My other new year’s resolution was to think about titles less. In this one I talk about my decade and a half long history collecting video games.
I really should’ve taken the above picture before I traded in much of my old games collection to a used game store in Lawrence. I had like three more shoeboxes full of stuff, would’ve made for a better picture. All of that was built up, I realize, over more than fifteen years now. It’s actually kind of fascinating when I think about how long I’d been into collecting old video games. Like, for instance, the store where I first purchased a game from an era out of date (I believe it was a Game Boy Camera and I believe the year was 2004) has been closed for more than a decade and a half now. For a while, that store front was my beloved Midwestern Mexican restaurant chain, Taco Via, but that closed down a few years ago and now it’s a gourmet cookie store. Because my memory is really good for things like this and awful for actually important stuff, here is a map of all of the places I’ve bought retro/vintage video games in my hometown. Red Xs mean they’ve since closed down, black Xs mean they’re open still.
One of my friends from school had told me about that store (It’s the Game X Change near the middle of the picture). It was right next to a liquor store his father frequented and he knew I was interested in that sort of thing (video games, not liquor. I was ten). My grandfather took me there one day to check it out, and I remember being just fascinated by it. It had practically everything, even dating back to the 70s and 80s. Games for systems I’d never even heard of at the time.
I think a lot of my interest in old games comes back to that experience, the feeling of discovery. A lot of that also comes back to my exposure to games from the late 80s and early 90s from the house I’d go to for daycare. I had great memories of those games, but I didn’t have any access to them after I stopped going to daycare there when I was around six years old, nor any knowledge of where I could go to find them again. So to be able to find all of that again was so exciting to me, and it was really very accessible back then, even to a kid. I was like twelve, I had no responsibilities, no bills to pay, and an allowance that all went towards video games.
There is a wistful nostalgia I feel towards that era. I think it might just be a single aspect of a more general wistful nostalgia for adolescence in total, but I feel it. I just had so much time to care about whatever I cared about, and really very little to rip me away from it, and the internet was still in that phase where communities came together around individual subjects. I could see some forum post reviewing a game, or I could read an article in GamesRadar referencing a game, or I could watch a YouTube video review from the Angry Video Game Nerd or Pat the NES Punk on a game, then see if I could get one of my parents to drop me at the Vintage Stock (the one in the bottom right corner, it’s like an urgent care hospital clinic now) while they went to Sam’s Club so I could hopefully find it, and even if I didn’t, I might find something else I could try on a whim based off of title and cover art alone, often for less than fifteen dollars. I absolutely miss that, in the manner that I miss most things about childhood, that is to say, in a manner ignorant of how many of the rougher parts of those memories have been shaved off by time.
And I probably kept this up, collecting old games – to play, not to store or display – for about a decade. I only think I mostly gave up on it, or at least slowed down on it, back in around 2018 when I left Kansas initially. I boxed almost all of those old games up and stored them in my bedroom at my parents’ house, and that’s where they sat until August of 2021, when I put them into a storage unit in Olathe, and that’s where they say until last week, when I traded them in.
It was difficult to box all of those old games up and rid myself of them, purely out of sentimentality. I knew I had no intention of ever really playing any of those old cartridges again, and they’d sat in boxes undisturbed for over three years to that point. There are still memories metaphorically attached, the fun of going to the store with only a faint understanding of what I was going for, the fun of playing those games with my friends or by myself. There are still stickers physically attached, in many cases, from those now long-closed game stores where I found them. It is a little bit like boxing up childhood, but it’s also probably valuable to let go of childhood. Those weren’t doing me any good in a box, maybe they’ll end up in the hands of someone who will enjoy them.
Game collecting (I hesitate to say “collecting” because I barely really got into any real collection mindset, I mostly just bought games I wanted to play, and I played them) is well different from the era I’m probably most wistfully yearning for (like 2007-09 or so). The passage of time has occurred, as it tends to, and now the twenty year old NES games I was buying in 2007 are thirty-five year old NES games, with all the added wear and tear and bit rot that those years entail, reducing supply, increasing prices. Many more people know you can make money on it, which has also increased prices. Also it’s like clearly a money laundering scheme to many people, which has also increased prices.
I guess that emulation is still freely available (even though it’s slightly more difficult to specifically find old Nintendo games), but if you’re specifically looking to play old games on old hardware, it’s much pricier than it was, at least from what I can tell. What I’m saying is that I’d hate to be a thirteen year-old kid right now trying to afford old NES or Genesis games. My copy of Super Mario Bros. 2 that I bought with that original NES still has a fifteen dollar price tag on its back, and I doubt you’ll find one for that price anymore. So it goes.
and god fucking forbid you’re a teenager into the Sega Saturn like I was. You gotta take like twetny extra shifts at your teenager medium wage job to afford Panzer Dragoon Zwei now. Panzer Dragoon Saga was always like that, but Zwei, now, too? Fuck off. and fucking forget about buying Saga.
But I don’t envy a current thirteen year-old kid getting into this. I don’t envy a current thirteen year-old kid for really anything at this current moment in history, but also particularly in the realm of purchasing and playing old games. But regardless, I have begun my transition out of it, and I guess in this post I am sort of saying farewell to it, for the most part. I got a Saturn Fenrir, and I’m gonna soft-mod my original XBOX and PS2, and emulate anything else.
And I made 300 dollars! Off of a lot of games I really didn’t think would get me more than triple digits at all. And we move on!