Friday, October 7, 2011

Thinking: Value for your Entertainment Money?

Reading around the internet, and it's never-ending hive of social media, a lot of my Friends seem to be on real budget kicks this year for a wide variety of reasons and I guess I'm no exception. My big problem is that I can be quite a heavy consumer of media; books, films, games, for many of the same reasons I feel a bit skint - I have two kids and spend a fair amount of time stuck in the house. So whats a geek to do?

Now the obvious answer, that I see a depressingly large amount, is just pirate stuff. Its free! Yarrrr!. Well, no, actually. The thing is that for all the railing against Big Media you read about, and the shoddy practice and stupid legislative witch-hunts, these products are produced by creative people and they deserve paying for that. I want to pay them for that. I want a world where people can make a living writing, or drawing or acting, more so if they're creating something off the mainstream which is often where my tastes lie. So, no Piracy.

My solution to choosing what I get may seem a little wierd, but for me at least it works. It's "Pounds per Hour".

Bear with me.

See, if I buy a book I'm not so much buying a bunch of paper and card but a number of hours entertainment whilst I'm reading it. Most books I read once and leave on a shelf; and eventually donate to charity, so really their value is those hours of entertainment. So I spend 7 quid on a paperback and read it in 3 or 4 hours and that entertainment value is £2/hr.

I just finished Deux Ex: Human Revolution and that took me (according to Steam Stats) 28.5 hours. And cost me £30. So close to £1/hr. I paid the same for Borderlands, and thanks to co-oping goodness have played it a staggering 61 hours! Right at the top has to come my old World of Warcraft Subs at £8/month, which I was typically playing 9 hours a week (so something like 40 hours a month), so thats £0.20/hour. At that rate why did I quit again?

That last point of course is a key one - the value of those hours as entertainment isn't the same, and I'm not suggesting that it should be. But people often look at say, buying a computer game for £30 and wince, but for the return you get on it - assuming you play the damn thing - it's excellent value. Especially when you consider that a movie ticket for a two hour film will cost you £7 these days and a decent meal out will run you £15 for an hour in a restarant and both of these we mostly see as fair value. And settling a limit on how much you'd pay for something you want is clearly daft, if you can afford it and it will bring you pleasure.

(Also for the straight £/hr metric the best book I ever read was the cheap but very very long copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged I read a couple of years back. It was not the best book I ever read. Although Rand may have approved of the budgetary sentiment.)

But I think it's a good guide for how well you're spending your budget. I use a lot to catch up with films and TV shows, and generally get through 7 or 8 discs a month, usually 4 films and 3 discs of telly. Thats easily down below £1/hr mark, and feels good value for money. I've started gravitating towards indie games on the PC as I tend to run out of game before attention span and definately get my monies worth over the latest full-price shooter. I make sure I finish books I start, unless they actively start causing me brain aches. Like every budgetary technique it's not really there to mould your behaviour to it, just to act as a check that you're all under control.

Thats the plan, anyway...wonder how well it will survive ThoughtBubble this year?