The way we watch, listen, read or generally utilise our media has evolved drastically over time. Back in the day we used to listen to music on formats such as CD’s, cassettes and vinyl but now for the most part the world all about streaming or downloading. We used to have to watch films via VHS tapes and at the end we needed to rewind them, but now everything is in 4KHD via Blu Ray or, aforementioned just like the audio, via streams or downloads. Video games have begun to move in this direction.
Gone is the cartridge-based gaming, which is now in the shadows of the more advanced disc-based media. Consoles like the Nintendo Switch, 3DS and Evercade still use such a style of physical media however. But amongst all this physicality digital downloading is also more prevalent than ever.
Unlike films and music, older video gaming re-releases on different formats are rarer. You may see a combined collection of old games from the Mega Drive generation on a special release for modern consoles, or some classics on a virtual library, but for the most part the only way to play these old classics are via the original hardware or illegally sourced ROMs. Because of misplacement and neglect of these original games over time some become so rare to find that they go for hefty prices online. If you see a battered old VHS or DVD of a classic film, the need to buy it isn’t prevalent, because usually the HD remastered cut is available to buy in the retailers next door , sometimes for the umpteenth time.
I know there are occurrences that of rare records, VHS tapes and even DVD’s that don’t get modern day releases as well, based on legal issues with copyright, offensive modern standards and lack of interest, so much so that there are collectors out there of those items too. However, the ratio between those formats and video games is definitely not one of equal standing. Games are very much within that standard of rarity due to past over saturation, the loss of copyright (with games known as “abandonware”), incompatibilities with modern hardware architecture and operating systems, the changing of hands of development studios as well as the reception of games that are decades old with more modern gamers. So it is imperative that we are careful with their preservation.
I cannot tell you how angry I personally get when I purchase or identify a second hand video game from the pre-owned section of a shop and the condition of the item is baffling. The case could be ripped so the paper cover insert isn’t held in place, there could be stains from which you hope is food. The discs could have fingerprints, smudges, huge scratches and cracks around the “emergency eject hole”.
The question I always ask is “how can you make something look this bad?” Some items are almost abused in their pained looks.
Ashtrays and tea coasters
Now I know some games aren’t going to have that long standing high regard in time. Yearly sporting releases from a decade ago are commonplace in charity shops, and yet despite their seeming overly mass produced presence, eventually they’ll become less and less frequent in their availability. These titles may just get chucked out due to lack of interest, lost in storage or even treated as something other than it’s intended.
“You got a drinks coaster for this cup of tea?”
“Erm, I have a copy of FIFA 09, use that”.
Eventually there will become a rarity index to even the unlikeliest of items, like sports games and even games of horrendous quality, which has already happened depending on the amount of copies produced. Having said that, some of the rarest games already are sports games. Stadium Events for NES is a prime example, valued at circa. $25,000 USD brand new. But this was because of an incredibly low mintage, something that many title of the modern age do not have.
But that’s part and course for the reason to look after your games, even one of momentary insignificance could suddenly skyrocket in price and you would be sitting on a goldmine with a huge interest to collectors.
One feature that modern games has over it’s retro counterparts are the collector’s editions. Although you can go back to the early 90’s with the special edition of Myst being the first instance of a game in that regard. Most big budget AAA titles nowadays have some semblance of an alternative edition of the game’s normal release. That could involve it having a Steelbook case, a statue or figurine of the lead character, an art book or some DLC codes for extra in-game content. These editions aren’t mass produced as much (usually) and in some cases once they’re sold out they suddenly shoot up in value and sell for the most ridiculous of prices on the secondary markets.
But once again, keeping these editions complete and in good condition can only raise their worth. So when you see collector’s editions being sold online with missing pieces from the overall package, or that there has been some damage, it begins to devalue that rare item.
Dust in the wind
Perhaps it’s the obsessive compulsive element in my personal being that thinks too hard in keeping one’s collection in as best a condition as I possibly can. Maybe I shouldn’t be too concerned with the quality of the gaming history that I have accumulated over the many years. And perhaps I should enjoy them for their purpose instead of their aesthetic appearances on a shelf. However, I personally get pleasure out of just sitting and admiring my collection like it’s an art installation. Because to me my collection of games is art and art needs to be preserved for future generations to admire. I know that things don’t last forever, the laws of entropy dictate as such. But that is also why we need to appreciate what we have now, because eventually just like ourselves, our games will end up being the proverbial dust in the wind.
Nostalgia junkie, retro reminiscer and always immersing himself in his own perception of reality. Mike Leigh is a proud author, journalist and content creator for Fing’rs & Thu’ums.