Point of Contention: The Collector’s Habit

We’ve all seen them. They haunt our dreams and they sadden our realities. Huge, overstocked, obsessive video game collections can be beastly sights, and the internet has proven to be a prime method for showing off what was once a deeply personal habit. Some guys really go all out for their beloved game splurges, and to many the hobby is just as much about finding the rarest items from the medium’s history and maintaining a massive stock as it is actually playing games.

In the recent months, I’ve noticed a percentage of my gaming attention slowly get dedicated to sowing the seeds to what may someday be a rather large collection. I’ve been buying up retro consoles, pulling old games and memorabilia out of hiding, and reading up on lists of various consoles’ rarest titles, from the Sega Saturn to the Game Boy. Even if I have a limited amount of my college living-expense budget to humor this newfound interest, it’s really quite fun to become acquainted with the history and lineage of video games. But there’s a small, wormy distress that’s nagging in the back of my mind. Are we slowly losing our ability to maintain history? Is game cataloging slowly becoming a thing of the past? Let’s talk about it.

Collection - TRAVIS - 4

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on the problems surrounding future consoles potentially blocking used games. And while I don’t really think Sony or Microsoft will truly be that stupid, it is worth noting that video game content can currently be very temporary. From multiplayer servers for older MMOs getting cut off to Nintendo’s ridiculous lack of any centralized profile system on which users could access purchased titles from any 3DS or Wii U (lose your 3DS and you currently will lose any games you had on it), there are a number of ways that future collectors will find collecting titles from the modern era near impossible, much less access content that will be all but a distant memory fifty years from now.

No, today’s post doesn’t really concern the issues of the present. I’m going to try my hardest to separate today’s rant from topics of DLC and preorder bonuses, at least in their current controversies. Instead, I think that game collecting on the whole makes for an interesting discussion. Why do we do it in the first place?

If you were lucky enough to be born into a family of collectors, I am forever jealous.

If you were lucky enough to be born into a family of collectors, I am forever jealous.

From my experience, collectors collect when the passion turns inward. I’d argue that the there’s a great difference between the game enthusiast that manages a lifelong collection of titles and the gamer that trades in every beaten title to go towards the next one. And the difference goes beyond money (although, to be fair, you do have to have at least moderate income to fully allow for it). At the point of buying to collect, rather than merely play, video games have to mean more to the player than just isolated experiences meant for raw entertainment. The player has to see some inherent value in the physical space taken up by the games, their consoles, and the memorabilia. You have to have a deep personal infatuation.

At this point, it’s really like any other form of intense collecting, and the emotional rush I get when I find a particular deal on Ebay or at a local retro store I frequent is essentially the same that I got as a kid when I got a rare card in a pack of Pokemon cards. You do, however, have to have a particular reason for starting. While I could list of a number of intellectual reasons why collecting games is fun, like having a physical visualization of the medium’s evolution, it ultimately comes down to that personal investment. Is the reason I’m suddenly interested in serious collecting because I no longer have time to play games like I used to and feel a bit of a nostalgic wave when I see my old consoles in a centralized space? It’s highly likely.

Someday...

Someday…

More to the core, though, is the fact that video games have played an active role in my life since early childhood, after my parents handed me a fresh new Game Boy one birthday. Growing up with games from the beginning gives games a very intricate importance to me, and I’m willing to bet you’ll find similarly lengthy experiences with any serious collector.

That’s generally why I myself collect, and while what I have is relatively modest, I look forward to seeing it grow and evolve. But there’s a catch. With a growing emphasis on digital distribution, there’s getting to be less game to collect. Thanks to the likes of Steam, and similar platforms, collecting’s taken on a new form. And while many enjoy themselves some overwhelming collections on Steam, they can’t fill a room with those collections. They exist on hard drives and in the ether, and I have yet to be convinced that the two styles of collecting can really coexist in a visually noticeable pattern. And unfortunately for those of us who happen to be starting our physical collections right now, there seems to be a major push towards digitizing games across the board.

Not that a handsome Steam collection is worse, it's just different.

Not that a handsome Steam collection is worse, it’s just different.

Does that mean that collectors will have to end the scope of their collections somewhere along the line? Will collector’s edition boxes disappear into the mist? Time will tell, but I can only hope that physical releases live on, even if only for the sake of maintaining what I’ve started. After all, I’d hate to think that I just started too late.

After all, there’s nothing like having your games on display, meticulously alphabetized and cleaned, or opening up a brand new case and smelling the fresh factory smell. Physical copies can be trophies, testaments to your laborious time or hours of raw, unadulterated fun. Why do we need to be rid of that?

If you have collections you wish to share, I invite you to do so! It’s always nice to talk to fellow enthusiasts.

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6 Comments:

  1. Been a damn long time since I've been on this site
    I have a bit of collector syndrome as well. Mostly in terms of books and comics. I would be videogame collector if my wallet would allow it..

    • I could see comic collecting get expensive if you're interested in the history of comics. I imagine some old issues can get exceedingly expensive, especially for mint condition. In that way, the game and comic collective can be pretty similar, I would think.

      • Comic collecting can get wildly expensive, depending on which era you focus on. Anything from the mid-80s onward is relatively cheap and easy to find (most 90s comics aren't worth the paper they're printed on because of how overpublished they were). If you move back to the 70s, however, prices start to rocket to the low thousands, and even go as high as the hundreds of thousands if you're looking for certain 40s comics (you can thank WW2 era paper drives for their extra rarity). Even buying new issues week to week isn't cheap as I can attest…

  2. Thing is, I have always sold previous generation consoles to buy new ones as I am more of a varied collector. I started with wallpapers, porn and video games came and went. The main reason I stopped selling consoles after the PS2 was because Sony are a bunch of bastards who oppose backwards compatibility because they're greedy. So yeah, I buy games but only now near the advent of the PS4 can I truly say that I have a collection. As for old school games…emulators. Cheap, but my wallet isn't bottomless.

    • I think that's where most people stand. Video games are more about the raw experience for you and not the physical collecting, and any collecting you do is out of necessity. Some people got the bug, and I'm definitely becoming one of those people, but I can tell we're a minority. Otherwise Gamestop would cease to be, as no one would ever sell them anything. Truth is, collectors need folks like you who are willing to sell your games for us to buy them years later (few hardcore collectors make their collections entirely out of strictly new purchases, most scour ebay and retro stores for the rare gems). So I thank you. That's the nice thing about video games, though. They can be wildly different things for different people, and I'm certainly glad that emulators exist so that people can experience old games without having to dedicate so much time and money to a collection.

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