Steam isn't just a storefront where you buy games -- it also provides a ton of key services to PC gamers. If you're new to PC gaming, and even if you're not, you'll want to know everything this platform lets you do. Here's how to use features like taking screenshots, organizing your library, getting a refund and setting up Steam broadcasts. We'll also let you in on a whole bunch of other perks that help you get the most out of your Steam account.
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Steam sales occur much more frequently than they used to, but each sale event is still a very big deal. The usual times to look for deep discounts is around the holidays and right in the middle of the summer months of July and August. Steam also holds shorter sales events during Halloween and springtime, and will occasionally hold publisher-specific weekends.
If you're patient, you can buy up all your games during these sales and never pay close to full price for anything in your library. It can be easy to go overboard when you see games you want get a 70 percent price cut, so try to keep your free time in mind when buying up all these games you're definitely going to play, OK?
Steam's catalog of games is truly titanic, and that's not always a good thing. Fortunately, the platform offers a few ways to help you browse its unwieldy list of games and avoid the influx of low-end shovelware that has been dumped onto the platform over the last few years.
Steam Curators are people whom you can follow, people you may know from elsewhere on the internet, who create lists of games and a brief recommendation for each. Follow the people whose tastes you trust to help you find the good stuff. There's also the Steam Discovery Queue, an algorithmic listing of games you might like based on what you own, what qualities users have tagged games with, and what you've told Steam you like.
Steam's wishlist is a great tool for keeping an eye on games you're interested in but don't want to buy right this moment. The list can be found under the Store tab at the top of the screen and can be organized by dragging entries around in any order you choose. Steam will send you an email when something on your wishlist is discounted, making it easy to score good deals.
Wishlists are also public by default, in case any of your Steam friends feel like being generous, or if you need an easy gift for a friend of your own.
So now you have more games in your library than you know what to do with. Are you going to play them all? No! But you can at least organize them into lists that make things easier to find. Right-click any game and select Set Category to create custom collapsible lists. If you truly despise a particular game showing in your library at all, you can choose to hide it, which tucks it away in a separate tab where you can pretend you never bought it.
Speaking of regret, you may wind up wanting to have a game refunded at some point. Access your account and purchase history at the top right of the screen, then select the transaction in question to get the refund process started. Refunds remove your access to the game, naturally. They can be sought only if you have less than 2 hours of playing time logged, and less than 2 weeks have elapsed since your purchase. Steam's refund policy states that it will "issue a refund for any reason."
Worth keeping in mind is that the policy states that the company monitors "abuse" of refunds and that "we do not consider it abuse to request a refund on a title that was purchased just before a sale and then immediately rebuying that title for the sale price."
The Steam friends list lets you see people's availability and what they're up to, and it also lets you chat directly with them in text or voice chat. Many multiplayer games let you join a friend's session through the friends list by just clicking Join Game. And if you want to see what someone is playing, you can request to spectate their gameplay and Steam will begin streaming a live video feed without any setup needed on either end.
You can spectate anyone, not just people on your friends list. Broadcast settings can be made public without permission needed to spectate, viewable only by friends, or by permission only. Archives of the stream feed are not saved, but a stream text chat is provided during broadcast.
If you try to navigate Steam regularly from your couch, you'll quickly see that the menu elements are all tiny and hard to see. Big Picture Mode is an alternative, console-style interface that makes your game library and all other options large and easy to see, and also easier to navigate with a controller. To enable it, just click the controller icon on the top right of the main Steam screen.