After reading through the excellent Amiga vs. Consoles thread which, in typical Retro forum style is far more considered and thoughtful than it has any right to be, I was cogitating on what it was like being a gamer at school.
So I was in high school 1987-1994 and was lucky enough to own a Master System aged 11. Owning that was the most beautiful experience... I can't even tell you. I was (still am!) obsessed with arcade games, had never owned a gaming machine before, and its visuals blew my mates' Amstrads and Spectrums out of the water.
When I was 13/14 YO I got an Atari ST, which I quickly sold when I realised that 'grey import' Mega Drives were a thing. I sold the ST to a friend's dad for basically retail price (I was a bit of a grifter, even back then ) and ended up getting an MD with Space Harrier 2 and a PAL conversion for £199.
Then lo and behold, the supplier (Raven Games, I think?) sent me another one by mistake! We tried calling them and even sent a letter to them, but we never heard anything back after a good few weeks trying. I ended up selling it on the local paper for about £100, so with the ST sale money and that, plus a little extra, I was able to get an Amiga 500 as well.
We weren't exactly flush with cash, but I budgeted sensibly. Even so, I could expect to afford an MD once or twice per year, then maybe one for Christmas. I had loads of friends who ended up with MDs, though, so we traded all the time and engineered things so we didn't all end up buying the same games, and nerfing swapsies. I didn't go to high school with my local mates (two of my best friends at the time went to catholic schools, and my other mates went to the local comp that I avoided) and none of them had Amigas. None of my friends at school had them either, only kids I sort of knew in passing, so the amount of pirate stuff I got was minuscule next to some owners I knew!
I ended up liking the Miggy, but not playing a great variety on it - truth be told, i'm pretty impatient and anything RPG or Strategy-based, I'd ping right off-of. I rinsed the better arcade-style games, and grew to love some of the more esoteric and complex stuff, though: Syndicate is still one of my favourite games of all time, and I was obsessed with F-29 Retaliator despite the frame rate averaging out at about 10fps most of the time
I could/should have had access to a wider range of copied games but you know what power structures are like in High School: you'd ask a kid you didn't know very well to duplicate a disk for you, and they'd leave you dangling for days/weeks before saying something like "My Dad wouldn't let me copy it" or, "I couldn't find it" or, "I loaned it to my cousin and he hasn't given it me back". You know, all the regular proto-capitalist hoarding bullshit
Despite all this, the Amiga was a great success for me. It was my first proper experience of modern computing, post-BASIC, and taught me a lot. I got a printer for it and it ended-up being the machine I wrote my first short stories on, and using for all my course work throughout University. I still have a great affection for it, enjoyed @Lorfarius podcast loads, and am always umming and arring over buying a Vampire card-enabled machine.
Going back to games-as-leverage, there was a lad at my High School - Andrew - who took this to the next level. He'd frequently get new releases (his family were well-off and also, IIRC, his dad had died) and manufactured a group of friends simply through judicious loaning-out of new titles, particularly Game Boy stuff as I remember. Even at the time, I saw the sadness in it all. Kids have very little power to exercise in this world, and you can understand why he behaved the way he did. That said, he could be a right priggish arse and he wasn't very pleasant generally.
I gave up borrowing stuff off him pretty sharpish. The frequent response of, "I don't want to borrow that one" when you offered him a loan, only to see him get bought it a week later, soon palled. He was also jealous when I got import games (like Turtles on the GB) and made a big thing about only buying PAL releases. I felt a mix of sadness and pity for they way he was: my school was a C of E one (not private in any way, but you did have an interview to 'prove' you were godly (lol) and an active member of the church, before getting in) and was located in an awkwardly-placed suburb, so most kids either had a school bus to their area (if they weren't part of the main town's suburbs) but the rest of us got the public bus into town, then another bus from there to home. His Mum would always meet him off the bus - hilarious to us independent kids - and when a new arcade opened down by the river, she wouldn't let him come with us to check it out. So yeah, a sad tale and I hope he's doing well these days.
I do remember the whole span of time between 11-15 as being one where time was infinite. No-ones' parents - not even the rich kids' - took them to after school stuff. Ok, the odd one went to Karate once a week, but that was it. Basically, if you weren't in school you had acres of time to fill. You really mastered the games you owned, got good at speeding through stuff so you could hand borrowed games back before such-and-such's Mum started to get antsy, and got copies of anything on computer you could lay your hands on. Most kids were obsessed with gaming up until they had any luck with girls, after which 'hanging around' became the time-filler and games were a distant fourth behind the important topics: girls, alcohol and footy.
Before that, though, it was all about cost, cost, cost. Console games were hugely expensive, each title was treasured - even if it was actually crap, or too short - and the small number of people affording console meant the second hand market was pretty barren outside of larger cities. GAME only arrived when I was about 13, so the range of games was skimpy. Even when that store rose to prominence, anything older than a few weeks disappeared and PAL land in general was a joke: 50hz, slowdown, a rush to afford a new release so it didn't become a rarity, ludicrous prices & small range of titles compared to what we'd been used to for home computers. In reality, this bubble only existed for a short time; probably between 1990-1995 when consoles started to become the games machines of choice but cost/availability was bad, up until the PlayStation in 1995 when variety exploded and trade-ins, Platinum titles and second hand became the norm.
Phew, what a long one. Would love to hear some tales of your teen years and school-era gaming!