Collecting games is a major hobby for many people — whether they’re into modern titles or retro stuff.
Thankfully, although certain portions of the industry are trying desperately to push us towards an all-digital (or, worse, an all-streaming) future, there are still plenty of companies out there who understand that there is still very much a collector’s market: people want to fill their shelves with their favourite games, and they want cool goodies to go with them.
Why bother, though? Aren’t you just cluttering up your limited living space?
I decided to talk about this today after watching a video recently put out by Billy of The Game Chasers. dramatically titled “It’s Time to Move On.” For the unfamiliar, The Game Chasers are a group of friends who initially started their online show as an attempt to create “American Pickers, but with video games” and have subsequently grown into some pretty well-known faces in the retro gaming sphere.
The very concept of The Game Chasers as a show was that hosts Billy and Jay plus occasional friends would head out to flea markets, garage sales and similar events in search of retro games and related paraphernalia. They’d attempt to get good deals on things, often by haggling, rather than paying exorbitant eBay prices, and in doing so they’d gradually build up their collections for various platforms — seemingly forever in search of that elusive “complete collection”.
Over the last couple of years, I know that Billy and Jay have been getting quite frustrated with the fact that they haven’t been able to put out as many episodes as they’d like to have done. The reason for this is not a lack of effort or desire to do it — it’s the fact that they reached a point where there was very little stuff out there for them to find. As their collections expanded and the market for retro games grew, it became less and less likely that one of their trips would be a productive one; there was less stuff that they “needed” and, at the same time, there was considerable growth in both people who were collecting for the sake of collecting and people who were intending to resell games for inflated prices.
The new video, as you’ll know if you watched it (and it’s right there above, take a minute!), is not Billy and Jay giving up on The Game Chasers. Rather, it is them taking stock of what they’ve achieved and starting to re-prioritise. They’re starting work on a movie, for one thing, and every little bit of extra money helps when it comes to a creative project of that magnitude. And so they’ve both been taking a good, hard look at their collections and deciding whether or not they really need everything that they currently own.
This is a question that a lot of collectors have doubtless asked themselves at one point or another — for various reasons.
Sure, Action 52 for NES is super rare and expensive, but it’s also legendarily awful. In other words, it’s not a game that anyone would actually want in their collection to enjoy and play; it’s a game that people want just so they can say they have it. It’s an interesting historical curiosity, but beyond that, if you’re someone who likes to play the games you own, it is of little value.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have games like Little Samson and The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak, which both command astronomical prices due to their scarcity and are actually decent games in their own right. But are they worth hundreds, even thousands? Would you rather spend $1,500 on one obscure game, or use that money to amass a much larger collection of more common but well-established games that you’ll definitely want to play? This is something only the individual collector can answer. For me? Absolutely not; if I had $1,500 of disposable income to spend I would spread it across lots of things rather than blowing it on one NES game.
In my own case, I take a couple of distinct strategies when considering whether or not I want to pick something up.
When it comes to stuff from generations prior to this one, I look at the game and consider whether it’s 1) something I think I will genuinely enjoy and 2) if it’s something I want to write about here on MoeGamer. If both of these are true, I’ll generally pick it up without hesitation if it’s under about the £20 mark, and after some careful consideration and research if it’s £20 or more. I’m particularly fond of PS2 and Wii stuff that tends to go for 50p these days; stuff that was regarded as straight-to-budget shovelware on its original release, but which often has an interesting story behind it — the Simple Series on PS2 is a great example of this. These games aren’t regarded as rare or valuable, but I enjoy having them in my collection because they’re not games that generally get talked about all that much — sometimes with good reason, sometimes tragically!
When it comes to current stuff, meanwhile, my attitude towards collecting is generally to try and anticipate what is likely to become hard to find in the future, and prioritise those in favour of stuff that I think of as “obvious”. I picked up games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey very late, for example, because I knew those would never be difficult to get hold of — that and first-party Nintendo stuff doesn’t tend to decline in value in the same way as other stuff does, so you’ll generally be paying the same if you pick it up a year after release to if you’d have bought it on day one. Not only that, but these games will continue to be easy to find even once we move on to a new hardware generation.
