Unemployed Gamers: 'I'm Not A Thief'

Last week, we asked readers to submit their stories of gaming while unemployed or underemployed. We received over 100 submissions. Today we'd like to share some of them.

When you don't have much money, gaming is more than just a hobby: it's a necessary distraction. Games can help you get through the day.

We heard from a number of people who found all sorts of ways to keep playing games without spending much money. Here are some of their stories:

'I'm Not A Thief'

While technically unemployed, I tend to pick up a few hours here or there doing painting jobs. Though work is seldom available, I always have in the back of my mind I'd have cash at some point.

Last year I sold all of my games, about 5-6, to buy Skyrim. I got caught up in the craze that any game that came out I would only buy if it was similar to Skyrim or something like it. Thus when Far Cry 3 was coming out and the inevitable "Skyrim with guns" comparison started happening, I needed it. I waited about 2 months for one to finally be available at my local Redbox and the day that one popped up, I rented it. I pretty much knew at that point I wouldn't be returning it.

I'm not a thief and I feel guilty about what I did, but I just couldn't spend $60 I didn't have on a game that I wasn't even sure would be worth it. So I "stole" it with the assumption that after a month when they finally charged me for it I'd have the money for them. Might not have been smart or even saved me money but I did it, and now I have it.

'I Had To Sell Plasma Every Damn Week'

My time as an unemployed gamer was probably the worst best thing to ever happen. I say this because I came to the conclusion that most games are not worth 60 dollars. I learned my lesson after the “crapfest” which was Resistance 3 (anyone that played and enjoyed R2 and tried R3 would understand). The game was worth 13 bucks at Best Buy 10 days after the release... 20 bucks on Amazon. I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought the game was that bad.

What’s worse than being an unemployed gamer is being an unemployed “Arcade” gamer. I live in Southern California where arcades still exist, but I would be fine playing on a console 365 days a year. However, since I’m a huge fan of music simulator games (Dance Dance Revolution, Pump It Up and all those other games), and not many console versions of those games are being released anymore (except those iPad/Android games), I’m stuck going to an arcade.

How'd I save money as an “unemployed arcade gamer"? I had to sell plasma every damn week. It is 20 miles to travel from where I’m staying to the valley. 40-mile round trip. Two times a week for a grand total of 70 bucks. First visit you get 30 dollars. Second visit you get 40 dollars. And on the sixth visit of the month you get a 10 dollar bonus… 50 dollars. I’m straight up hood rich during that 3rd week of the month. 290 bucks a month that’s covering bills and whatever female I trick to go out on a date with me. Unemployment checks... what’s that? Chilling on a bed, pumping my fist while a needle in my arm, sucking out blood and putting it in with crack heads, skaters, hustlers and people who need to get their weed fix, all while watching some movie to prevent me from sleeping sounds a lot more exciting.

Next, I have to scavenge for change everywhere and anywhere. You see something shiny on the ground, you have to inspect it. You see a dollar anywhere, get ready to grab and it claim it first. My mom got a water jug that’s full of change... I’m going through and collecting any much change that’s not a penny as I can with the quarters first. Someone at the gym had change in their pocket and it all fell on the floor and just left it there... just came up on 65 cents. You have to collect or as I would say it “rack up” as much change as possible before going to CoinStar. 8.9 cents for every dollar and I need to have as much as possible because this means gas, games, and whatever the EBT can’t cover.

'There's No Shame In Renting'

I no longer fall into this category, but what I did to accommodate my unemployed/underemployed lifestyle still applies today.

I used to have a well-paying job, until things went sour. After that day, I was unemployed for 3 months before falling back in to a less-than-$20k retail job. I used to buy games all the time with the former job. If something piqued my interest, even remotely, I bought it. When you go from $40k to nothing, the random games can't be that interesting any longer.

So I started up GameFly and rented just about every game that I would have bought. Sure, if there was a major game I knew I was going to enjoy, I bought it. Even now, in a completely different field making what I did before slumping back into retail, I still have GameFly, buying major games, renting the rest, and buying/adding to my collection those I rented when they go on sale/bargain bins.

I used to buy about 2-5 games a month that wasn't November. I'm buying about one game a month now (except March; BioShock and Tomb Raider wouldn't stop calling me), and I don't see myself going back to my old ways.

TL;DR == There's no shame in renting.

'Swipe Now, Pay... Whenever'

Greetings from the Philippines.

I'm not exactly unemployed, and from how I understand or defined under-employed is, well, not getting paid enough. Lol.

Either way, to add to the topic. A couple of years back (when I did not have a girlfriend) I always had a budget to buy brand new games. But when I did have a girlfriend (and now planning and saving up for a wedding) what I do now is, try to wait for most of the new games to pass their time, and then just buy them pre-owned. But for the 'blockbusters,' I save up for them by lets say, 'dieting' (eating at cheaper places) just so I can buy a game (for example, Tomb Raider a few weeks back, and now, am preparing for The Last of Us).

