Is it collecting or is it hoarding? For my sake, I’ll say it’s collecting, at least for the time being.
Ever since I got my first video game console, a Playstation 2, for Christmas 2003 as a second grader, I’ve been hooked.
I remember begging my parents to get me a Playstation 2. They played coy and thoroughly convinced me I was far too young to have one, but thankfully, Santa had other plans.
As a grade school student you don’t have a lot of money, so I regularly sold or traded my games or consoles for the newest, flashiest thing.
Around high school, I decided to start holding on to the games I bought, so long as I actually enjoyed them.
Since then, my collection has exploded to nearly 450 physical copies of games. That number increases to 670 when factoring in digital copies of games.
When I started collecting, I laid out one rule to protect myself from overspending and running out of storage space: I have to want to play the game. I don’t allow myself to buy a game just for the sake of adding another title to my collection. I buy used games when I can and rarely buy something until it drops in price.
This has kept my collection and spending in check. I’ve also played and completed a majority of games in my collection at one point or another, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.
But why collect? Everyone collects something for one reason or another.
My aunt collects sand and prominently displays vials of sand in her kitchen. It’s a way of tracking her travels and it genuinely fascinates her.
My father collects guitars and musical instruments because he’s a talented musician and loves music.
The most compelling reason I collect is nostalgia. I’ve loved rebuilding my childhood collection of games that I sold off over the years and diving back into them. It’s a trip, and always a pleasant surprise when you find yourself enjoying something now as much as you did in your childhood.
The other reasons are access and preservation. Many games prior to the mid-2010s are not available digitally, meaning that owning a physical copy is the only way to play them.
There are digital PC ports of many games from this time period, but the ports from this time period are notoriously awful and are often a hassle to get working on modern operating systems and hardware.
There are workarounds, like emulation, where your computer emulates your video game console of choice and runs the game software, but this can be finicky at times and isn’t a totally authentic way to play the original game. However, you need to own both the console and the game to emulate legally.
Second, digital copies of games can disappear from digital storefronts at a moment’s notice for any reason. If you own a physical copy of a game, or any physical media for that matter, you will always have access to it.
In terms of preservation, 75 percent of all silent film made in the last 19th century and first three decades of the 20th century have been lost, according to the Library of Congress.
Some games have been lost to time. The source code for some classic games has been lost. Albeit, it’s not as rampant in gaming as it is in film due to a variety of reasons.
Digital downloads may be lost, digital storefronts could close and purchases left inaccessible or games can be outright neglected by developers. Owning a physical copy of a game is a good way to ensure it’s still accessible and will be for many years.
Right now my favorite console to collect for is the Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was a recent acquisition of mine and something I’ve always wanted. The console was Sega’s last as a console manufacturer before exiting the console market and discontinuing the Dreamcast in 2001.
The Dreamcast was released in North America in 1999, giving it an extremely short lifespan. During its lifespan, there were numerous ports of classic arcade games. It’s wonderful to play these games from home without having to go to an actual arcade and feed the cabinets quarter after quarter.
But due to its short lifespan and low sales numbers, Dreamcast games, particularly the good ones, sell for extremely high prices.
The retro video game market has boomed in the past year. It’s a sellers market and nothing but pain for collectors.
The boom started around the time of COVID-19 as everyone retreated indoors. Prices are astronomical and no one in the collecting community really understands why.
A game’s price is determined by three important factors: rarity, condition and whether it’s complete or not.
A complete game is one with original artwork, manuals and discs. A complete version of a game will usually make it much more valuable in the retro market.
In 2015, I purchased a complete copy of “Mario Kart: Double Dash!!” for the Nintendo Gamecube for roughly $40. At the time, it was painful to spend that much on a 12-year-old game, especially when new games go for $60.
Now a copy of “Mario Kart: Double Dash!!” can run anywhere between $70-$90. The case and manuals alone, with no actual game disc, are selling for $27 dollars on eBay.
Nintendo games tend to retain their value over time, especially games during or before the mid-2000s.
Last July, a brand new sealed copy of “Super Mario 64” for the Nintendo 64 sold for $1.56 million. That copy is the most expensive game on the planet.
“Super Mario 64” is not a rare game, in fact, it sold 11.91 million copies in its lifetime and was the highest selling game on the Nintendo 64.
I bring this up because it’s indicative of the retro market right now. Unfortunately, high prices can gatekeep people from the hobby, but there are workarounds, such as emulation.
Collecting can also be a good investment. I recently spoke with a seller on eBay who’s selling off high value items in his collection to help purchase a farm.
My favorite part of collecting is getting to share experiences with people, whether that be online or next to each other on the couch. I love playing games with my partner, Audra Anderson, and seeing her get hooked.
Last fall we played “Unravel Two,” a game where two players work together to solve puzzles as little yarn toys. She loved the game’s aesthetic and I loved getting to share the experience with her.
Video games are a form of art, although people tend to dismiss that notion and label the hobby as juvenile. When video games were first invented that may have been fair to say, but games have since evolved to have life-like visuals and tell immersive, adult stories.
Further, the average age of someone who plays video games is 34 years old.
Video games are a fusion of art, science and technology that you don’t get in any other form of entertainment. I think that’s what I love about them. While everyone may experience the same story in a game, the ways you reach those story beats are vastly different because it’s an interactive medium. This means no one person experiences or engages with a game the exact same way.
Growing up, video games were relatively niche. It was something boys did and only the nerdy ones talked about it at school. Since then, I’ve seen it become a more accepted hobby across genders and ages, which excites me.
In 2019, the gaming industry was worth $145 billion. The film and music industry combined were only worth $62.7 billion, according to Gameindustry.biz. It remains the fastest growing form of entertainment in the world.
It’s a hobby I’ve loved and shared with others for years now, and I hope the medium continues its growth and others can have the same experiences I’ve had.