One of the dangers of the internet age is influence. Specifically, being influenced into doing something you are in no way prepared for. During lockdown last year, a lot of us spent our time indoors, playing games and watching YouTube videos. Personally, I spent a big chunk of last year watching game room tours and game collecting videos. I would always be blown away by the sheer amount of entertainment people owned, and the many ways they would display it. Combined with the fact that our family never owned any consoles in the generations in which they were the most relevant, and my insistence as a kid for always playing the same games over and over again, and I was certainly jealous of these people. I loved game collecting. I wanted a collection of my own.
Not to say my collection at the time was bad. At least, it wasn’t bad if you consider I was unemployed, living at home, and didn’t really have the space for a massive collection. Today, I am just two of those things. Starting out with the second-hand PlayStation 1 from my childhood wasn’t an awful place to begin. It’s how Crash Bandicoot became the be-all-and-end-all that he remains to this day. The family eventually getting a PlayStation 2 and a Wii, as well as everyone in the family getting their own DS certainly got the ball rolling. Eventually, I bought my own Switch, the first console I ever owned for myself. But it was never enough.
When I got my first job, I bought myself a Nintendo 64 with my first paycheck as a little treat. That’s how it always starts, isn’t it? That Nintendo 64 was the snowball which quickly became an avalanche. I needed to fill out my console library. It was important that I acquire the games I’d always heard were the stuff of legend which I’d never had the opportunity to try out. A year and a half later, and I think I’ve almost hit my limit, at least for my current living situation. I have the capabilities to play every single generation of Nintendo game, both handheld and console, my PlayStation console library is nearly complete, my game collection stands at a little over 300, and they all basically fit on the one shelf.
This leads us to our dilemma, however. When you have over 300 games to choose from, what do you play? Well, for the last year and a half, the answer’s been clear: nothing. How is that possible? How can someone love collecting games, but seem to despise playing them? Is this a problem for all collectors? Clearly not, since other people haven’t fallen into this same trap. So, what’s the deal with collecting, and why aren’t I playing anything?
Styles of Game Collection
Right off the bat, you tend to split game collectors into two factions: ‘Steam libraries’ and ‘the rest’. PC gaming is certainly more agreeable to some people. To a certain extent, I can see the appeal. All your games are in one place, and they’re just a click away. Who could oppose such a simple solution? Well, someone who considers it easier to purchase a new console every 5 years or so than to constantly update your PC hardware to accommodate new releases, that’s who. Plus, for someone who typically uses a PC as a workspace, it’s nice to step away from all of that for a moment of peace on Wuhu Island.
And then there are the people who saw the bookshelf full of games and thought, “That’s stupid, if you wanted to save space, you’d buy your games digitally.” And, again, there’s a certain argument to be made there. However, it’s much less satisfying to scroll through games on a PlayStation home screen than to stand there and be able to see, touch, and feel the collection in person. There’s far more of a sense of accomplishment there. Of course, there are games that can ONLY be bought digitally, and a sensible person wouldn’t lose any sleep over something like that. Then there’s me. I’m the guy who purchases empty cases and boxes for digital games and games that were acquired loose, like the old Nintendo stuff. There’s OCD, and then there’s that.
Not Just Console Games?
Of course, not just console games. An often-overlooked side of game collecting is the additional bits and pieces required for certain titles. The Wii Fit Balance Board, the EyeToy camera, can sometimes be critical to actually playing a game. Other times, they’re completely superfluous, like the Wii Wheel, and they’re still fun to own. But you’re never going to proudly display your Wii Wheel on a shelf. And that’s the problem. It’s harder to remember to pick these up without making a specific note for them. A forgetfulness towards accessories is the kind of thing that leads to you, let’s say, buying a copy of Duck Hunt forgetting that you need both the Zapper and a compatible CRT TV, without both of which the game is useless.
The same can be true for handheld titles. True, I can play and handheld Nintendo game now, but I always forget to buy them. The focus is always on the console libraries. This can lead to a truly paltry handheld collection when the majority of the time it’s almost easier to just pick up a DS at the end of the day. And I always forget that there are more handhelds out there than just the Nintendo roster. The amount of times I’ve forgotten that the PSP exists is, frankly, tragic.
