Tuesday, 30 December 2008

cost versus price versus quality

At breakfast I was forced to explain a phenomenon which although I will relate it to gaming can be used anywhere else. I first encountered it on a forum reading about middle-aged gamers who juggled a job with a virtual world. See Ben X. Anyway, the way Peter looks at it is that you have three variables: Time, Cost and Quality. If like me your time (for playing) reduces then you want the Quality to stay excellent for what little time you have to game. This means that the last variable: price, increases due to increased quality. Steam thankfully breaks this equality by supplying unbelievably cheap games which are of equally unbelievable quality (depending upon whether you like deep thoughtful adventure games with more emphasis on story) all this is supplied in short, episodic content. Granted, the Half-Life episodes won't take you under an hour to experience each one fully but the time you play will be as entertaining as you can possibly make it for the price. You play for fifteen minutes and come away completely amazed by the absolute masterpiece and genius. This is what I'm experiencing. I want to pay less to play better games for shorter amounts of time. It's all possible given that independent games which are of significantly increased quality are available for cheaper through steam. Another point made by Peter was that the price of the game was insignificant compared to time and quality. Ergo, there is little reason to buy a game of mediocre quality (bad story, not incredibly fun to play, not artistic) and play it for a long time even though it cost you £4. One's total entertainment achieved from that £4 was not enough to compensate for the incredibly limited game-playing time I have.
A problem I face however is that I should not buy a game of high quality for low price and then play it for longer due to the fact that it is so completely amazing. I'm slowly making myself through Half-Life 1 because if I play for long periods of time my time/cost/quality balance falls out of place. In fact if you look at my steam stats I have played Half-Life for 1.2 hours in the past 2 weeks. And that's been the average for the last 2 weeks as well. Which makes about 2.4 hours of high-quality playing time for 79p. That works out at 8p every fifteen minutes. This would be almost insignificant if not for the fact that Half-Life is one of the most entertaining games I have ever played.
Some people spend spend a long time on big expensive games which are of mediocre quality. This is wrong because they try to get more entertainment out of their game by playing it for longer while they save up for the next hugely popular game. But you can't get more entertainment out of a bad game by playing it for longer. 

And that is why when my laptop arrives I will set up a new Steam account and buy many independent games at low prices, but not necessaruily play them for long.
You can also relate this to the completion of mock test papers to be completed dutring the holidays by replacing cost with oportunity cost. I should really draw a graph later on to represent this.

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