Okay, so I’ve played video games since I was young. I’ve never been a hardcore gamer (yes, we’re going to ignore those three years of my life wasted between the ages of 12 and 14), but I have always enjoyed playing. More recently, it’s become more recreational fun than anything. I’ve used my Xbox 360 to keep in contact with friends who now live in different parts of the country. It keeps us in contact and it’s fun at the same time. Let’s admit it, dudes just don’t call other dudes too often to talk about their day. One of the downsides of gaming, of course, is the cost of it. While the current gaming consoles themselves (Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii) have each come down in price since they were introduced back in 2005 and 2006, the video games themselves haven’t. One could even argue that they’ve become more expensive, with $100+ games such as Rock Band and DJ Hero.

On the release date of Call of Duty: Cheap GamingBlack Ops, which is likely to be one of the best-selling games of the year,  I figured it was appropriate to explore the impact of gaming on my personal finances. In the past, I would buy pretty much any game that looked semi-interested. As of this past summer I had accumulated approximately 10 Xbox 360 games, 10 Wii games and 5 PS3 games. Two of the PS3 games were still in the shrink wrap six months after I’d purchased them. I decided that I didn’t need so many games since I only played a handful of them. I cut down my game inventory to 7 games and sold the rest back to Amazon. Amazon has a great video game buy-back system. You search for the games you’d like to sell, add it to your cart to sell back, and then when you’re done you just box them up and ship them to Amazon. Amazon even covers the shipping. I haven’t tested it, but it seems that Amazon gives you a better price than GameStop. In total, I got back about $250 from my game sales in the form of an Amazon gift card. This suited me just fine since I love am addicted to Amazon.

This experience made me realize just how much these games were actually costing me. I got back $250 on my $1,000 investment in games. That’s a worse investment than buying a new car (which I’ll discuss at some point in the future). Since I sold my previous games, I’ve noticed a complete change in my video game buying habits. I’ve only purchased two games now since then. The first, Halo Reach, I purchased for $60 and received a $20 promotional credit toward a future video game purchase. I wasn’t a fan of the game and sold it back to Amazon fairly quickly for $39. Assuming I would use the promotional credit in the future, the time that I did play the game essentially cost me $21 (with a future $20 discount). I ended up using my $20 promotional credit to purchase Call of Duty: Black Ops from Amazon. So the cost of Black Ops for me out of pocket was $40, and I received another $20 future credit. If the game is anything like the previous Call of Duties, then I don’t think I’ll be selling it back anytime soon. But I’ll easily get 100 hours of gameplay out of it over time, in which case it’s costing me less than $0.50/hour for some recreational fun. Depending on your standards, I’d say that’s fairly cheap entertainment (compared to movies, music, etc.).

As many have said, video gaming can be quite an expensive hobby. But if done right, as I’ve learned to do, gaming can become quite affordable and provides a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment.