Why do we collect?

A few weeks ago I started working in a video game store, one that primarily deals with older systems. While we sell PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles and games, most of our customers are interested in our selection of games from generations past; Nintendo 64, NES, SNES, and PlayStation 2. Many times a customer and I or another employee will strike up a conversation about our fond memories of playing these systems when we were kids. Even if we don’t have a copy in stock, just mentioning Final Fantasy on the NES, or a Super Mario World on the SNES brings a huge range of emotions. It’s incredibly similar to talking vintage cars. Just seeing that 1960 Chevy on the road is enough to evoke excitement.

Many times the people buying these games are looking to add more to their collections. I’ve always found collecting video games quite interesting and different than other forms of memorabilia. I’ve never gotten into it myself despite being a video game player for over 20 years having played everything from the Odyssey to the Nintendo 3DS.

Video game collecting unlike sports card or even movie collecting is an entirely different animal. With sports memorabilia you look at it and can reminisce about perhaps seeing that moment live or on TV. But you can’t interact with it. Rather your autographed baseball will sit in a nice case and appreciate value over time. Movies will always be the same. You can watch your favorite film hundreds of times but the hero will always save the day before the credits roll.

Video games though change. The second, third, fourth etc. times you play a game you’re going to have a completely different experience. Sure you’ll visit the same dungeons and engage in most of the same dialog but maybe you’ll encounter an enemy you haven’t before. These days you might be able to play the game as either a good or bad character and drastically affect the gameplay, seeing different cut scenes or even acquire and use new powers.

When I was growing up, I kept all my games. Trading them in either wasn’t an option yet or my parents would have screamed at me for selling a fifty to sixty dollar game for pennies on the dollar. However as I grew older I pretty much bought and finished a game and promptly traded it back in. I’ve never been one to play a games single player experience more than once. Of course there are exceptions but they’re few and far between. I never have more than two or three games at any given time for a system.

I see the value in collecting though as well as the appeal. Ever since I started hearing these firsthand accounts of vast gaming collections rife with the rare and hard to come by, I’ve wanted to start one myself. It’s an expensive habit, believe me, I have to price many games from older systems so I know the debt one can rack up. But as we head into an increasingly digital world when it comes to purchasing games, I’ve never appreciated the value of physical copies more than I do now. Albums no longer have excellent hand written liner notes or come with a bonus sticker or patch inside. Instead we get maybe a hundred megabytes of music that sits on a hard drive. The obvious advantage is that it’s there for whenever we want it and we can play it on a multitude of devices. I certainly can’t listen to my growing collection of vinyl records in my car.

So why is that we collect? Is it to relive the past? Is it not being able to let go? I think it’s because we want to hold on to the good times in our lives. Playing video games is fun. Why not keep those memories at an arm’s length. I have a large movie collection for the same reason. With everything we as people in 2011 have to go through on a daily basis, from simple problems like a traffic jam in the morning to much deeper and personal issues, we should be able to come home to shelves stocked with those cases holding discs that can take us on a journey we never imagined possible.

So collect on my friends. Enjoy your games, movies, and music from your entire life.