At least that’s what I keep telling myself. In terms of new purchases September and October weren’t so bad, and November was OK, but December amounted to nothing short of an avalanche by my standards. All told, between a stay in Birmingham with its copious videogame retailers and an online import haul, December totaled a whopping 31 games across 6 different platforms, a G-Con lightgun, and 2 consoles (both replacements). Slice that up like a cake and that’s one unique slice of gaming for each and every single day in December. And that’s on top of an already swollen backlog of games. It’s nothing short of madness, is what I’m saying.
I’ve always taken it as a moral stance that I don’t collect videogames. I buy, play and enjoy videogames; my main pleasure doesn’t come from hunting for games, nor does it come from gazing at mint condition items on shelves speculating on what will raise in value over time. I’ve always been on a bit of a tightrope because I absolutely love flea markets, charity shops and the like. But this past month has made me question myself: I’ve been at my most extreme when it comes to splurging out on games, probably ever.
It’s been a habit of mine in the past to complain about/lampoon game collectors, but I’m afraid that the distinction between the avid collector and the gamer in me has become blurred. I dislike the notion of myself as a collector – I much prefer “enthusiast”. This is because collecting is tied to the fact you have lots of STUFF on your shelves, presumably to be handled with kid gloves. And that’s just not how games should be!
There are two types of collector that come to mind: people who collects games with monetary value in mind, and those interested in rarity. I realised quite early on in my gaming hobby that selling games wasn’t my thing. I don’t mind making some dosh, of course, but back when I used to trade-in/sell my Gamecube games I’d inevitably spend the money in a speedy fashion, before ending up with a severe hankering to replay Super Mario Sunshine or some such title I’d pawned off six months prior.
The second kind of collector is someone who chases rarity. Not to be sold, just rarity in and of itself. I imagine they must love the novelty, the excitement of having a Nintendo World Championships gold cartridge and knowing theirs is one of only 26 in the world. I can understand that excitement. I wouldn’t mind having a gold cartridge too, but wouldn’t mind to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds is a completely different matter. It’s not worth it to me.
I was reminded of this recently when I was chasing after Parodius on the Saturn. The PAL version of the game is quite expensive – far more expensive than the Japanese version, called Parodius Da. My first inclination was to go for the cheaper import option, but in the end I was able to nab a PAL version for substantially less than either the PAL or the Japanese version alternative simply because it was the disc only, with no case or manual. When did the manual and box become so valuable?
Regardless, given that the pleasure of gaming is my top priority, it’s only natural to question why I still purchase games and don’t emulate. On the face of it, emulation provides the biggest bang for buck, since it’s free. However, emulation brings with it other problems. Thousands of games at your fingertips? That’s a backlog and a half. Where do you start? I’ve been in that situation before at age 14, with hundreds of ROMs and a SNES emulator. I think I completed just two SNES games over the following years. You’d be appalled if I listed some of the games I booted, played anywhere between 2 minutes to an hour, got bored and moved on. Chrono Trigger, for god’s sake! Now one of my favourite games thanks to the Wii’s Virtual Console, but as a RPG-hungry teen, Chrono Trigger was just one sweet in a sea of SNES sweet-shops. Or some such analogy…
Another reason for my disliking emulation is simply a stubborn preference for consoles over PCs/laptops. Chalk this one up to irrational, subjective tastes. I could go down the HDMI laptop to TV route with emulators and a controller, but the idea just doesn’t appeal to me.
What it comes down to is that I don’t want to be a collector type who owns hundreds of games but is only vaguely familiar with the content, the meat of those games. I’m talking about that shallow familiarity, the surface impression of games that an emulator and unlimited ROMs inevitably breeds. Without meaning to, with my own almost entirely physical game collection I’ve recreated the sensation of getting hold of an emulator for the first time and being overwhelmed to a point where it’s hard to enjoy any game. After all, when there are so many cartridges and cases on the shelves it’s all too easy to hit eject and move on to the next experience before the last one has even started.
Enthusiast versus collector. 31 games in a month, one game per day, the statistics don’t lie. So I’m scared of buying any more games at the moment – I could probably last an entire year without buying a single game with a backlog this big. What surprises me the most is how much this blog has been a massive enabler to an inner hoarder I didn’t know was there. Perhaps I will always live in fear of becoming a collector!