What to gift myself
August 12, 2018 8:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to choose between a Nintendo Switch, modest gaming PC, or to focus on other hobbies and would appreciate someone else's perspective.

I've been jonesing for a Switch since before it was released. I'm not a nintendite by any means, but I've played a few zelda titles and Breath of the Wild looks awesome. Super Mario Odyssey as well. I'd probably get them both at the same time and switch off, but who knows. I don't have a lot of time to play games ( three small kids -- we've played Zelda together, trading off or them watching me) so there's that. If I got half an hour in the evening after putting them to bed that's probably the most I could hope for. Commute gaming isn't an option (blissfully short commute) It's a lot of money up front and dropping $60 on a game is not sustainable for me long term. I'm afraid it will be a Zelda/Mario machine and then when I run out of steam for those it's over.

Speaking of steam, I used to be a gamer. And my desktop PC is now fairly ancient. I have a backlog of GOG, humble bundle, and steam games I could play if I had hardware that could handle it. The current PC doesn't have an upgrade path ( XP vintage ) and my much more modern laptop is an intel graphics chipset running Linux, but I look at my library of unplayable games and the various online game sales that are always happening and think I might get more fun per dollar if I replaced the PC with something modest yet modern. I would spend a little more than the initial switch outlay ( maybe 500-600$ ) but than have all these games already at the ready. None of them have the same appeal to me as Breath of the Wild, but I can wait till the switch is on the way out and buy it at closeout prices in 2020 too. The problem with the gaming PC is I'd need to be in a particular location to play it (vs sitting with my spouse which she does her hobbies. I have a decent laptop and gigabit ethernet at home so I'm wondering if the steam link might be workable (laptop has a Win10 partition that I haven't booted into in 9 months). It feels like it might be more of a headache ( steam only for the steamlink, setup complications , etc ). Maybe I'm be unrealistic that I could get something reasonable in that budget, too.

Last, hobbies. I have a few and I find myself wondering if this gaming thing is just a time/money sink and I should be focusing on recreational programming or get more serious about recording my guitar playing and learn a DAW. I used to paint, there's all kinds of arduino things that look like fun projects. Wouldn't these be a better use of my limited time? That said, at the end of the day I don't always have the focus those require I need something a little more mindless after work and kids, etc. The one thing I do spend a lot of my time on is playing guitar, but mostly because I can do it while watching the kids, or I'll finish eating dinner with the family and pull it out and plink along while we're all finishing up, or while I'm supervising the bedtime prep. That's been great so something that could make that better would be a welcome suggestion. I started playing ~4 years ago, am terrible but making audible progress. I have a mic and guitar effect software, looper pedal, but maybe there's some modest investment that would make it more enjoyable ( like lessons for instance ... ).

Anyway. I've been thinking through this for the last two months as my birthday approaches trying to choose, thinking maybe if I wrote it all out here it would help make it more clear. It hasn't, but maybe someone will chime in an see it from a point of view I've missed. Thanks!
posted by roue to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Since you have kids, I think the best investment is the Switch. There are games you know you'll want to play, and in a few years, you'll be able to pass it off to your kids and they'll have a dedicated gaming device (or a system that you can play with them.)

In terms of hobbies, I've found that the best way to have fun in my hobbies is to figure out a project I want to create instead of just saying, "I should develop these skills." That'll give you a better idea as to what you should buy, so you spend your money on that item instead of throwing money into the idea of having a hobby and never using the things you buy. If you have something you know you want to make, you should buy the things you need for that.
posted by LSK at 9:06 PM on August 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

There's really something remarkable about playing such expansive games on such a small device.

And it's become an indie haven, none of which are $60. Hollow Knight is one of the best games of all time, and it's $15.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:12 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would suggest the PC, because 1, you can use it for creating things and developing new skills, not just the games (I find some work to be harder on laptop unless there is a docked monitor/workspace). 2, You already own a lot of good unplayed games for it, and would have to spend a lot of money to replicate even a small amount of that on the Switch, so that would cover the extra outlay. 3, because (personal choice) I like how over the long term, my old games (and their saved-games) on PC are always valid. Games that I played on consoles are fading memories; I usually can't revisit them because I would need an archeological expedition to dig up ancient (yet functioning) console hardware and try to get it all set up with adaptors, and my saved games of the era are often trapped or lost so there's little point anyway. But with old PC games, I can wander down memory lane at any time, and pick up where I left off. (I have both systems)

But really, it's only a difficult choice because you win either way!
posted by Cusp at 9:18 PM on August 12, 2018

my much more modern laptop is an intel graphics chipset running Linux,

Probably a huge part of your backlog, the games that aren't AAA titles from the last couple years, will become available if you just dual boot this with Windows sometimes, which is much cheaper than buying a new computer when you can only use one computer at a time anyway, and would quite possibly also allow you to get the Switch.
posted by Sequence at 9:28 PM on August 12, 2018

