Like every other bastard in the free world – well, that’s how it felt to me at the time – I ordered a Steam Deck last week.
The simplicity of that statement belies the actual torture of the process, by the way. I didn’t calmly hit a link, input my card details, complete my purchase, and bask in the glory of my accomplishment as much as I sat sweating over two different laptops for two and a half hours, lurching between them like a drunken ping-pong ball and obsessively spamming “Continue”, silently dying inside every time the “Working” prompt came up because let me tell you, my friend – nothing was fucking “working” that night.
Within 36 seconds – I know, because I screen-capped it – the pre-order page went down. I kept retrying – why would I not? I wanted one! – and then Valve told me I’d attempted my purchase so many times it was now soft-blocking me from retrying for an indeterminate amount of time (if anyone can tell me how attempting to buy something is a cybercrime, I’d love to hear it). I ended up eating dinner cold and with one hand – the other was still hammering “continue” – until I eventually secured one almost three hours after my first attempt. I didn’t celebrate: I collapsed, hyperventilating. It took so long to secure my pre-order that I think my shiny new handheld device is due for delivery sometime in Novemteper 3045.
The stupidest bit? I did all this and I don’t even play games on mobile devices.
I’m not talking about mobile games, by the way – I mean I tend not to play anything on a handheld machine. I’ve owned several over the years – PSP, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo Switch, naturally – and while the latter is probably my most well-used handheld console, that’s only because it’s plugged in and docked 100 per cent of the time.
I know few, if any of us, have returned to our weekly commute just yet (and thanks to “Freedom Day”, I’m not convinced we’ll be returning any time soon, either), but even when I was going into an office every day, mobile gaming just wasn’t something that occurred – or appealed – to me. Beyond a brief spell when I was laid off, depressed, and hopelessly addicted to Candy Crush Saga, my handheld devices were usually bought to enable me to play one specific, platform-exclusive game on it, and then typically not ever touched again until I part-exchanged it several months/years later to help me buy another handheld device I barely used.
It’s not that I didn’t try, mind. I dabbled a bit and had brief flings with Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training and Tearaway and that was all fine and good to while away a couple of evenings. I know there are some fab offerings sitting in Apple Arcade – The Chinese Room’s Little Orpheus immediately springs to mind – just as I know there’s a stellar line-up on Switch these days, including some games I simply can’t play anywhere else. I love that it picks up where the Wii left off and tries to get us on our feet and moving as we game, despite secretly suspecting that even Ring Fit Adventure’s lowest difficulty setting is trying to kill me.
These brief liaisons rarely turn into anything long-lasting, though, and I suspect the only reason I’m still visiting my Animal Crossing: New Horizons island daily is because my Switch is docked and playable on the TV. It is the small screen that puts me off? Possibly. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seemingly developed the gaming tastes of a 12-year-old boy, and the 12-year-old boy in me wants to see all that blood and gore and sweet, sweet violence in gigantic 4K glory, please. I just think I’m happiest with a controller in my hand, watching the action unfold on a huge screen and listening to the screams through surround-sound speakers.
So why am I so taken with the Steam Deck then? Good question. Mostly, it’s the convenience, I reckon. I don’t play on PC if I can help it – I grew up left-handed and at a time when remapping keys was nowt but a twinkle of a dream – and I’m now too old to learn and far too comfortable with a controller, so a cute little device with one baked in certainly has its appeal. I’d also love to spend more time exploring Steam’s thriving indie scene, too, as so few get ported to console.
And then there’s the financial impact, too. Keep up-to-date with PC gaming can be thoroughly wallet-draining, and though the Steam Deck initially doesn’t come cheap – and right now it’s not even clear when the TV dock will be available, let alone how much extra it’ll cost us – investing in one will hopefully help me postpone upgrading or replacing my gaming PC laptop for a bit, too, and that’s incredibly appealing.
So yes, I want a Steam Deck… even though I suspect it’ll be permanently plugged into my TV and never leave the house. Roll on Novemteper 3045.
Vikki Blake is one of NME’s featured columnists. With the gaming tastes of a 12 year old boy.