Video games at the general consumer levels have existed since the 1970s during the dawn of home game consoles. While that time period has been roughly going on five decades now video games themselves are still a relatively young medium compared to other forms of entertainment. Arguments constantly persist of such ideals as if video games are ‘art’ or are they effective story telling devices? These conversations largely go beyond the idea of video games simply being entertainment and more can they eventually be held as legitimate story telling devices similar to say classic movies or novels? Many arguments against video games however are made all the stronger by their often negative portrayal in media during times of crisis (i.e., first person shooters are often credited with radicalizing individuals to commit mass shooting crimes or even ‘training’ them).
One thing that has become very much apparent and is not necessarily disputed is video game collecting. Collecting video games is a relatively new idea. Gamers in the early days of consoles were not thinking in regards to longevity of titles. Once a new console and set of games released, many simply moved on. Later – I’d say in the early days of the internet – many classic titles from the 70s and 80s were falling into obscurity. Most glaring were a lot of individuals realizing that many games from that time period were not “complete.” Most console cartridge titles were often just the cartridges themselves; a byproduct of both early thinking of gamers and the relatively nature of video games themselves.
For example, while largely unfathomable today with mostly CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray based media, very few people in the 1980s playing an NES thought to “keep the box.” A box was like any other toy’s packaging; discarded. There also was not any sort of standard that video game owners could follow, such as exactly what should they keep – again, if anything that wasn’t the game itself – and ideologies such as video game grading would still be into the future. Another factor was cardboard box stock used for games were not much stronger than formed card stock and images printed onto the boxes themselves were massive liabilities in that they were easily damaged. After pulling a game out of a box say two dozen times the flaps would begin to show very noticeable wear, both through creases and color deterioration of adjacent artwork. Even if kept it was very difficult to keep game boxes in pristine condition unless they were sealed or your pulled a game out once and never returned it to it’s original case. A lot of this changed with CD based media, as CDs were stored in either long boxes or jewel cases.
Again also, gamers just quickly moved onto the next big thing (arguably not much different that present day). The whole video game crash of 1983 that is often cited had a huge factor in how marketed games were portrayed. Prior, primarily with Atari, games were often packaged and marketed as being vastly different from the actual title the gamers were playing. By the later 80s and throughout the 90s marketing had completely 180’ed itself to actually SHOW the titles, often pitted against one another from other consoles, in a sort of race of gaming superiority. There’s such classics as a SEGA ad that pits it’s Genesis titles as a dragster racing against a slow car playing Super Mario Kart; the message being SEGA’s graphics and processing were much better than similar offerings on the Super Nintendo. Ironically Super Mario Kart not only defined an entire genre of gaming but is probably up there in the top dozen or so titles of the entire SNES library.
What I think really started to spur interest in collecting games was how the relatively short period of the 70s through the 90s not only drastically changed in terms of games but also that most individuals themselves that lived through that period were now much older. A nostalgia of sorts was then sought. However when many of these gamers – now in their thirties and forties – realized a lot of their nostalgia was in peril they scrambled to collect, subsequently realizing a market that was existing in stages of distress. I believe a prime genre that spurred a lot of this collectability sense was the 90s RPG genre. Later 90s RPGs, primarily from Japan, are held in high regard. When players started looking for similar titles from the 16 and 8 bit eras they realized that games from that time period suffered from a lot that has been mentioned; incomplete presentation on the secondary market. Prices were being driven up due to the difficulty of piecing together ‘complete’ titles.
That’s all my thoughts though, jumbled as they may be.
So to the semantics; how do collectors go about collect video game titles?
I’ll state what is initially my opinion but collectors I feel are driven by a sense of OCD. Collecting itself in any form exhibits OCD tendencies. With that in mind I’d say there are points to keep in mind when thinking about collecting video game titles;
There is no wrong or right way to do it: This initial idea can be cringeworthy for overtly OCD individuals, but when you realize you don’t have to be a perfectionist to collect it becomes much more enjoyable. If you have the resources and drive to collect everything in a particular subset – maybe you want to own every NES title in the US market, or maybe you want to collect every variation of Sony’s PSP console – then so be it. On the other hand if you’re limited in resources don’t think that just owning a handful of titles doesn’t account for collecting. Collections can be as small as a particular genre of games on a single console or even a particular title and subsequent ports and sequels. Ultimately collections are what you make of them. They don’t have to be value driven or procured with future value in mind.
Don’t be so quick to get rid of games that are older or dated: This took me until I was much older to realize that trading in a title isn’t really advantageous in the long run. While the ideology of renting a game has largely gone the way of the dinosaur and exists primarily through Red Box or demos, it’s best that if you go all-in on a new title to not give into temptation to trade in. A big regret I have is sans a few standouts such as RPGs and the like back in the day I traded in most of my PS1 and Saturn titles; sports games, shooter games, etc. I considered them old, and didn’t think of an eventual nostalgia factor. Problem is I couldn’t even tell you what I traded them in for. Eventually the process of trading in used, for often similarly used titles, just dwindled my selection of games to nil.
If price of new games does daunt you, then my advice is to buy select games from a particular publisher new, and then buy a select title from them used. Additionally while not the best practice and I critique myself for doing this, new titles will eventually drop in price. Publishers still get counted for you buying a new title at a reduced price, as opposed to buying a used title from a re-seller however, so one could argue waiting until a price drop is better than seeking out a used title from a re-seller like GameStop.
Buy what you like: You’ve probably realized by reading most of the posts here what I have a particular interest in. My ultimate end-all advice is simply buy what you like, even if it means avoiding a particular title within a genre you like simply because you do not like it.
Going forward I feel there will be a lot that compounds video games in the next decade or so. Consoles are steadily moving away from physical formats and in all likelihood will probably be mostly digital in the next generation of consoles. Most publishers have already drastically scaled back their packaging, often not including instruction manuals and in some cases not even shipping the full title onto the purchased media. Digital media will completely re-focus the ideologies of “collecting” and I would surmise publishers will more frequently push extras and bundles for people that buy early digital releases (similar to pre-released goodies and the like).
Physical titles do have their long term concerns. As an example, early optical media on CDs are now at very high risk to begin seeing deterioration, and while DVD and Blu-Ray media is in theory more stable will likely see similar deterioration. People often point to old cartridges ultimately being more stable and better for a collector but they too come with their own sets of issues. Soldering inside can break down, back up batteries having be sat in place for decades can deteriorate, and contact points on the cartridges can wear from use. There is a whole ideology on how to properly maintain physical titles – well outside what I’m typing here and often outside the capabilities of most individuals – yet there are steps you can take to save media. Where applicable, keep readable media covered (inside cases, cartridge boards covered, etc). Keep inside cool, dry places with controlled temperature. Also, try to only handle what you need when you need it (don’t frequently switch physical titles).
Going forward, I’ll continue to bring you the cringe from my own collections as I add to them.