Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I 'collect' games

A recent post over at has prompted me to consider why I "collect" games. (I put quotes around the word collect, by the way, because I don't think of what I do as collecting. Or, at least, my intent isn't to be a collector.)

It's obvious enough to me why I buy, collect or whatever-else-you-want-to-call-it current-gen games and systems. If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to play games like ClaDun: This is an RPG, Dragon Quest IX or Kirby's Epic Yarn--as, with few exceptions, none of the aforementioned games can be played on a computer via emulation.

The same is true for most last-gen games and systems. Although it's easy enough to play GameBoy Advance games via emulation these days, it isn't so easy to play, say, GameCube or PS2 titles that way. (I know emulators exist for both of those consoles, but as far as I'm aware rather high-end computers are required in order for them to operate at acceptable levels.) As such, there's also no question as to why I continue to buy games for those systems.

None of the above can be said of earlier generations of games and systems, though; after all, I could, quite easily, enjoy pretty much every pre-PS2 game ever released--and a few that weren't--by downloading and playing them, for free, on my PC or even Wii via emulation at this point. So, why do I still "waste" my money by buying them--especially if I don't consider myself a collector?

Well, one reason is that I like having a physical object that I can hold onto, look at or read, depending on the situation. (I also like being able to play a game using a controller that was intended to be used for said game.) Another reason: I like owning the systems and games I dreamed about owning as a kid.

Although I think both of the above are good reasons to keep buying systems and games from the past, I have to admit the second one gives me pause. Am I really buying these games and systems mainly because I want to hold, look at and, in the end, play them, or am I buying them because I want to relive--and maybe recreate--my childhood?

If I were to be completely honest with myself, I'd admit that, yes, some of my interest in certain systems--such as the Famicom and the PC Engine--and games can be linked to my childhood, but I don't think nostalgia is chiefly responsible for my virtual trips through the aisles of some of the world's best import shops.

Anyway, that's why I tend to buy, collect or whatever-else-you-want-to-call-it retro games and systems. Assuming some of you do the same, what are your reasons?


Viewtiful_Justin said...

I'd say it has a lot to do with owning those games you always meant to have at some point. At this point in my life, I have the disposable income and the resources at hand to make that happen.

As far as having the physical object vs. emulation, I think there's an element of ritual in the insertion of the cartridges, the sound of the system, the fighting with it to work if it's old. It's familiar, routine, which equals comfort, in my world. It's a ritual I don't get with emulation.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Justin!

I definitely agree with you in regards to your comments about emulation. Like you said, there's a ritual to and an experience that surrounds the use of an actual system and game that just can't be accomplished if you emulate games/systems on a computer.

Another issue I have with emulation is that it seems to make me even more ADD than I am otherwise. I tend to flip wildly through games when I emulate. I play one for a few minutes and then switch to another and switch to another. When I play games on an actual system, I'm much more likely to spend a good amount of time with them. That probably has something to do with the hassle of changing games, taking them out of their packaging, etc., of course, but I think it's worth noting regardless.

Is that something to which you can relate, too?

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Oh, definitely. I'll download a ROM and play it for 20 minutes and then never go back. With a cartridge, I think I'm a little more devoted, a little less likely to just toss it aside and move on.

Marcus said...

I'm still not sure about why I collect completely... But I can talk about the joy of owning vs emulation.

I could spend hours upon hours with a game that was emulated and even beat it but at the end of the day there's something to "owning" an object. There's also something to having an object you can touch as opposed to something intangible like a ROM download.

That's part of the reason I really have an issue with Steam and other digital distribution services. Disregarding all the other issues inherent in such systems, there's just nothing to actually hold and claim is yours. For me, there's really something special about having a game... being able to flip through the manual and look at the cover art... ROMs or downloads can't ever duplicate it.

Bryan Ochalla said...

I'm glad I'm not alone, Justin :) Actually, I'll bet a lot of gamers are like us -- less apt to quickly toss aside games when we're playing real ones on real systems.

Bryan Ochalla said...

I'm with you, Marcus -- as cool as I think Steam is, I just don't like the idea of buying a game and then not having anything other than a file on a computer or game system to show for it. I want a box to open, a manual to read, a cart or CD or DVD to look at and photograph, etc. Also, I want to be able to loan my games to friends, or sell them on eBay if the need arises. None of those things are possible with DD systems (or emulation, obviously).

Sean said...

Great post (and thanks for the mention)! I think I'm with you on most points!

Actually, I tend to strongly agree with what Justin wrote above as well. The ritual of playing games on their original console is very important. It just doesn't have the same feel when you play those games on a PC. The physical, tactile feelings associated with playing on an old console is a very important element in retro-gaming that the PC just can't provide.

It is very akin to why so many people still love vinyl even though they could listen to perfect quality MP3s downloaded without any physical media. It is ironically the imperfections that vinyl offers which makes it so attractive. The grainy sound caused by dust, the spinning of the record, the need to learn exactly where to drop the needle, etc etc. All ritual - and all of it heightens one's respect of the music.

Same with say a PC Engine. The imperfections of the media - the need to clean the connectors, to get it in there just right, to deal with the inconvenient controller wires, etc etc - having to go through all of that makes us appreciate the games all the more.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Oh, your explanation is perfect, Sean, and I agree with it completely. Sure, I could play every Famicom and PC Engine game I own on my computer -- through emulation -- rather than on their respective systems, but it just isn't the same (for all of the reasons you just stated).

Also, I have to add that I believe something is lost when playing these games smoothed out and cleaned up on a computer monitor. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I like to see the game as its designers and programmers originally intended -- flaws and scan lines and all :)

BTW, to anyone who reads these comments: I *really* suggest you read Sean's blog post, the one that prompted me to write this one. It'll be well worth your time, I promise!

Viewtiful_Justin said...

TACTILE! That's the word I was searching for eight hours ago. Thanks, Sean!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ha! Tactile does seem quite fitting in this context.

RetroKingSimon said...

I've never collected games but rather held onto the ones I've bought. For example, all my Master System games were bought when it was a current console, I just never sold them. However, I'm gradually selling off my collection for all consoles now, I only really play the games via emulation so that I can grab screenshots for a potential RP review or feature. Shame, but I just don't have time to do both :(

Bryan Ochalla said...

That's OK, Simon, don't feel bad. You've got to do what you've got to do!

Andrew said...

I am of a different generation, so my fascination with video games is a bit different. Though not much of a "collector" I love playing them. It used to bother me that I was trying to recapture a lost adolescence, but then realized that almost all men (and maybe women) do this. Our toys and hobbies are a recreation of our "first time," whatever that might have been.

Now I just play, have fun, and find other things to worry about.

Bryan Ochalla said...

I like your attitude, Andrew! I have a feeling you're right, too -- about all of us men (and likely women, too) wanting, in some way, to recreate our "first time." As long as it doesn't become annoying or destructive, who cares, right?