PC Gaming for Beginners: Your Guide to Steam

Buying digital games for the first time? You came to the right place.

Yesterday, we provided a guide to help you better understand PC gaming in case you were a newbie getting into it for the first time or just trying to get a better idea of how to set up a rig.  You can find that guide here.  With our latest PC Gaming For Beginners piece, we’re focusing on one of the more popular services out there when it comes to games – Steam.

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First established for Windows in 2003 before opening up to Mac and Linux markets years later, Steam has become one of the fastest-growing PC gaming communities. Part of that was due to Valve’s own library, including Counter-Strike, the Half-Life series and the multiplayer-oriented shooter Team Fortress 2, which still draws players to this day.

Several third party publishers hopped on board the service, including Activision, Square Enix and Namco Bandai. In the past couple of years, however, it’s managed to draw a huge crowd of independent game developers who have the opportunity to reach an audience with its developments thanks to Steam Greenlight.

On that note, here are a few steps on how you can best use Steam to your advantage.

Registering is Easy

When it comes to setting up a new account on the Steam service, you won’t run into many problems at all. Simply fill out the required fields on the main menu, select a user name that hasn’t already been reserved and head into the store.  It’s a quick and painless process that you’ll only need to go through once.

Make Some Friends

When it comes to community, it really doesn’t get much better than Steam.  You can find friend names easily through the Community tab, or look up your favorite games and see who’s posting in the forums.  This allows you to connect with players who are into the same experiences you are, whether it’s a hardcore role-playing game or a straightforward first or third-person shooter.  No matter what you prefer, you’re not alone.

No Matter What Your Computer Model, There’s Something for You

Along with games that run across every known genre out there, Steam is chock full of titles that will run on your computer with no problem.  In the game sub-menu before you make your purchase, be sure to skim below in the product description to see the minimal requirements in order for the game to run sufficiently. You’ll see required hard drive specs, minimal system requirements and more.

NOTE: Some of these do get quite technical, talking about supported video cards, video memory and control requirements, such as a mouse or keyboard.  This may seem like jargon to some, but the general specifics usually start at the top, like Processor, Memory, Hard Disk Space – the hard drive – and Video Card.  Refer to your PC/Mac/Linux specs before you invest in a game, just to make sure it’ll run properly for you.

Also, when you get to the main page, which you’ll find here, check the mid-section of the page, right below the scrolling titles at the top. You’ll see featured games in three sections – PC, Mac and Linux. These are your best bets right off the top if you’re looking for an immediate gaming experience, or want to build your library right away. To play it on the safe side, check your specifications to make sure everything will run correctly. Ask the community for help if you get stuck, or Steam Support for particular titles.

Sales, Sales, Sales

Finally, you might want to keep tabs on how much you spend on the service, because it’s rather easy to get lost in the Steam sales when they’re happening.  The annual Steam Summer Sale recently took place, with games marked down anywhere between 30 to 85 percent, depending on the title.  Many people admitted to spending hundreds of dollars on these sales, and it’s not hard to see why.

Before you jump into impulse buys, shop around for some good deals.  Castle Crashers, the Behemoth side-scrolling action game, was recently offered for a low price of $3.74 – a bargain compared to the $14.99 it usually goes for.  Shop smart, but don’t go overboard.

The sale may be over now, but you can still find deals through Steam’s Midweek Madness offerings and flash sales, which are listed on the right side of the main page.  Here, you’ll find a well-recommended deal worth picking up, such as Trine 2 for $2.99, 85 percent off its regular price of $20.  

Have Fun

For the most part, the Steam community is a great place to hang out, make new friends and stay social while playing your favorite titles.  Don’t be afraid to jump around and see what’s what, but also remember to be respectful.  

Check out the Steam store for yourself here.

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Prima Games Staff
The staff at Prima Games.