For the first time in a very long time, I’ve recently started to actively purchase retro games again. I used to have a lot of games and hardware until a couple of years ago; when I had to sell most of it to fund the purchase of our house. And yes, I do deeply regret letting go of much of that collection!
But, even when I did have a lot of stuff, I would never have considered myself as a “collector”. There are plenty of folks out there that amass huge amounts of things, to sate some sort of desire to horde every single object of a certain topic. And of course, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with doing so – We all have hobbies and things that we like to do. I mean, if I had lots of money and way more space than I currently have, I’d have hundreds of shelves, brimming with games and gaming memorabilia, like you would see many other YouTubers proudly display.
However, I have very little space and only so much money, so I have always kept my inventory relatively light. I’m not fond of emulation and do prefer to play games on their original systems, so I am indeed a user of flash carts – Special cartridges that have a slot for a standard SD or Compact Flash card that you can fill with a system’s entire library. Of course, it’s not entirely legal, but the consoles and games involved are long past their commercial viability, for the most part. For me, it’s a way to have access to any game I want, and play them the way they were meant to be played – Without having 1000’s of games clogging up my house.
More recently, I’ve found myself picking up the occasional retro game here and there, either at car boot sales, or events like the London Gaming Market. As much as I love the flexibility of flash carts, there’s something to be said for picking up actual cartridges, especially when they come with their boxes and manuals (although for me, it isn’t essential). There’s a great deal of fun in finding something special to me, for a decent price, or setting myself a budget and seeing what cool stuff I can get for it. I don’t just buy anything – Most of the time it’s a game I’ve never played and always wanted to or something that looks interesting to play, or even research into and make a video out of.
I also prefer the process of buying old games in person, rather than the cold confines of eBay auctions. Then, there’s the matter of price – Retro games are constantly rising in price, and eBay and other online sellers are a big cause for that. This rampant overpricing is even beginning to filter down to savvy/opportunistic market and boot sale sellers, as they are now pricing their games to match, or only slightly undercut eBay prices. I recently encountered someone selling the GameCube version of Legend of Zelda: Four Swords for £50, which is quite frankly a ridiculous price. It almost takes the fun out of buying old games.
One thing I have also noticed in recent years is the rise in aforementioned YouTubers that have neverending shelves of games, and that’s definitely proving that nostalgia-based gaming is constantly on the rise (which is never a bad thing). However, I have noticed a disturbing trend in retro gamers either indulging or encouraging others to basically buy everything they can so they can get a bigger collection and fill more shelves. And it genuinely bothers me.
I buy games to play them. To enjoy them. For them to serve their purpose. Seeing commonly released games sealed and unplayed is alien to me. Buying old games for no good reason other than to fill shelf space also bugs me. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Why collect so many games that you’ll likely never play? Why buy crap games because they’re cheap so you can buy more of them?
This opinion will, of course, fly in the face of my feelings about games preservation. I firmly believe that every game should be preserved and kept safe to stop it from being lost to time – While also allowing access for anyone to experience them, of course. There are some organisations and individuals that are doing just that and have been for years. Meanwhile, I don’t like the idea of certain people keeping these items sealed away, just for them to look at in a glass case, as much as I immensely dislike the idea of not buying a game because you want to play it.
I guess, in a way, I’m trying to distance myself from collector culture. Yes, I love obtaining games, consoles and memorabilia – And I love displaying them in cases, not only because I think all of these things are works of art; but mainly because it means they’re always on hand for me to pick up and play when I fancy a quick go of Super Mario World.
Ultimately, what I am trying to express is that these old physical mediums may not last forever, so shouldn’t we be enjoying them while we can?