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Editor’s note: Brian’s a collector of games, but not for the reasons you’d think. His thoughtful discussion on why he’s amassed a video game library has me reconsidering my current practice of selling my games as soon as I’ve beaten them. -Brett
I didn’t have a lot of video games growing up. I’m sure most of you can remember this situation — some of you probably still live it. You’d get two or three new games a year — maybe a few more, if you had siblings — plus whatever titles you could borrow from friends or cousins. You could rent, but it was hardly worth the trouble — the store never seemed to have in Tiny Toon Adventures for the NES, the only game you wanted to play, so why bother renting anything else?
But the games you did have? You played them to the end multiple times. “Wring every last drop of play time out of a game”: that was your 8-bit Tao.
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And then you got older. You got a job and with it disposable income year-round — not just on your birthday. So you bought more games. But you also got busier, so while your collection grew, your ability to keep playing games the way you used to dwindled. The guilt grew and now you’ve got a massive pile of shame in your living room and you’re headed for therapy to deal with it all — or thinking of enlisting in the Squadron of Shame.
I approach things a little differently. I see my game library as a working collection.
The more I write about games, the more I find myself digging into my library. I look for connections between different titles, for hidden patterns of influence. I still keep up with as many new releases as possible, but I also buy older games if I read something that makes them sound interesting or unique or important. The Time Extend and Making Of columns in Edge magazine do a great job of delving into the history of a specific title. On more than one occasion, they’ve sent me on a hunt for an overlooked gem (hello there, The Mark of Kri!).
Games can be seen as one singular product, sure, but they’re also the sum of their parts. Mechanics, characters, aesthetics, sound design, and more can be analyzed in almost any game. The insanity system in Eternal Darkness, the fuel station in Jedi Knight, the water physics in Wave Race: Blue Storm, the way the morph ball moves in Metroid Prime: these are all things that prompted me to pop a game back in to experience anew.
My collection is an archive, both of my personal tastes and experiences and of the broader medium as a whole. For example, I don’t really enjoy racing games, but a couple of years ago I saw F-Zero for the GameCube on sale for $10. I picked it up because I didn’t have anything in my library that could convey the sense of reckless speed as well as that game does.
This isn’t some kind of hoarder’s manifesto — I don’t buy everything and I don’t keep everything. And this isn’t about creating an obsessive miserly collection: I’m pretty much willing to lend anything to anyone if they ask (and if they’ve been good about returning things in the past).
Maybe it’s partly the effect of having spent so much time in library school. I see my collection as a resource, a toolbox. It’s for research and inspiration. When you stick in an older game and find they still have things to say, to discuss, to experience, to marvel at, it’s a reminder that this medium does have relevance long past initial release dates.
So, what does your collection look like?
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