Collecting video games has been a hobby of mine for over 15 years. Throughout those one and a half decades I found hundreds of excellent games at stellar prices, picked up a whole bunch of random games no one has even heard of, and completed series after series across many consoles and generations. Unfortunately I never really ran into any other serious collectors to discuss rare games with, go on “hunts” together, or generally do game collect-y things with. Recently I did start following the video game collecting subreddit, and from there I’ve started to realize the vast difference between myself and what I can only consider to be the current norm for game collectors.
Take a look around the internet and you’ll find all kinds of people talking about game collecting. There’s the aforementioned subreddit, countless YouTube channels dedicated to showing off their collections and latest finds, and even sites like Craigslist and eBay offering dozens of local deals for vintage video games. You can’t look anywhere and not find someone talking about how they got to a garage sale early and picked up a handful of “super rare” games for dirt cheap. Hell, even when I’m out in the real world looking at a game store the employees are quick to mention other stores or locations where some poor chap turned in a hard to find game and now they’re selling it for even more. Perhaps I’ve been ignorant to the obvious, or I’ve simply fallen into it myself, but why has game collecting come to this? There doesn’t seem to be an emphasis on the games, rather on the deals we are getting on those games.
Don’t get me wrong: finding a great deal is always satisfying. In fact, it’s something I look forward to every time I head out to actually look for games! But here’s where I draw the line for myself from the others: it’s not the only reason I’m looking for games. A thread started on Reddit discussing why people were hiking up the prices of video games, and the comments quickly filled it with situations where a game is popular, either currently or as a part of someone’s nostalgic past, and therefore can command a higher price from a buyer. After years and years of doing this, the general masses (AKA the non-game collectors) started seeing how much some were willing to pay for a specific game, and started to raise the price of their goods. Look at the retail chain Goodwill: for years they would routinely sell used video games people had donated for around a couple bucks each – a great way for a collector to score something old and cheap! Now, though, many Goodwill stores have much higher prices for their used games! Some stores here in the Bay Area sell PS2 games for as much as $10 a pop!
Yes, some games are more rare than others, and yes, some games are more popular than others, and these games can (and in many cases should) be higher in price than others. But look at the game we’re talking about here. These more sought after titles are usually from big franchises, like The Legend of Zelda, or Pokemon. There are literally millions (see: literal millions) of these games out there, meaning at one point or another, they were popular, so therefore higher prices. I ask you why these games are popular. What makes the newest Final Fantasy game an exciting time in someone’s life after there have been dozens of games released like it before.
And that brings me back to the beginning of this article. We collect these games because they mean something to us. To a random PS4 player the upcoming Final Fantasy might just be another RPG witha different setting, but to the Final Fantasy fan it’s so much more. And to that same fan getting their hands on a complete in box version of Final Fantasy III on the Super Nintendo means just as much as playing the newest iteration of their favorite series. To that fan, to that collector, you can’t simply get rid of the game from your life. You have a connection to it. It’s more than just a game. It’s a reminder of a time past, good or bad, that you want to have the ability to recall whenever you feel the need. It’s the comfort knowing that for the rest of your game collecting life, you won’t need to worry about that one particular game. While this is probably saying something about the consumerism issue plaguing America today, let’s just focus on the person who’s gaining a lot my owning a little grey cartridge.
Personally collecting has been a hobby and a fun past time. I enjoyed (and still do!) being that friend or guy who had a ton of games and knew about tons more. For every big name game like Super Mario Galaxy, I found myself getting equally excited about the games no one has ever heard of like The Munchables. Way back in 2001 when my brother gave me a Sega Dreamcast and a couple games, I never tried to get nothing but the Triple A games for any console. Instead, I just tried to grab games I think I’d like. Games that were Triple A, and games that were just Single A… if not worse. Perhaps because of the market I just continued to do this even to this day, where I have a much higher disposable income than that of a teenager and can actually afford to get full priced games. So to some degree I relate to those Reddit game collectors showing off their epic find at a local flea market: getting a good deal feels good, and since I’m only grabbing games I can see myself playing and that aren’t a ridiculous price, I feel good too!
I never set out to feel superior to any other game collector, far from it! I see other game collectors as people trying to do what I do when looking for games: finding something fun and finding it at a good price. Certainly there are some out there who make me jealous of their finds, and some that make me angry of how they treat the unknowledgeable, but I try not to worry about them. The market will always be there for games so long as people want to play them. It might mean waiting a little longer to get your hands on that one series you’ve been dying to play, but that just means you get to enjoy the hunt a bit longer! Enjoying the hunt and reveling in your find when you finally secure your grail is what it’s all about.