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A sealed copy of Super Mario 64 sold for $1.56 million over the weekend, and I’m here to tell you that is worth less than your experiences with the game. That’s one of the key strengths of games — that they are so experiential. They are something you as a player participate in, and that enables you to create a deeper bond than you do with a possession. But you don’t have to take my word — this is now years-old science.
I know that some people who enjoy collecting games will emphasize the importance of ownership, and I don’t disagree with that. My issue is that I think the ownership of memories is more powerful and important to people. And I think that ownership of an object is fraught with potential misery. The key to this is in how we value experiences versus things.
When we remember playing a game, it’s difficult to compare that against other experiences or against the ways other people played that game. It’s personal — or, in other words, it’s something that we own exclusively. But when you own a thing, the only real way to determine its value is to compare it to other things. That’s why it’s a headline that Super Mario 64 sold for $1.56 million.
The problem is that there is always something more valuable. And the comparison centers on a connection between two external objects and not on your connection to the possession.
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Also, your collection is inherently less interesting as a personality trait than your experiences. If you own a sealed copy of Super Mario 64, I’ll ask if I can see it. I will then look at it, and then I will move on with my life. Now, if you want to talk to me about your memories of Super Mario 64, then we might hit it off. So much more social currency comes from swapping stories about things you did in the game than from possessing its cartridge. At most, I’ll want to hear about the story of acquiring the game.
Now, none of this is to say that you shouldn’t collect games. It’s a hobby that brings me no happiness, but it’s OK if you’re different. I simply think everyone will end up happier if they continue pursuing more games to experience instead of chasing more games to own.
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