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What is Steam? Online gaming on your PC

Nearly 10 years ago, gaming took a new direction when an online platform was created for buying games, communicating with other players and multiplayer tournaments. This was Steam. Suddenly games were not SteamPunk, not steam cleaned, but Steam powered.

What is Steam?

If you've not heard of Steam before, and you're a PC gamer, then you must have been under a rock. As of the beginning of 2012, Steam was estimated to be the reason behind 70% of the digital distribution market for video games!

Steam specialises in digital downloads from nearly all the major video game developers, EA, Bethesda, SEGA, RockStar, NAMCO and Valve, the ‘own brand’ responsible for games like Portal and Half-Life.

Valve excelled in the the year 2000 with Counter-Strike, a multi-player “Police vs Bad guys” shooter, much like the online gaming of Battlefield, or Call of Duty, but it all started here.

Counter-Strike 1.6 was the first game to really show what online gaming could achieve with a great community behind it, and when linked with Steam's matchmaking system, online action shooters took off!

What makes Steam so great for PC gamers?

When people ask me why I think Steam is such a fantastic place to get games, I point out these four things:

1. It’s cheap

Fairly regularly, especially around Christmas and holiday seasons, Steam puts on special promo events, where it sells entire back catalogues of games at super low prices. An entire section of games from one developer or genre can be bought at massively reduced prices. At the time of writing, one such event is taking place!

Even without the special events, due to the fact that you're downloading digital copies of games from Steam, you don't have to pay for a CD/DVD or a case, plus any of the additional costs that come with that. This means it's normally cheaper to download your games from Steam rather than buying them from the high street.

2. You never lose anything!

Reduced cost is lovely but better than that, because you have no disks there's nothing to lose or scratch or break. Once purchased via the steam store, your games are linked to the account and can be re-downloaded anytime from anywhere you can download Steam.

3. It's safe

Steam was one of the first platforms to build in anti-cheat systems, Valve Anti Cheat (VAC) and PunkBusters, to stop hackers and cheaters from having an unfair advantage in-game, features that consoles are only just starting to implement. You can feel safe in the knowledge that the playing field is level, and the only thing that can give you any advantage is raw skill. Well, that and your internet speed.

4. It's legal

One of the biggest problems that game developers face today is piracy. People's complaints and excuses for breaking the law were frankly pretty poor, 'I don't want to spend lots of money', 'I don't want to queue up in the shop', I don't like having lots of CDs and game keys to lose', all these issues have been solved by Steam. By buying your games from Steam, you are ensuring that the developers are going to be getting a fair payment for all the hard work they've put into making your favourite game!

How do I use Steam?

I hope if you've not heard of Steam before, this article has at least sparked your interest in PC gaming vs Consoles and especially in PC gaming online and digital downloads, which honestly, in my opinion, is the future of gaming! To get started, download the Steam application onto your home PC or laptop, and create a login for yourself using your email address and creating a password. You'll need to add your credit or debit card details in order to download a game (unless it's a free demo), but the site is secure and you can safely shop there. Once a game is downloaded, it appears in your account area and is available to play at any time. Have a look around, there's a wide variety of titles to choose from.

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