Steam. It’s the face of PC gaming and the reason why Valve won’t release a new game in our lifetimes. GabeN and company’s video game marketplace isn’t the only place to purchase PC games—GOG is a viable option, too—but Steam’s footprint and infamous seasonal sales make it a popular online retail destination. In this article we giving you 10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming that make you a solid user in this marketplace.
But Steam is so much more than a mere store. Its desktop client lets you do many things, including organizing your library, streaming your play sessions to an audience, and chatting with the homies. In short, Steam has a lot going on, but many of its more attractive and useful elements may go unrecognized by newcomers and long-time users alike.
With that in mind, I assembled a list of 10 Steam tips that will help you get the most out of the application this holiday season and beyond. It’s an ever-growing list that will be expanded in the near future.
So, boot up your gaming desktop or laptop, fire up Steam, and prepare to learn what Valve’s gaming software can really do with a little bit of effort on your part.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Secure Your Account With Steam Guard
Security is important. You don’t want a GlenGary GlenRoss disciple breaking his or her way into your Steam account to further a nefarious agenda. To prevent that, you should, of course, use a strong password. But you should supplement the password with an extra layer of security, too.
When Steam Guard is enabled on your account, you’ll need to provide a special access code to verify your account on an unrecognized device. Depending on your Steam Guard settings, you’ll either receive an email with the special code or you’ll get it from the Steam Mobile app on your smartphone. You enable it by visiting Settings > Account > Manage Steam Guard Account Security.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Manage Your Game Library
By default, Steam displays your games in alphabetical order in a single, vertically aligned list. That gets the job done if you don’t own many games, but if you own close to 100, as I do, you may long for better organization.
Fortunately, Valve provides the tools to tidy up your library. By right-clicking a game’s name and navigating to Set Categories, you can create categories (say, Fighting Games or RPGs) to organize your digital collection. To add a game to a created category, navigate the same menu path and check off the applicable category at the end.
In addition, if you want easy access to your most cherished games, right-click a title and then select Add to Favorites, which pins beloved games to the very top of your library.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Add a Non-Steam Game to Your Library
Sometimes the games you want to play just aren’t in the Steam Store. Suppose, for example, that Star Wars: Battlefront II is on your wishlist for some oddball reason. Battlefront II is only available for purchase from Electronic Arts’ Origin shop (on PC), so you must buy it directly from the company that gamers love to hate.
You download it, enjoy swinging a few lightsabers, and pray that loot boxes never return. But, alas, you don’t like the idea of having two separate clients through which you launch games. Valve has a remedy for that.
You can make Star Wars: Battlefront II, or any other PC game, show up as part of your Steam library by clicking Add A Game in the bottom-left corner of the interface and then selecting Add a Non-Steam Game. After that, simply pick a title and click Add Selected Programs. That’s it!
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: See the Big Picture
Valve’s desire to make Steam a part of your entertainment center resulted in the company creating Big Picture Mode, a streamlined interface designed for use with large-screen monitors and televisions.
Activated by clicking View > Big Picture Mode, this interface lets you navigate your game library, the Steam Store, the community message boards, and chat client using a gamepad, mouse, or Steam Controller$81.68 at Amazon.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Continue Playing Anywhere With Steam Cloud
Did you know that you can save your game progress to the cloud and resume your play session on another PC without missing a beat? By enabling Steam Cloud (Settings > Cloud > Enable Steam Could Synchronization), your game saves are stored on Valve’s servers, which lets you continue where you left off.
Please note that this feature isn’t available for every game. That said, a whole bunch of ’em support it.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Share Your Game Library
Just because your PC game library is digital, that doesn’t mean you can’t lend games to others in your household. Family Library Sharing lets you lend your games to up to 10 other folks who use the same gaming PC.
Enable it by visiting Settings > Family, and then clicking the Authorize Library Sharing On This Computer box. Once you approve another user’s authorization request, s/he can download and play the titles in your library—except those that may require a third-party security key. They get their own game saves, too, so you don’t have to worry about them mucking up your progress.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Monitor Frame Rates
I truly loathe that frame rate counting has become such a significant part of the online video game discourse, mainly because few gamers understand the sacrifices that some time must get made to make a game run at 60 frames per second. But there are times when you want to see how your rig’s pushing polygons.
Say, for example, you want to see how your games perform with a new GPU installed in your PC. Go to Settings > In-Game and enable the FPS Counter. Then, after you boot up your game of choice, you’ll see an on-screen frame rate counter.
You can also enable High Contrast Color, so that the counter is easily identifiable on screen, and set its on-screen location.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Refund a Lemon
There’s always a small amount of risk attached to buying a video game. It may not boot. It may suffer from an awful frame rate. It may simply be a stinker. Thankfully, Valve’s refund program lets you mitigate those risks.
By clicking Help > Steam Support, Steam displays a list of your recent purchases. Click a game (say, Mutant Football League) and the corresponding issues, and you’ll be taken to a page that lets you request a refund. Your refund request must occur within two weeks of purchase, and you’ve must’ve played the game for less than two hours. You can refund the game, DLC, in-game purchases, pre-orders, and even hardware, such as the Steam Controller and Steam Link.
Note: Mutant Football League is a fine game. It was just mentioned here just for demonstration’s sake.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Trade Cards for Cash
A few year back, Valve introduced Steam Trading Cards, digital cards that you earn simply by playing games. Collecting a set of cards via trades or purchases lets you craft them into badges that you can wear on your profile page as a, well, badge of honor. Crafting badges also reward you with profile background, coupons, and chat emoticons. But you don’t have to do any of those things.
Instead, you can sell your cards in the Steam Community Market. You’ll typically net a few cents per card for your average drop, while rarer cards go for a bit more money. The prices naturally vary by the associated game and even the time; if you’re among one of the first to sell a card in the Community Market, the thirst dogs will often bite on your price. I’ve sold a single card for more than $5.
Sell enough cards and you’ll have enough money in your account to buy DLC or a new game.
10 Steam Tips for PC Gaming: Give the Gift of Gaming
Games are a great gift, and Valve makes it simple for you to buy them for others. You simply add a title to the Steam shopping cart as you would for yourself, but instead of clicking Purchase For Myself, click Purchase As a Gift and then select a person from your Friends List. That’s it!
Additionally, you can opt to immediately send the game to the recipient’s Steam account, or schedule a delivery for a birthday, holiday, or any other time.