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Steam has turned 18 years old and PC gaming has never been the same since

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It's truly hard to imagine just how much Valve managed to change what PC gaming is thanks to Steam. On September 12 2021, the Steam client celebrated 18 years. Steam is now old enough to buy alcohol in the UK.

Do you remember what Steam originally looked like? I sure do. It was a much simpler time, with none of the fancy tricks Steam does now. There was no Steam Play, no Linux client, no macOS client, no reviews system and just — not much of anything. A few games, a couple of buttons and that was mostly it. This was long before the likes of GOG, Humble, Epic,, Origin and so on.

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Not only was it a bare-bones client, a lot of people really didn't like it either. This was back in the days where most people went into a real-life game store, picked up a box and took it home to insert a CD and read the manual while it took forever to install. The idea of needing the internet and a client to register and play was just weird. Back then Steam had a bit of a history for being unreliable too, with all sorts of server and login issues.

It wasn't long until Steam was a requirement with Half-Life 2 releasing in 2004, which truly set the stage for PC gaming digital distribution from that point to slowly become the norm. Later in 2005, the first externally developed titles arrived on Steam like Rag Doll Kung Fu but Steam remained a firmly closed system with Valve firmly curating the titles until later in 2012 when Steam Greenlight appeared for indies to submit their games, get votes and eventually (hopefully) get accepted.

Things are vastly different now of course. There's over 51,000 games on Steam and thousands release every year, thanks to Steam Direct allowing developers to pay $100 to get their game listed.

Looking at my own purchase history, looks like Day of Defeat: Source was actually my first purchase on my own account back in 2008. What was yours?

Happy Birthday, Steam.

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Philadelphus Sep 13, 2021
I only had access to dial-up internet until I moved away to college in 2009, so while I was vaguely aware of a thing called Steam it was laughably out of the picture for me and I didn't really pay any attention to it. My first purchase was Portal 2 in March 2011, though as that was a pre-order my actual first game I received was Portal, as a pre-order bonus.

I guess I'm fortunate to have skipped the "teething years", since once I really got familiar with the idea of online purchasing and downloading games I couldn't wait to get away from physical CDs that needed to be moved around and could be lost or broken. And ultimately, just three years later, Steam's ability to auto-update games would help push me towards Linux's package managers.
scaine Sep 13, 2021
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Half Life 2 in 2004 for me. Then Dark Messiah, and Prey. I have to say, it's really weird to see all these Windows titles on there. Even weirder to think that I'd ditch Windows entirely mid-way through 2013. I was already dual-booting from about 2006 onwards.

Then I ducked out of using it entirely for about 3 years.
But when I came back to it, I very much went all in. Oof.

Last edited by scaine on 13 September 2021 at 11:57 am UTC
Dunc Sep 13, 2021
Another Orange Boxer here, although I bought it because I'd heard it could run under WINE, and never managed to get it to be playable. My account lay dormant for what seemed like an age, although it was probably only about five years.

Speaking of which, my first thought was “'Only' 18 years”? It seems like it's been around forever. It's weird that parts of it - the “Preparing to launch” dialog and the update dialog for the client itself, for example - don't seem to have changed much.
Mohandevir Sep 13, 2021
Counter Strike: Source.

2 hours of time play. Online shooters are not my gig, but I wanted to support the Linux push.
DebianUser Sep 13, 2021
My first purchase is from 2014, but the screenshot is familiar since it was the same interface for Half Life/CS back in the days (but i was more on "The 4th Coming" at this time).
I have now 526 games.
Fun fact (for me): as i have switched to 100% Linux in 2017 (previously dual-booting), my Steam account had more time on Linux than Windows.

Happy birthday Steam ! And thanks for all the fish Linux Games !

Last edited by DebianUser on 13 September 2021 at 12:45 pm UTC
Raaben Sep 13, 2021
My main account also started with the good ol' Orange Box, but I did have one earlier I assume for HL2 demo or something but lost the password to and was too lazy to try and recover for nothing later. First purchase on mine is Indigo Prophecy later in 2009.
TheSHEEEP Sep 13, 2021
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According to my history, my first purchase was a game that doesn't even exist on Steam anymore (only its sequel):

Back in 2007.
Seems like I was a (relatively) early adopter.

Definitely funny to go back through your purchase history and see what you even remember playing.
I definitely don't remember playing Eets - and according to Steam, I have a play time of: 3 minutes.
Beamboom Sep 13, 2021
How weird, my purchase history doesn't go further back than 2011, even though I have the 16 year badge so I've had this account since 2005!

I am pretty sure my fist game on Steam was Half-Life 2.

Last edited by Beamboom on 13 September 2021 at 1:21 pm UTC
wintermute Sep 13, 2021
Quoting: BeamboomHow weird, my purchase history doesn't go further back than 2011, even though I have the 16 year badge so I've had this account since 2005

A lot of the early stuff was available as physical releases and only activated on Steam, you can see it under "View licenses and product key activations" on your account page rather than the purchases section.

My first activation was on 12 Apr, 2004: Half-Life Platinum Pack

First purchase through Steam was 11 Apr, 2009: Team Fortress 2
g000h Sep 13, 2021
Originally I was playing various CD-bought games, online games, and began purchasing DRM-Free games on GOG.

In the early days, it was almost entirely DOS and Windows gaming, e.g. DOOM, DOOM 2, Quake, Ultima Underworld, Duke Nukem 3D, Dune, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, TES: Oblivion (listing my most notable ones).

When I switched mostly over to Linux for my computing, there were titles like Xonotic, Nexuiz, various Flash-based Kongregate casual games, and I played the Wyvern MMO which was a Java client (recently has turned up on Steam).

Just before I began Steam gaming, I had partaken of GOG's DRM-Free titles. (I picked up all the GOG freebies beginning December 2013, and my first actual purchase was Legend of Grimrock, June 2015).

Then, according to my Steam account details, my first titles that were licensed happened in October 2015. The first couple were Grow Home (I was given a key) and Rise: Battle Lines (a friend who built the game gave me a key). From October until November 2015, I picked up a bunch of Steam keys on various reseller stores (such as which used to be called and obviously too).

Then on 13th November 2015 I bought a bunch of titles: Portal + Portal 2 pack, Star Wars: KOTOR II, and XCOM: Complete on STEAM client. Now, 6 years later, my Steam "pile" has 2155 titles in it. My latest Steam purchase was Dimension Drive, but I normally use resellers (e.g. Humble) for accumulating the 'collection'.

Last edited by g000h on 13 September 2021 at 2:10 pm UTC
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