The Bits of Yesterday is a panoptic documentary that boasts a look into the niche video game collecting culture which is deemed an “underground” movement. The documentary showcases opinions and collections from more than 30 collectors, shop owners and more.
This review contains spoilers
I am a collector of video games. I didn’t realise I was until around twelve years ago when I realised I still had every system and game I had ever owned. Seeing this documentary from 2018 pop up on Netflix peaked my interest.
The show started with some interesting voice overs, with one person in particular stating how books could not offer them what games offered them as a child. Then an amazing quote appeared on-screen “this film is dedicated to the generation that will never understand the magnitude or gratification of something as simple as Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, START…and this also goes out to the generation that does.”
First of all – this statement was amazing, but secondly I do believe it is backwards. Surely the documentary should primarily be aimed towards those people who understand the Konami Code and what it now stands for as well as those who don’t. It then seemed apparent that perhaps this documentary was not aimed at people within the niche collecting circle as I had originally intended.
Who and why?
The program contains appearances from the likes of Joe Witter, Joe Redifer, Ryan Darr and uncredited appearances such as Wood Hawker – known for his BeatEmUps channel. Each of these people have been collecting for different periods of time, from two years to multiple decades. Tony Fresolo states how he has collected for six years because growing up he had a mum who was very anti-video game.
Each individual states why they collect and the reasons are all very similar – nostalgic reasoning, to experience what they did when they were a child, or because they were not able to experience certain games when they were young due to, well…being a child.
I for one can relate to both of these points – nostalgia is definitely a key for most of my collection and it really emphasises some of the older titles for me. And growing up I could not afford much, neither could my mother so the ability to play old games for the first time in my later years is amazing. One phrase on The Bits of Yesterday is that it is a way to “escape adult life”.
Some tangents for you
The documentary soon branches off into tangents of video game rentals, and obscure Video Game Junkies advertisements. There is also a section from Carolyn Rodriguez – from Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences which I truly believed would be a statement on how collecting is actually hoarding. In fact it was just a small snippet of Carolyn stating how she is impressed with collectors determinations with their hobbies – probably paraphrasing what she actually said. Some of the dialogue and sectioning seems a little disjointed in this respect.
The Bits of Yesterday soon took a darker turn for me as a collector. It begins to talk about the rapid increase in the collecting circles members. The increase in people and knowledge of such a hobby means that there are large communities that only buy the games to sell at higher prices. it highlights how a lot of people within the collecting community would be classified as vulnerable, “we’re not all bodybuilders,” and how scams and false inflation is making the hobby more and more difficult.
I can relate to this also as long past are the times that you could get old classic titles for less than £5. Some of these titles could easily be nearer £100 now depending on the game. And for the people who are collecting out of nostalgic or legitimate reasons it makes the hobby difficult, frustrating and very expensive. Collecting in the late 1990’s was niche, but now it is looked on as a business venture. Everyone in charity shops and car boot sales now use eBay to price their games and gradually these prices rise out of control.
The impact of Social Media
Social media has assisted with the boom of this collecting culture, and Facebook is often mentioned on the show. However it is very negative. There are comments on how the game collecting community would have been thought to be a pleasant one, but how people therein are cruel and just plain nasty. The boom of social media has had a huge impact on resellers populating the market, but not all of this is bad.
The Bits of Yesterday also talks of how resellers have helped people find games that they would have previously spent year trying to find. And not all resellers are bad, some price fairly and gain a sense of joy when people buy back parts of their childhood from them.
The documentary also shows the world an American gaming convention, with sales stands, music and a booming environment. One thing this element of The Bits of Yesterday proved was how different the gaming collecting circle is in the US to the UK. This convention is staggeringly huge, and I have seen nothing like that within the UK. Whilst the prices do seem a lot fairer there were also people buying cheaper games to sell at triple to price on their stall, so it highlights further contamination of our hobby.
Perspectives are soon discussed in regards to how family members are perceiving a relation that is also a game collector. Some appear negative, and see these people as ‘nerds’ (a title I gladly take), but then most families understand them. Surprisingly there is a lot of family support, with one person saying how they don’t go out drinking so there are worse things he can be doing. Friends are shown to be especially supportive as they see collections of the games that they too grew up playing.
A fantastic community
The Bits of Yesterday looks at the broadness of the community. The question of what each person would do if they were not collecting games comes up and we find a lot out about these peoples’ secondary hobbies. The answers are incredibly broad, showing how video games pulls people from various backgrounds and interests under one roof. Some people go as far to say that they would be in prison or dead, going by their past lives and acquaintances that have ended up with the same fates.
The documentary took me by surprise. As a collector myself, with a limited budget, I initially believed that this documentary was going to be a means of people show-boating their collections. But there was none of this. In fact the documentary drew on so many relevant areas of collecting. Where did we come from? Where are we going to? How does the world deal with a community like this? It draws on issues like the inflation of prices due to people flipping items for more money online, the awareness of the collecting community and how it has grown in the last twenty years.
Above all The Bits of Yesterday shows the spirit of the collecting community, why we collect and the humanity within us all. It might be a few years old, but it still shows relevancy to what is bad and what is fantastic about this amazing hobby that I am proud to be a part of. To all the collectors in the show – thank you for making me feel part of a community, whereby I am quite isolated in my own.
Score – 7.5/10
The Bits of Yesterday can be watched on Amazon Prime Video in the UK here