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Steam Trading Cards: A Tale Of Confusion & Self-Loathing

All for a Chirpy icon

Today I completed my first-ever set of Steam Trading Cards, and crafted my first Badge.

Today I completed my second-ever set of Steam Trading Cards, and crafted my second Badge.

Today I completed my third-ever set of Steam Trading Cards, and crafted my third Badge.

Today I completed my fourth-ever set of Steam Trading Cards, and crafted my fourth Badge.

Today I completed my fifth-ever set of Steam Trading Cards, and crafted my fifth Badge.

Today I completed my sixth-ever set of Steam Trading Cards, and crafted my sixth Badge.

I feel dirty.

Steam Trading Cards are not new, and I’ve had dozens of the blighters sat around in my inventory for years, gained passively simply by playing assorted games. Their purpose and reward had long seemed too convoluted and nebulous to tempt me into actively collecting them, though I’d occasionally sold off a few – for pennies at a time each – to fund a game add-on and that kind of thing. Today, all too appropriately while waiting for things to level up in AdVenture Capitalist! (more on that this afternoon), I found myself browsing my inventory and wondering what it all meant. I was drawn to the three Cities Skylines cards in my inventory, due to that being my current comfort food game. I clicked through. I saw a screen with spaces on it. I did not like those spaces being there. I decided to fill them.

I had credit on my Steam account from selling other cards, so money wasn’t an issue. Not that it would have been much of one if I didn’t have any credit, seeing as the missing cards in the set cost around 7 pence each. The purchasing interface was a little torturous – click, click, agree to terms, click, click, and all the waiting that Steam’s maddening slow UI generally involves. I did this three times, and I had myself a set. Now what?

Well, Craft badge. All my cards disappeared, and I was given access to an emoticon I’d never use, access to a profile background I’d never use, a discount for a game I would never buy and some experience points. Well, that was badges, then.

Wait. The screen was showing that I could do this again, to get more emoticons, backgrounds, discounts and EXPERIENCE POINTS. Experience points. If there were more, then I wasn’t as high level as I could be. This could not stand!

So I did it again. I bought the same cards – this time expanded to six as I didn’t start with three in hand – and I levelled up. More stuff I didn’t need. More mention that there was still further to go.

And again.

And again.

Max level. Except... there were also foil cards to be had. I could not be the master of pretend pieces of cardboard related to a city-building game until I had those too. But I was out of credit.

So I got out my bank card. And I proceeded to spent some £2 on pretend foil pretend cards. More backgrounds, more emoticons, more discounts, more experience points but oh God, now would I have to do this another three times to max out the foils too? I'd come this far. There was no way I could stop. What if something genuinely wonderful awaited me at the end of this? I'd pissed away so many pennies already, what would a few more be?

Thank God, the foils only need doing just the once, it seems. But here I am, some four quid down, with 500 experience points for Cities Skylines and a picture of that bloody fake Twitter Chirpy bird from it on my profile. I’m also supposed to have a picture of the Large Hadron Collider in the background, but I’ll be damned if I can work out where it is. I’ve also got a 5 Slot Level Bonus for my Friends List Slot and I don’t even understand what that is or why it involves saying ‘slot’ quite so much.

In conclusion I don’t know why I did this, what I got out of it and, most of all, why so very many people on the Steam Marketplace seem to avidly doing this with as many games as they can. I feel as though the dark word ‘gameify’ is involved somewhere, and I don’t feel good about myself in the slightest.

Though I’ve still got £2 in my Steam wallet as it would only let me buy credit in amounts of £4 or less. Maybe I should get the rest of the XCOM cards...

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