I have a few and I find myself wondering if this gaming thing is just a time/money sink

It would be. If the choice is any other hobby or video games, the correct answer is any other hobby. As to whether you should focus on guitar playing or recreational programming or whatever, I don’t know. My guess is that for your guitar, you don’t need any more gear, you just need more practice time. Whether that be with a teacher or you making some self-directed goal (hey, I’ll put up some YouTube videos and I don’t want to embarrass myself), I don’t know.
posted by alidarbac at 9:31 PM on August 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

the correct answer is any other hobby

Or, you know, isn’t... it’s a hobby, not a job, choose whatever you get the most enjoyment from.

The switch is great for multiplayer, Zelda and Mario are truly great games, and there are tons of great, inexpensive games when you’re done with the AAA ones. I play guitar and play videogames, too, just saying.
posted by Huck500 at 9:51 PM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

One thing to note is that a lot of the notable Steam and indie PC games of the last 5 years or so (that your own PC may not be able to handle) have been making their way onto the Switch this year, meaning that even aside from Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, there is already SO. MUCH. to play on the system.

To me, the Switch is the clear winner vs. re-gamifying your PC, but I think overall you're better off sinking your wishes/money into your hobbies. The Switch eats time. For every 20 hours you divest into a game, there's two more games that are just as good or greater now waiting for you in the eShop. And you're not going to want to stop leaping from game to game. It's a hell of an experience, but it's also somewhat isolating. Whereas it sounds like your hobbies--guitar, makerstuff, tinkering--can easily include your family.

Honestly, it sounds like what you really want is TIME. Guitar lessons sound like they could be really satisfying? An excuse to just go out and play guitar for an hour, then come back home and build on those new skills? Or maybe a three-day train-to-somewhere solo vacation?
posted by greenland at 10:05 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Switch just kind of works, it's very plug-and-play, or rather, charge-and-play. I think it's the way to go for your lifestyle, since you're busy and often distracted and can't be expected to keep up with new PC things. It really does do a fine job of switching between handheld and on the tv, and it has a nice library of $5-$15 games that's continually growing.

While focusing on another hobby is nice in theory you sound like you have a lot on your plate right now. With gaming you can think of it like a hobby with skill progression and knowledge gained and all that stuff, sure, but another way to look at it is enjoying an important modern art form. There's value in that, just as a recreational thing.
posted by Mizu at 11:25 PM on August 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

You can grab the Switch from its dock on your way to the bathroom and grab a Power Moon in Mario or climb a mountain in Zelda on the toilet. The plug and play (and play anywhere) really does just work, and Switch gets my vote for that reason.
posted by Zephyrial at 11:31 PM on August 12, 2018

I would say the Switch because it sounds like you'll be isolating yourself from your family if you tie yourself to the desktop. I think it's okay to have a Mario/Zelda only machine--I bought a Vita for Final Fantasy purposes and that ended being all that I had time for.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:34 AM on August 13, 2018

At a maximum of half an hour a day, BotW alone you could play all the way to your next birthday. I wasn't even super excited for it per se, having never really gotten into Zelda for whatever reason, and I've totally fallen in love with it on the Switch (in handheld mode; the small text precludes using it on the TV for nearsighted me). I think your laptop is worth experimenting with too, but if the Switch is what you're really wanting, it doesn't sound like there's any reason you have to choose the most economically advantageous present here.
posted by teremala at 5:43 AM on August 13, 2018

Another vote for the Switch. It is really fun and there are lots of inexpensive and very cool indie games. There are also lots of games that are fun to play as a family.
posted by Cuke at 6:19 AM on August 13, 2018

Another quick thought: the Switch or a hobby like the guitar can be paused/put down at any moment. There's no need to finish a stage or a fight before saving like in so many desktop games. Sure, it's tempting, but other than breaking your mental flow, there's no in-game consequence, so it's much easier to (a) not obsessively watch the clock and (b) actually stop when you're supposed to.
posted by teremala at 6:41 AM on August 13, 2018

Last, hobbies. I have a few and I find myself wondering if this gaming thing is just a time/money sink and I should be focusing on recreational programming or get more serious about recording my guitar playing and learn a DAW.

Gamer here. Countless hobbies are a time/money sink - not all hobbies have to result in a tangible product. If it brings you what you need to relax and have fun, then participate in the hobby that makes you happy.

You haven't played the GOG/humble bumble/steam games you already bought and even if you get a new PC you still won't. Trust me. You'll want to play newer stuff - and also trust me that you will buy newer games and still not play those - so using that fact that you already own those games as a reason seems moot.