Also, usually, when some of the hit games are released, we'd have our bonuses at work (i.e. Christmas) and will take a part from it to buy a game.

If all else fails, there's always the good old credit card. Swipe and play now, pay... whenever. Lol.

My most recent game purchase (unplanned, and unbudgeted) would be Simcity. I never planned on buying it considering that I don't have a gaming rig, but it just sounded and looked too cool to pass up.

'Volunteer As Staff'

If you're truly living on the margin like myself, with no money for games or even the consoles themselves (and you're not a hardcore gamer), my personal favourite way to gain access to all the best games of the year is to volunteer as staff for an anime/gaming convention. Most conventions where I live are small and are willing to take on anyone so long as you're a good worker, for a few hours here and there over a weekend, and your reward is free access to a convention, including all the latest and greatest games in the games room, with almost no cost to yourself (especially if you can find someone who doesn't mind you crashing on their floor and if you can share a lift with someone to and from the place). Other tricks include entering every single raffle you can find (how I got my PS2) as around the release of a console, there are always a few giveaways (the more local, the better). If you have gamer friends, ask can you borrow their games when they're done (this one only really works if you have access to a console, or it's a handheld console) . Car-boot sales are also insanely good value if you are looking for old games (I've gotten 20 PS2 games for 5 before!).

'I Suggest No One Push Off Bills For Video Games'

Under-employed is the perfect verbage to describe the last five years of my video game life. There's been plenty of games I've bought that I shouldn't have, like the new Call of Duty or Rock Band. After I buy them I struggle to move money around to pay bills and often times find myself paying just the past due on the bill because I bought a game. It's a horrible circle to fall into and it's hard to get out of, I suggest no one push off bills for video games.

What I've been doing for a while now is taking advantage of trading games in. Hear me out, don't cry foul just yet. I know, I know, GameStop doesn't pay people enough for their games. To that I say, I disagree. I may be the only person on the planet that accepts GameStop is a business, and out to make money. I never walk into the store thinking, "this game is worth at least this amount." Instead, I go in thinking, "I'm taking these guys to the cleaners." I make sure I'm getting the best trade-in values, be it through a weekly promotion or through the Power-Up rewards program. Then I make sure I'm buying used, I rarely buy new. I also check to see if the game or games I want are on sale. I go into GameStop armed with knowledge and games and walk out a happy customer every single time. Want proof it works? I traded in Duke Nukem Forever, Modern Warfare 3, LA Noire and Gears of War 2 and was able to buy Black Ops 2 brand new without putting any of my own cash down.

Having few hours at work and barely making enough to support my kids, I have to make sure I get the most out of my trade ins or money. Knowledge is power in the right hands.

'It Helps Us To Have Fun'

I’m and 26 year old PhD student who certainly fits in your category. I’ve been trying since college graduation to find employment. I only planned on a little master’s work. To say it’s been hard is an understatement. My wife lost her job as a secretary recently and used the opportunity to switch careers. We are on a very limited budget but still find time to play games. Some may say it’s a waste or irresponsible to buy games in this situation but we don’t pay for cable, rarely eat out, and both pick up odd jobs to cover cost. Being unemployed and underemployed is not only hard on your finances but hard on you emotionally and psychologically. It helps us to have something fun to do once in a while.

A friend of mine or my brother usually split games with me. Recently, he got Dead Space 3 and I picked up Infinite. When we are done we trade so we essentially get two for one. Other than that I have been sticking with cheaper options. I’ve gone back to get some DLC for 10$-20$ rather than buying a new game. My wife even picked up Fable 2, it was 2.50$ because she had wanted to play it but never did. So if I have any advice for the broke-but-not-bored; get friends together and split cost, find some older games you may have missed and get them on the cheap, or pick up some DLC for something you have.

'You Don't Need To Buy Games, Ever'

Turns out that as long as you have a few GameStops in your area, and a flexible $54.99, you don't need to buy games, ever.

GameStop has an awesome exploitable return policy that lets you buy *pre-owned* games and return them 7 days later for a full refund however you originally paid for it, plus sales tax. Now, if the store is a relatively crabby store and gets tired of you doing it, they'll tell you so, but can't necessarily cut you off. I live in a town with 4 stores. I buy a game, keep my receipt, and bring the game back in 7 days.

Fiance and I just finished BioShock.

Fantastic game.


Are you or have you ever been unemployed or underemployed? Would you like to share your story? Send an e-mail to jason@kotaku.com with the subject "Unemployed Gamers" along with how much money you make, how much money you spend on games, and any other details you'd like to share. All senders will be kept anonymous.