Valve Steam Deck is a game system built for crazy parents

Despite some flaws, the device is a great toy for busy gamers.

On a recent Sunday, I had just taken my 2-year-old from a nap and I was sitting at my office computer playing the sublime new game Elden Ring. It took about 10 minutes for my daughter to start screaming to get out of her crib, which would ruin any chance I had that day to game.

Or would it? With the Steam Deck, a new portable video game system from Valve Corp. that I’ve been testing over the past few weeks, I was able to go into the living room with her and pick up where I left off in the game. Elden Ring didn’t look as good and the frame rate wasn’t quite as stable as it was on my desktop PC, but the portability was worth the compromise.

Players like me are the target audience for this new hardware from Valve, the privately owned company best known for operating Steam, the largest online computer game store. The Steam Deck looks like a super-sized Nintendo Switch and comes at a super-sized price of $399, or $529 or $649 for a version with a solid-state drive with a decent amount of storage. The device allows players to use their Steam games on the go. But unlike the Switch, which runs on its own operating system from Nintendo Co. and can only play games that Nintendo approves, the Steam Deck is an open garden that can run just about anything that can be played on a computer.

Also Read  China's Tencent Launches Flagship Game 'Honor of Kings' Worldwide

The Steam Deck consists of a small screen flanked by joysticks, buttons and two trackpads that act like a computer mouse. It runs many Steam games effectively, and more are becoming compatible every day. It feels like a mid-range PC capable of running games with heavy graphics, like Sony Group Corp.’s 2018 gem God of War, at a stable 30 frames per second. Lower impact games I tested ran perfectly, from critically acclaimed platformers like Hollow Knight to niche role-playing games like the Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. You can download games directly to the device’s hard drive or stream them from another computer.

The machine is surprisingly comfortable despite its weight. It has a solid set of controls, including back buttons, and pretty much everything is customizable. And while portable gaming may not be so crucial in an era where many office workers have limited or eliminated their commute, the Steam Deck is ideal for those of us who have small children and need to be constantly on the move. With the ability to save game progress to the cloud, I was able to switch back and forth between a desktop PC and the portable machine without losing an inch of progress.

Also Read  Awesome Minecraft update rolled out for gamers; How to use the 'placefeature' command

It is flawed in some ways. Battery life is wildly inconsistent. It was especially noticeable in God of War, where I was able to get about an hour and a half of unplugged playtime. Some titles can be tricky to get to work at all. Early testing suggests this is a platform aimed at computer-savvy gamers, who will make the most of its open operating system and customizable nature. People who just want to play and play a game may be disappointed that sometimes things don’t work as intended. During our weeks with the system, Valve released new updates and fixes almost daily, so the machine may be more stable in the weeks and months after release.

However, for a certain group of players, that openness is part of the charm. I suspect in the coming months we’ll be seeing Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky videos full of tips on how to run just about anything on this machine, from retro emulators to, I don’t know, Microsoft Excel. On Thursday, the day before the Steam Deck debuts, Valve designer Lawrence Yang sent a list of updates, including a one-click install for the Google Chrome browser.

Also Read  Activision Blizzard postpones Call of Duty 2023 game

Every time a new game has been released in recent years, a common refrain among gamers is: when is it coming to Switch? Indie developers are often bombarded with requests to bring their titles to the Nintendo machine. The Steam Deck could make that question obsolete for many people. While Valve’s machine may not keep Nintendo executives awake at night — the Steam Deck doesn’t have Mario or Zelda — its comfort and portability make it closer to legitimate competition than other attempts. And those of us with small children can benefit the most.

Arun Agarwal
I am Arun Agarwal, a passionate blogger and gamer. I love to share my thoughts on games and technology through blog posts. I’m also an avid reader of books about history, philosophy, science-fiction, and other genres as well as an anime fan. I like reading books that give me new perspectives or help me think differently about the world around us.