Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Unpublished blog: Collect or Evolve: A Gamer's Dilemma

This is an unpublished blog from 20XX. To be honest I forget when exactly I had started writing it but figured I would finish it eventually and, occasionally touching it up, wanted it to be my debut blog on Unfortunately I never did get around to finishing it but continued to try. I have resisted the urge to touch things up so this is the unedited and very unpolished version of something that might have been. And for the record: my current collection sits at over 600 games right now.

Displayed in my room on three bookshelves is the bulk of my gaming collection. Over 300 games ranging from PC to Neo Geo Pocket Color, from Xbox One to Sega Saturn. PS1, 3DS, and even N-Gage. Due to a lack of space my Genesis, N64, and Atari games are boxed away along with their consoles. Every so often I drag them out when I get a new game and play them for a little while, only to stick them with the rest and probably never played again.

I'm a collector.

I wouldn't consider myself a rare type of gamer since the popularity of collecting has increased in the last few years. I can't begin to think of how much money I've spent or the exact number of games present as I always seem to miss a few when attempting to catalog them, but I do know the number is over 500 according to some websites I use, which also includes digital titles. I have all these games, genres, and consoles to choose from but I never know what to play. The depth of my backlog is truly in the hundreds.
I've been collecting for at least 9 years but the fascination with it grew when Retro Hunters premiered. It was a YouTube show about two guys going to flea markets looking for old games and good deals. It seemed like a fun hobby to be a part of and I was fortunate enough to have a few friends who liked the idea of "the hunt" as well. We've never found anything truly rare aside from the occasional JRPG or uncommon NES game. The only problem we've come across is that most sellers just don't understand the value of some games. More than half the prices are so outrageous that it may not be worth it to have the game immediately. Old does not mean rare. Rare does not mean expensive.

These friends have also been ahead of me in terms of consoles. I was always one of the last to have something new until recently when I took the plunge and bought an Xbox One. I'm glad to see that the general length of games has increased and most of them allow for weeks if not months of interesting play. The constant online connection now allows for true MMO-style games and better background downloads. The depth and ability of things to do has greatly increased since the last generation and the possibilities to create and publish your own games are easier than ever before.

But for a while I've felt that I've been at a crossroads as a gamer which I could best simplify into one question: Do I continue to buy old games, building up a collection with stuff most others have ignored, or do I evolve and focus more on the now?
Many people I know would say I could do both but I would prefer to think of the situation from a financial standpoint. I could spend $60 on one new title or I could spend that on several classics. In my mind there is no need for me to have more games. Its not a collector's addiction. Most of my games, both old and new, are gathering dust, going untouched for months. Even now there are several on these shelves that I could do without. Games I don't think I'm going to play years down the road. Some I've bought on a whim, thinking they'd be great, only to turn out to be major letdowns. Others I've collected just to have, never really bothering to play them or try them out. My top favorites reside among the rest of them, alphabetically and separated by console but not in any order. My DVDs and CDs are also on these bookshelves and deep down it irritates me that they're taking up space that could be used for the ones boxed away.

The last time I purged my collection was years ago when it reached 200 games total. I sold to EB Games what I didn't want, didn't like, or never played anymore. I then used that money to buy (then) newer games on Xbox and Gamecube. I regret getting rid of a lot of them but now with access to Amazon and eBay, the memories can be simply bought and sold. Which brings up another question: if I so readily sold those games long ago, why would I want to own them again?
There are several I'll never get rid of and a few that I've kept for the longest time. Metroid II, for example, being one of them. The internal battery still works and I have one save file on the cartridge just before facing the Queen Metroid. The affection I have for this game isn't just for nostalgic reasons; Metroid II helped shape me as a gamer and I feel like I owe it to keep it around, even though I have it on my 3DS as well.
Its the few classic games that I still own that keep me coming back to them years later that I feel like I could never get rid of. Those that I did sell I still have fond memories of, but I've already experienced what they've had to offer. Others, like Jersey Devil, I remember for its difficult camera, awkward platforming, good animations, and spooky soundtrack, but it was one of the first that I traded in. I beat it after a couple weeks of play and just didn't find it compelling enough to keep around, but at the same time I wish I had it now so I could play it one more time.

Meanwhile the current console generation is having its gaps filled in by HD remasters and Definitive Editions. Platinum-selling games that were released near the opening of the new console cycle are up for upscaling. Developers seem to be repeating games rather than putting more effort towards new series entries or new IPs. It makes me wonder how this generation will affect us as gamers. Will we look on the memories and experiences with fondness like we do our old treasures or will it be seen as just another obstacle towards more realistic graphics and new ways to not press a button?
Its hard to get excited for new games when repackaging old product seems to be acceptable to some publishers. Don't get me wrong: I think the current selection and variety of original games is going strong but its hard to ignore when walking into a game store yields more used games of those who received the “HD Remastering” treatment.
I expect it will be a "throw away" generation: one that we play and get rid of, moving on to the next first person shooter or recycled sports title. It will take the minds of a few new companies to push the limits of capabilities. No Man's Sky is one that will prove the technology is at height of expansiveness for this generation. It'll be up to another company to come up with something that can top it as we move forward. Mind you I'm not saying the Big Three companies aren't trying but there are suddenly a lot of upstarts with Android-powered systems, pre-built PC gaming machines, and even the impending threat of Steam becoming the fourth superpower in the industry.

The rarest and most valuable game in my collection is Einhander for the PS1. It goes for about $70 on eBay and over $400 if still in shrinkwrap. Meanwhile I have Vectorman for the Genesis, which I've had since its release in 1995. It was one of the best games for the system and is fondly remembered by all who played it, but averages an asking price of $10 (unboxed) on eBay. So a fourth question: just how valuable are all of my games?
I suppose it depends on how the word "value" is seen: it could be defined as rarity due to a limited release or a wide publishing range but still in high demand years later. Value has little to do with a player's memories and more to do with a number on a website. I would take Vectorman over Einhander any day. I can still lose myself among the variety of levels but I know how to beat every boss because I've learned their patterns. I thought playing through Einhander would be awesome but its plagued by design issues like a small moving area, major screen clutter, and more attention to atmosphere than to gameplay. Remind me again why this goes for $400?
My all-time favorite games aren't rare but I would rather keep them around and keep enjoying them than spend $70 on a game that I'm not going to bother trying to complete.

I'll just have to pick and choose my games more carefully in the future. I don't expect to ever beat Shadowgate on the NES, or the recent PC remastering anytime soon. Maybe I'm just hoping to collect a lot of them then one day sell them all for some big bucks. Maybe one day after I've retired and I've made some money after selling them I may have time to sit and play. In the distant future I can retire from working, sit at home, and finally try to beat the original Shadowgate. Maybe I can evolve while being a retro collector.

 Keep Playing.