Oddly, this isn’t the first time I’ve had a collecting hobby snowball out of control on me. In 2014, along with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Nintendo’s ‘amiibo’ figures also launched. Another entry in the ‘toys to life’ craze that begins with Skylanders and Disney Infinity, amiibo appears to have been the only variant to see any longevity, at least for today. Launching alongside Smash Bros. was a wise move, since the roster of characters is so wide and varied, it’s easy to see why people would want to collect them. Along with the fact that they can potentially interact with a variety of games instead of just one, you can certainly see the appeal for a collector.
Initially, I was resolved to only collect the amiibo for my mains. It made sense; you train them up in Smash Bros. with your fighting style, so why bother with the characters you never played. That was until the dopamine rush of adding more and more figures to a visibly expanding collection took full effect. Now, though the entire Smash Bros. amiibo line (as of the release of this article) is mine, I’m seriously considering expanding to the other lines as well. That kind of encapsulates the collecting experience. Honest beginnings, and before you know it, you’ve got more than you know what to do with. And, yes, though I rarely use the figures, they’re all out of their boxes. I have no plans to resell these, so it doesn’t make sense to me to keep them boxed up when I’m eventually going to use them.
The Potential for Fun
‘It’s going to get played eventually’ is also why none of the games in my collection are still in the plastic. Realistically, I might just decide to go on a Zelda marathon tomorrow, finally picking up any game in the franchise for the first time. To that end, it’s just easier to remove the plastic immediately. Every collector is different, obviously. But why collect games specifically if they’re only ever going to sit on a shelf? I know I have no right to say that, given the title of this article, but it’s true. When you know you’re not going to resell, it strangely makes you more attached to the collection, even the parts that maybe you shouldn’t be.
I did mention I owned some games as a child. That’s really the roots of the collection; the origin story, if you will. There are, therefore, games in my library that, frankly, have no business being there. That said, I feel like every collection needs a handful of these. It’s those games that truly make a collection unique. The oddball games that you’ve kept ahold of either for nostalgia or because no game store will accept them for trade credit. There are usually more stories for these games than for the triple-A titles everybody owns. You’ll probably not play them ever; they’ll likely remain shelf-fillers. But so what? This brings us back to the main question:
Why Aren’t I Playing Anything?
Smarties Meltdown is understandable, but when you’ve got 9 Zelda games just sitting there and you haven’t played a single one, that’s another story. I wish I could say it was just that I don’t have the time to play games. But that doesn’t take into account the 8 separate 100% playthroughs I’ve completed of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy since its release. A part of it is certainly being overwhelmed by choice. When you’re standing at the game shelf and you ask yourself, “What do I feel like playing?” you’re far more likely to say, “That game I know I like” rather than, “That game I might not like”. And, obviously, growing up with a small handful of games and getting really good at those specific genres make trying out any other genre for the first time so much scarier.
I think there’s also a part of me that knows it’s somehow more fun to collect games than play them. At least, to a certain extent. Game collecting is very much a singular activity. You can do it on your own, easy-peasy. I’ve always found playing games on my own to be… somewhat unsatisfying. There’s a reason new games added to the collection are largely party games and multiplayer experiences. My favorite gaming memories have been with other people in the room with me. Maybe not even playing a multiplayer game. Just hanging out and commenting on the game as it’s being played. Maybe not even talking about the game itself.
The real collection was the friends we made along the way
There are naturally going to be people who completely disagree with everything I’ve said in this article. Maybe you’re a ‘PC master race’ person who loves gaming alone. Maybe you can’t relate to having never played a Zelda game. Perhaps you just take issue with the little things, like the way I’ve coiled my controllers in the above image, or are still nauseous by all the unboxed amiibo figures. That’s the other great thing about game collecting: everyone does it differently. It’s one of the few hobbies that has so much variety. After all, there’s really only one way to play tennis or woodwork a chair or whatever. We’re a part of one of the most diverse communities that exist, and personally, I think that’s pretty neat.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a PS5 coming soon, and I can’t wait to take the console out of the box and then not touch the thing for a year.