Grant asks, "My son wants some games for our family’s new laptop. Can you recommend a way we can download games without being exposed to viruses?"
Well, Grant, you’re in luck because there are a few great one-stop game shops out there, including the Windows Store, the Mac App Store, and GameFly Digital. The one we recommend, though, is called Steam.
Steam was created by computer game maker Valve to go along with the release of their game, Half-Life 2. It was originally developed as a way to better distribute updates for Valve games, curb piracy, and to let players access online multiplayer games. Valve then began to sell their own games through the platform, and eventually let other companies do the same. Today, virtually every computer game that comes out is available on Steam.
If you have an Xbox, Steam is a little bit like Xbox Live for your home computer. It’s a program that allows you to buy and download games, chat with friends and play games with them online. Steam has all of the top titles you’ll find on Xbox and Playstation (for example, the Batman: Arkham Asylum games), but it also has simple casual games like you probably have on your phone (like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja).
To use it, you’ll need to download their software, known as the Steam client, from their site, steampowered.com. They have versions available for Windows, Mac and Linux (note: since some games are made for specific operating systems, not every game you can purchase through Steam will work on all three). It doesn’t cost anything to use the platform itself, but games you can download through it do cost money.
Prices are usually anywhere from $0.50 to $60.00 depending on the game. Some games can cost more than that, while others are sometimes offered for free. Another thing we like about Steam is that they have sales basically every single day; you’ll see $50 games for $20, $25 for $5 and so on. You can add games you’re interested in to a wish list and Steam will send you an email when they go on sale.
Once you’ve purchased a game through Steam, it will automatically begin downloading to your computer. This will happen in the background, so you can check Facebook or watch some YouTube videos while you wait. Then, once it’s downloaded, you can launch the game from inside of Steam. If there any updates for the game, it will automatically download them for you. And don’t worry, all of this content is first going through Valve, who work to make sure there are no viruses in the files.
Steam also offers parental controls in case you’re worried about your son playing games that aren’t age-appropriate. Under the “Settings” menu, you can activate a password-protected mode called “Family Options” which will filter which games he buy or play.
So, Grant, Steam is one way to safely download games for your home computer. We also recommend checking out GameFly Digital (which is very similar), or the Windows and Mac stores. Happy gaming!