Valve’s Steam Deck is a great way to take PC games out of your office and onto your couch, back patio, or wherever. As we said in our review, it’s worth having one, even if you only play it for a few hours at a time a few times a month. But I ended up using mine a little differently: I play the Steam Deck several times a day for just a few minutes per session.
And it’s almost the only reason I still play video games at all.
I’m no less interested in games than I used to be, but since becoming a father I’ve noticed that I have a lot less time. For the first year of my daughter’s life, setting aside an hour to play a game seemed impossible. Then, Metroid fear came out and I found myself using the Nintendo Switch’s sleep mode in short bursts. 5 minutes while the baby played with a new toy. 10 minutes while I waited for her to fall asleep.
While I was crumbling Metroid Dreads short story of 10 hours, I found myself thinking about the Steam Deck. Valve’s gaming handheld wasn’t just a portable gaming system like the Switch, but it promised to give my Steam library something I’d never experienced with PC gaming before: the ability to quickly pause and resume a game. to resume. It’s a standard quality-of-life feature on home consoles, but it’s a hit to resume a game after putting a PC to sleep.
When my Steam Deck arrived four months later and the feature actually worked, all that changed. I spent my first day with the handheld slowly playing through the Deck’s showcase demo: Valve’s Desk job, casually picking up the handheld for just 5 minutes every few hours. When that worked, I got more ambitious – finish Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order over the course of two weeks.
I started using the Steam Deck to play games on the sidelines of my day. Pick up for a few random fights Final Fantasy IV after the baby fell asleep on my chest, while I was running into a deep space cargo Rebel Galaxy Outlaw while watching her take a nap on the baby monitor, or sneak in some puzzles Baba is you before going to bed for the night. Suddenly I was finishing games I never thought I’d have time for.
The suspend trick even works with non-Steam games and older titles: I’ve spent hours experimenting with it ottersan alternative Linux game launcher, which gets the year 2000 Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force to run smoothly on Steam Deck. A week or two later I finally finished a game I gave up when I was 16 years old.
That’s not to say I haven’t had longer play sessions on Steam Deck. Only online games like Final Fantasy XIV or Knockout CitI tend to unplug the player when I put it to sleep, but I often still prefer to play them on Valve’s portable than on my large gaming desktop. Yes, an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X with 64 GB of RAM and a GTX 980 GPU can outperform the Deck’s custom AMD APU. It runs higher resolution games with better graphics settings, but it’s wasted power.
I’ve grown fond of disconnecting my library of PC games from the writing and video editing workstation that sits at my desk. You could argue that more powerful traditional gaming consoles are for that, but the Deck’s Switch-like portability makes all the difference. Playing games on the couch, in bed, or while rocking the baby to sleep beats maxed out graphics settings every time. I’m not even sure I’m going to upgrade that outdated graphics card yet. The Steam Deck may be less powerful, but at current GPU prices it’s a much better value.
Not all my games run smoothly on Steam Deck, but that turns out to be a plus for me as well. I love tinkering with gadgets and messing around with power user settings. So when I’m forced to drop into the Deck’s desktop mode to manually install a non-Steam game, which inevitably involves configuring alternate Wine compatibility layers, I enjoy the challenge almost as much as the game I’m playing. will eventually play. And when I get those games to work, they almost always work with the Steam OS pause and resume feature.
It feels a bit silly to praise the Steam Deck for what is otherwise a standard feature on most modern gaming devices, but I can’t help it. Sometimes one good feature can change everything. Before the Steam Deck, playing a game from my PC library was a chore that required me to sit at a desk, boot Windows, launch Steam, and finally load a game. If you only have a few minutes of free time an entire day, it just won’t work. Add to that the possibility that a crying baby can snap you away from that hard-earned gaming session in the blink of an eye, and you begin to see the appeal of a gaming device that you can take anywhere, one that allows you to instantly stop and start a game . high-end PC game at the touch of a button.
Pause and resume had a rocky start on the Xbox One and PS4, but eventually they became sort of an expected fare. Still, it’s a great feature that PC gamers have largely missed. I never really appreciated how much of a game changer it could be until I really needed it. The Steam Deck brings that feature to the PC audience in a natural, user-friendly package that we’ve never had before. And that it’s a portable system is just the icing on the cake. The Steam Deck is certainly pricey, but being able to catch up on PC games with a baby in my arms is priceless.