You can almost smell the cartridges, admit it.
Nostalgia is a very lucrative business with many believing in the value behind the sentiment, ready to relive or cash in on this phenomenon. Retro-gaming as a hobby is rapidly gaining traction among gamers young and old, allowing many to get immersed in the nostalgia surrounding vintage school video games. The devout retro-gamer and collector sleeps with one eye open, a list of must-have titles in one hand. Much like The Legend of Zelda, there is a continuous quest to find the Triforce, the holy grail so to speak. On the surface it seems like a harmless and glamorous hobby if one judges by the impressive collections displayed by various YouTube channels. A collector posts a video of a stacked collection and every fan in the comment section is in awe and just about faints. Instant gratification. The bigger the collection, the greater the fawning. That’s not to say there isn’t a somber side to collecting coins, princesses and old-school video games.
$ is the name of the game
It is difficult to be upfront about retro games without mentioning their cost. It is one expensive hobby! Collectors will no doubt find it expensive to purchase every game they want with the sheer amount of overpriced and in-demand titles. The reality is that being the devout fan with near-complete collections (even if it is console, franchise or genre specific) requires a lot of time, money and effort. A great bargain can still be found of course, but hunting for certain games can take years of rummaging through flea markets, thrift stores and gaming shops. With retro-gaming, most of the games that marked my childhood will cost me more than I’m comfortable spending on a single item— especially when buying complete games including the box/case and manual. Never mind video game consoles, that’s another story. It’s also hard to escape the fact that many vintage titles will cost more than a brand new video game that just hit stores.
I used to spend a lot of time going through shelves that looked just like this one.
The advent of the internet and eBay has made it easier to obtain nearly any game in multitude of conditions. However with eBay, people often name their prices on specific items. Games such a Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64 can fetch as much as $200 if they include the original box/container and manual (if your eyes widened even slightly please do not google Earthbound). Not too shabby for what was essentially dormant market in the late 1990s to early 2000’s when you could often find older titles for a minimal price.
It’s a very addictive hobby
Perhaps too addictive. When I was collecting retro video-games I wanted more, all the time. It didn’t even need to be quality stuff, I just wanted more of it. I was like a smoker contemplating his next cigarette, done before I ever inhaled. As a result my collection grew. Before I knew it I had amassed titles in my collection I never played — not even once (NHL Stanley Cup, Yoshi’s Cookie, anyone?). In my mind they served as trophies to boost my cred among my fellow collectors. Surely someone would be impressed by my collection, or so I thought. Although I did play most of them, what the games really represented were dusty reminders of an unhealthy, possibly OCD-driven obsession.
No money back guarantee
It can prove difficult to make your money back if you’re trying to part with pieces of your collection, even rare, sought after titles. When time came for me to move out it was necessary for me to part with my retro-games and systems. I was in great need of money and didn’t have the time to put all the items I possessed on eBay. Here’s the deal: everyone is looking for a bargain with hardly anyone buying. Shopping them around earned me only a small fraction of what I had paid for them.From experience, collecting vintage video games is not about turning a profit (unless you manage to find a rare steal). I would sell parts of my collection and then purchase what I had sold at a later time. Then I would miss a system or game and had to buy the item once more; it became a vicious cycle and I was helpless.
I tried selecting only the games dear to my heart, I really did, but temptation is everywhere. A part of me always felt in competition with other collectors due to the nature of the hobby. Sometimes I would buy games because it was mentioned on greatest video games lists on the internet and magazines. Maybe people would find it impressive that I owned a piece of their childhood somehow. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of retro-gaming is it is often about what one doesn’t have than what they own.
More than games
It is no longer about owning the games. There’s all sort of toys and decorative figurines adorning gamers’ shelves. Whether its classic figurines or the recent Amiibo and Funko characters, there will always be the need for more stuff. Framed posters, mini-arcades, plushies… the list goes on. It used to be about owning the games but now it is also about the extras. Special editions, imports, the list goes on.Where do we draw the line? I like games, but not to the point of it consuming every single inch of living space. Collectors dedicate entire rooms and create shrines to their 8, 16 and 64 bit possessions.
For me it was time to wave on my fellow collectors goodbye as the retro-gaming ship passed me by. I loved holding the controllers of my beloved Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo between my hands and devouring the classics from my childhood, but I could no longer continue financially or mentally. I became entrapped by the possessions I owned, always on the search for more. Never would I be able to own all the games I wanted nor compete with others and I decided I’d had enough. I still have a fondness for retro-gaming and certain games will always hold a place in my heart. I’ll forever enjoy the occasional rounds of Mario Kart 64 and I’ll always have fond memories of Contra and Castlevania, but I am no longer a card-carrying member of the retro-gaming community.
Looking in the rearview mirror, I think I made the right choice.
Which is your favourite retro-gaming console? Are you a retro-gamer? If so what do you collect? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.