Your interest and excitement are in the Switch so go for it and have fun!
posted by NoraCharles at 6:48 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Like folks said above, the indie game selection is good on Switch and getting better every day. They also run sales on downloads - not as good as Steam, but I did pick up Hollow Knight at 20% off. A few of the standouts in the indie downloads that you should be able to pick up for under $20:

- Hollow Knight - platformer everyone says is great
- Stardew Valley - Animal Crossing-esque farming game
- Shovel Knight - great platformer
- Crypt of the Necrodancer - highly creative rhythm dungeon crawler
- Darkest Dungeon - painfully hard dungeon crawler with creative fear mechanics
- Scribblenauts - co-op... doodling game?
- Overcooked - co-op cooking game
posted by asphericalcow at 7:24 AM on August 13, 2018

Listen, I'm a guitar player too so I feel like I ought to be advocating for you to spend money on it. But there's no need. You have all the bits you want/need. Lessons - I mean yeah? If you want them? But just playing is more important than lessons, if that's what works for you. With the guitaring, you don't really need to invest money to make progress unless you want to, just time.

With that in mind, I'm also team Switch :) we love ours. The blockbuster games we've got (Splatoon II, Zelda) are superb and worth every penny (and if you want Zelda to last longer to get more value out of it just do ALL the side quests, you'll never ever finish and frankly why would you want to) but we've also bought a few small indie ones that are great too.
posted by greenish at 7:28 AM on August 13, 2018

Ask yourself whether you will really use that Switch and be honest with yourself. I also go through phases where I am really interested in gaming where that is my main leisure activity. Then after a few months I am sick of games and on a movie kick or devouring novels or any number of other things. I bought a Switch in January and I really like it, but I also feel like it hasn't paid for itself yet. Sometimes I look at it and wish that I had invested that $300 + $100 for another controller + $150 for a couple of games and used it elsewhere. It's not full on buyer's remorse so much as it is just an awareness that I am not using it as much as I should for such an expensive purchase and probably never will. I play it for maybe an hour a week, mostly in portable mode. Part of my aging process has been coming to terms with the fact that I just don't like video games the way I did when I was younger. They just don't hold my attention like they used to.

My advice is to be really honest with yourself as to why you might want a Switch and why you fell off gaming to start with. If, like me, you go through phases and in a couple months will be uninterested in games again then you might want to do something else with your hard earned dollars. If your heart says Switch then go for it. It's a great little machine and I do use and enjoy it, even if I don't use it and enjoy it as much as I wish I did.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 9:20 AM on August 13, 2018

Hi! I’m a gamer with a lot of creative hobbies and not a lot of time. I have a Switch and a gaming PC with a huge backlog of games. I still play the Switch more. It’s way more convenient, especially when you don’t have a ton of time to play. More and more titles are being ported to the Switch, for much less than $60. In fact, a couple months ago I bought Okami for the PC, and I just found out it also came out for the Switch (for $20!) and am seriously regretting buying it for the PC.

I’ve also found that it hasn’t really detracted from my creative hobbies, because if I have the time and energy and focus to do something creative or mentally challenging, I do. Gaming is for when I don’t have that energy and focus. No one can be “on” all the time, and a lot of people don’t get that creative hobbies are often not nearly as relaxing as they may look (as someone who draws and knits—you wouldn’t believe how much people underestimate the focus those both require, unless you’re doing the most basic of basic repetitive exercises). I am willing to bet programming and music take a lot of focus that you don’t always have. It’s okay to be doing something that’s not “productive” sometimes!

Some other titles I haven’t seen mentioned to consider if you go the Switch route:
- Yooka-Laylee
- Nine Parchments
- Okami HD

Gonna also put in an anti-vote for Kirby Star Allies in case you or your kids consider it. It was cute and fun and I enjoyed it, esp. as a co-op, but it was in no way worth $60. Glad I borrowed that one.
posted by brook horse at 9:24 AM on August 13, 2018

It comes down to how much you really want to expand on hobbies vs just gaming. I've played a lot of games in this machine (until the dedicated graphic chip burned out, so only stuff from GoG since then), as well as writing a few articles, making a couple of videoclips and recording four albums. I mostly play on my 360 these days.

In brief, a proper computer DAW, even on their lite versions, is far more powerful than KORG Gadget (although Nobuyoshi Sano has been impressing me since the original KORG DS-10) and you can experiment with a far more stuff than just a guitar, plus you can grab a cheap Wacom tablet off Ebay and use something like Krita (open source) to paint.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:36 AM on August 13, 2018

When you're done with BotW and Odyssey, you can get your kids playing MarioKart, entertaining them on long trips too.
posted by flimflam at 1:28 PM on August 13, 2018

Hi All. Thanks much for helping me think through this I bought a switch this afternoon and all is well.
posted by roue at 6:16 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

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