Something like Death end re;Quest, though? A niche-interest title from a developer and publisher with a specific, focused fanbase? Yeah, I’ll pick stuff like that up when it comes out, even if I don’t intend to play it immediately, because it’s a gamble otherwise; in a year’s time it might be super-cheap to get hold of — or it might be impossible to acquire. On top of that, Idea Factory International and their ilk do great, very affordable limited editions — as well as localising a number of titles that have become some of my favourite games of recent years — so I’m more than happy to support them with day-one purchases.
Why do I actually want these games on my shelf in the first place, though? Well, it’s because, to me, they feel more meaningful if they’re there in packaged form. I’m a believer in the concept of “crystallised memories” — the idea that you can attach and associate things that you experienced and felt to physical, tangible objects that you can hold in your hand. Or, more accurately, that you can do this more easily if there’s a physical component — since there are certainly plenty of download-only games that I have memories, emotions and feelings attached to. I just feel the strongest positive associations if I can hold a game in my hand and regard it fondly.
Boutique publishers such as Limited Run present an interesting quandary with regard to all this, because it often means paying considerably more for a game than I would if I was just getting a download-only version — particularly given that, since many of these outlets are US-based, I end up having to pay $15 or more just in shipping. But there are occasions when it just feels worth it — I leapt on Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse for Switch when it became available, for example, and I’m currently eagerly awaiting Freedom Planet, a game that I always said I would buy a packaged copy of should it ever become available. It just feels right to have those games on my shelf rather than buried in a digital library.
Limited Run and the companies that do things in the same way have another distinct advantage, too: the versions they release tend to be complete editions that are perfect for archiving and preservation. That means the disc or cartridge you get is ready to go right away — no patches, no downloadable content, no additional expense. Plug and play, off you go. Exactly as it should be! When the PS4’s PlayStation Store and the Switch’s eShop eventually get turned off, these packaged versions of these games will still be fully playable and in their final, “perfect” form.
The downside of these limited releases is that it means it’s more likely than not that no-one will ever have a truly complete PS4 or Nintendo Switch collection in the same way that, today, it is possible to own a complete library of games for platforms such as the Atari 2600, the NES or the PlayStation. (Common knowledge has it that the N64 is the “easiest” to complete a collection for, if you were curious!)
But the question you need to ask yourself is: does that actually matter? To me, the answer is emphatically no. For example, I have absolutely no interest in picking up today’s big-name triple-A games or disposable, annualised franchises that are rammed with microtransactions and more concerned with “retention” than creativity. Sure, these may well be interesting case studies in generations to come, but it’s not a side of gaming that I’m personally interested in — and so I ignore these releases completely in both packaged and download-only formats. In doing so, of course, I “doom” myself to never having a “complete” Switch or PS4 collection, but it doesn’t matter; it makes my collection more personal and noteworthy, particularly because my own specific tastes means that what I choose to have on my shelf is very different from what, say, you might have on your shelf.
For me, the answer to the question “why collect?” is very simple, and should, in an ideal world, be the same for everyone. That answer is “because it makes you happy”.
Your own particular reasons for it making you happy may vary, of course, but that simple, overarching reason should be pretty much universal; gaming and game collecting is a hobby, so you should be deriving enjoyment from it via some means or another.
For me, personally, that happiness is derived from not just owning these games, but from playing them and subsequently writing about them. I get the greatest feeling of enjoyment, fulfilment and satisfaction from games where I have done all of these things: a game that I own a packaged copy of, that I have played from start to finish (preferably on original hardware), and that I have written about in enough detail to satisfy me that I have celebrated the time I spent with it adequately.
I don’t need a complete collection on any platform. I don’t need the rarest games. I collect games because it makes me happy — and it keeps me in things to write about to keep you lot happy, too!
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Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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