Disc Jam $14.99 72


Evolve: Ultimate Edition $39.99 74 Tearaway: Unfolded $19.99 81
Borderlands 2 $19.99 89 Earth Defense Force 2025 (PS3) $49.99 69
Heavy Weapon $9.99 77 Under Night: In-Birth (PS3) $39.99 80
Severed (Vita) $14.99 82
Lumo* $19.99 73
Ryse: Son of Rome $19.99 60 Drawn to Death $19.99 56


The Walking Dead: Season 2 $24.99 79 Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime $14.99 82
Darksiders $19.99 83 Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom (PS3) $14.99 50
Assassins Creed: Revelations $19.99 80 Alien Rage (PS3) $14.99 52
10-Second Ninja X* $9.99 76
Curses’N’Chaos* $9.99 70
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams $14.99 77 Tales from the Borderlands $14.99 86


Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris $19.99 72 Abzu $19.99 78
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 $19.99 61 Blood Knights (PS3) $9.99 43
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga $19.99 80 Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants (PS3) $19.99 54
Laser Disco Defenders* $9.99 80
Type: Rider* $7.99
Speedrunners $14.99 84 Killing Floor 2 $39.99 75


Dragon Age: Origins $14.99 86 Life is Strange $19.99 85
Watch Dogs $29.99 78 Abyss Odyssey (PS3) $14.99 70
Assassin’s Creed 3 $19.99 84 WRC 5 FIA World Rally Championship (PS3) $29.99 62
Phantom Dust $14.99 81 Neon Chrome* $14.99 63
Spy Chameleon* $4.99 71
Grow Up $9.99 74 Until Dawn $19.99 79


Runbow $14.99 82 Game of Thrones $19.99 69
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days $14.99 63 Tokyo Jungle (PS3) $14.99 74
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean $19.99 73 Darkstalkers Resurrection (PS3) $14.99 80
Element4l (Vita) $9.99 62
Don’t Die, Mr. Robot* $3.99 76
Slime Rancher $19.99 81 Just Cause 3 $59.99 73


Bayonetta $19.99 90 Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry $14.99 71
Trials Fusion $19.99 80 Super Motherload $14.99 65
Red Faction: Armageddon $29.99 71 Snakeball (PS3) $9.99 65
Downwell* $4.99 80
Level 22 (Vita) $6.99 69
Forza Motorsport 5 $39.99 79 Infamous: Second Son $19.99 80


Oxenfree $19.99 78 Strike Vector Ex $14.99 75
Hydro Thunder Hurricane $14.99 75 Truck Racer (PS3) $9.99
Battlefield 3 $19.99 84 Handball 16 (PS3) $19.99
We Are Doomed* $9.99 61
Hatoful Boyfriend* $9.99 72
Gone Home $19.99 85 Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain $19.99 93


The Turing Test $19.99 80 Amnesia: Collection $29.99 78
Rayman 3 HD $9.99 69 Monster Jam Battlegrounds (PS3) $9.99
Medal of Honor: Airborne $19.99 73 Hustle Kings (PS3) $9.99 81
Hue* $14.99 77
Sky Force Anniversary* $9.99 77
Trackmania Turbo $39.99 76 Worms Battlegrounds $24.99 62


Tales from the Borderlands $14.99 88 Bound $19.99 71
Nights Into Dreams $9.99 72 R-Type Dimensions (PS3) $9.99 82
Deadfall Adventures $39.99 43 Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic (PS3) $9.99 68
Dungeon Punks* $14.99 71
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse (Vita) $24.99 72
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide $39.99 77 Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition $29.99 72


Back to the Future: The Game $19.99 75 Kung Fu Panda: Showdown… $9.99 63
Child of Eden $29.99 84 Syberia Collection (PS3) $29.99
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death $14.99 66 Xblaze Lost: Memories (PS3) $39.99 63
Forma.8 $9.99 78
Wanted Corp $11.99 59
Total: $1,034.51 Total: $1,228.28


Average $/Month $86.21 Average $/Month $102.36
Average Metacritic Score: 77.22 Average Metacritic Score: 71.88


  • (+): PlayStation Plus, in terms of retail value and quantity, offered 72 games at an estimated $1228.28 for various consoles on the PlayStation Network. This is a difference of $193.77, which is a clear margin between Xbox Live Gold.
  • (+): A unique factor for Plus is the Crossplay function that allows certain games to be played on both the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation 4 through Cross Buy. Offers some additional games on the Vita that let you play on the go, as long as you have a Vita.
  • (+/-): Some games released each month are solely for PS3 or Vita (25 in 2017). If you don’t either of these, you’re out of luck. Still, six games a month free on average across PS3, PS4, Vita, and PSVR is pretty nice.
  • (-): PlayStation had a slightly lower Metacritic aggregate score of 71.88 for all free games offered in 2017.


  •  Xbox Live Games With Gold offered 49 games for an estimated retail cost of $1034.51. In the comparison of retail price of free games, Gold was edged out by Plus, but $1000 of games is hardly something to scoff at. Still, for comparison’s sake, this results in a mark against Gold.
  • (+): All Xbox 360 games provided through Gold in 2017 are backwards compatible through the Xbox One console. They’re also free to keep if your membership expires.
  • (+): Gold edged out Plus in the metacritic comparison, winning with an aggregate score of 77.22.

Some of the finer details are noteworthy: both services offered a comparable number of quality first and third party games as well as large and small studio games. Multiple genres of games are also well-represented. However, the conclusions are still fairly subjective. If you’re on a budget and have one of these consoles, the value from free games you get from having one of these premium services is considerable. You’ll often get a number of quality games for your consoles each month.


  • If you have PS3, PS4, and Vita, then clearly you’ll get more mileage out of Plus. Annually, you may get more retail value than Gold, but you’ll still get 50% more games than Gold. Six games a month might be plenty for PlayStation gamers to enjoy.
  • If you’re looking for slightly better quality of games offered, Gold provided this in 2017. To be fair, 2018 might be a different story. However, if you also want to play all the games offered on a single console, The Xbox One with Gold is a worthy choice with its backwards compatibility.

Overall, this decision seems like a no-brainer if you already enjoy online console gaming. If not, you still get quite a good deal for only $60/year. Regardless, I’d love to hear your experiences about PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold and any other thoughts you might have in the comments below! Happy 2018 to you all! Have a New Year’s resolution? Perhaps starting a budget? The Tightwad Gamer Guide to Budgeting may be of use!