Valve’s handheld tried and failed to get its hooks into me.
Earlier this year I wrote about the distant hope that purchasing a Steam Deck would rekindle my lost love with PC gaming. To my sadness and surprise, this didn’t quite go to plan. Thanks to my hyperfixation, I ordered the portable machine after being encouraged by my friends and colleagues. I spent the next week excitedly researching potential emulation strategies and exactly what games were compatible.
My Steam library is fairly strong, and I knew many of these games would work flawlessly with the handheld. Suddenly I was going to have a means to play a bunch of games both new and old I’d neglected for years. It turned a platform I associated with work into a more powerful Nintendo Switch, so surely nothing could go wrong? For some reason though, it didn’t stick.
It arrived, and I spent a solid evening eagerly tinkering with the Linux OS and getting a load of different games installed I was definitely going to play. Once the honeymoon period was over however, it sat on my desk and gathered dust. Actually getting older games to run on the machine probably isn’t that complicated if I had the knowledge to dump all my relevant ROMs and such, but it ultimately required me to jump through hoops on a machine I didn’t believe was up to the task. I was paranoid it was going to break, I was doing something wrong, and the screen was washed out in a way that paled in comparison to the Switch OLED.
There were too many obstacles to conquer, too many shortcomings, and too much of a time investment to enjoy a machine that clashed with my console lifestyle. Even in a new form, it seems I’m strangely allergic to PC gaming. Unless I’m partying up with friends or have to make use of it for work, my gaming PC never gets any use because I’d rather be relaxing on my sofa playing my consoles instead of slouching over my desk investing time into a hobby. It is impossible to detach it from my work, not to mention I’m not nearly as invested in Steam as a platform. All of these little things were working against me, and even if a new form couldn’t be overcome. There’s a unique vibe to PC gaming that my mind wants nothing to do with. So I’ve finally given up.
But I was still frustrated, and kept asking myself if I was just depressed or whether using the Steam Deck asked too much of my ADHD/OCD-addled mind when it came to setting things up in a way that perfectly suited my style of play instead of having a machine that I turned on and enjoyed with little to no need for customisation. I’ve talked about this before And how I’m still coming to understand and respect my brain and how it is naturally going to rebel against certain ideas and technology even if, to a neurotypical mind at least, it should be perfect.
The Steam Deck very much is, and will only be iterated upon further with new hardware and support in the years to come. Maybe I’ll jump back into the fray when the screen is upgraded or things are a little easier to parse, but right now I’ve learned a harsh but necessary lesson. PC gaming has always been harder to figure out from a casual perspective, and while Valve has gone through a lot of effort to simplify things with the Steam Deck, it still expects more of me than I’m willing to give right now. Hey, at least I sold mine and can still write the purchase off my taxes, so we aren’t completely at a loss.
Next: ROG Ally Review: The Steam Deck’s First True Competition
Jade King is Lead Features Editor for TheGamer. Previously Gaming Editor over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.