Hey Harvey!

Posted on Mar 14th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under Collecting



"Collections collect collectors.  It doesn't work the other way around.  A certain object misses its own kind and communicates that
to some person who surrounds it with rhyming items; these become at first a quorum, then a selective, addictive madness."

-Allan Gurganus

iPhones are less than a dozen years old.  A type of device that is now ubiquitous to modern civilization is so young that the speed of its transformative power marks a definitive "before and after."  Indeed, now it is impossible to imagine a world without smartphones, yet those of us old enough to remember a world before them have watched how quickly and completely they entrenched upon daily life.

Similarly, folks who grew up on Atari and the NES often now have PS4s and Switches, and video games are so culturally embedded that it is a challenge to find someone who doesn't spend some of their time playing a form of one.  Culture critics and historians are in a race to reflect upon transitions that happen so fast, they are hardly known (and certainly not fully understood) before the next one stacks on top of it.



Where video game culture and entertainment is headed is not unknown nor unchartable; many in the industry make their living by charting such courses for the "long game," and we are playing the legacy laid down by industry leaders from decades ago.  Online play, microtransactions, customization, open world design, online patches, and countless other features of modern gaming have not developed in a vacuum, but are a continuation of industry leaders molding the contours of our entertainment from years past.  Naturally, the current moment reaching into the future is being guard-railed and guided into specific paths that move away from our old paradigms.  Thirty years ago few could have imagined, much less predicted, where video games would be now.  Perhaps that is even more true for the next thirty years into the future.

Yet we know the trends, the flow of developments, and the arrows of direction.  There are always surprising up-ends, and that is part of the fun and surprise.  But it is safe to say overall, despite a few outlying exceptions, that huge and growing physical media collections are the exception rather than the norm and will continue to be so.  Those of us who like to amass actual discs, carts, chips, and other forms of hard data are statistically being steadily outnumbered by consumers who prefer their media without the inconvenience, cost, and space required to use physical media in lieu of just downloading or streaming. 

I've admittedly brought that up often, but I begin with the legacy aspect to bring up another angle.  An angle of particular interest to me, and one I think rarely discussed, is what those of us who do amass such collections actually intend for it after our time with them.  I anecdotally have found that most of us fellow video game collectors don't have much of a plan past "how do I stuff another Atari cart/PlayStation disc/vinyl game soundtrack in this space?" or "how many more titles can I move in here before my significant other calls a hoarders hotline?"

Many of us collectors assume we will eventually sell it off, or piece it out to friends and family, or donate to an event or charity, or really just haven't thought about it at all.  Some cull down to specifics, or just move from one collect-a-thon system and sell/trade it to afford the next.  And there are those that have already begun transforming their physical stuff into the digital versions and getting rid of the old hardcopies, a transition I have witnessed from a handful of old collecting buddies.  Yet what I haven't often observed is a collector who more or less has a plan from their first intention to collect, and a follow-through of that plan over the decades.  I mean, of course plans and fiscal realities change. That being said, I honestly can't think of a fellow collector I know well who developed an intent for their media collection and then kept it with refinements where necessary.  Most of us just sort of find a way to get what we like, and if we don't have natural and typical restrictions to continue, and we have no reason or desire strong enough to reverse the habit, we build a collection. 

So what happens if and when our collection outlives us?  Will it simply be an undue burden upon family who still think Nintendo makes every game system and PlayStations have paddles?  Will your Little Samson, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and English Vita Ar Nosurge LE end up in a yardsale with old furniture and keepsakes that no one understands?  Is a quick donation to a random video game museum in your will?  Are you shuddering at the realization that one day, a few hundred of your games will end up in a GameStop, and the dumpster behind it will be overflowing with a chunk of your worldly possessions and boxed Atari Lynx?

After owning few hundred physical games, it began to bug me to think that this stuff may one day be a burden to someone instead of the blessing it has been to me.  I began planning, searching, looking ahead about what I could do with it, how to assure as best I could that someone else would be able to enjoy it after me.  Marrying a fellow gamer who enjoyed collecting was my Holy Grail, and once we had kids the question naturally worked around if they would have any desire or interest in what we could pass down. 

My Beloved and I are extremely fortunate in that not only do our older kids enjoy both retro and modern games, but they are thus far intent on continuing our legacy of sharing it with friends and family.  I've written much over the years about how video games are a common thread that opens our home and sees all sorts of folks visit and enjoy, from uproarious multiplayer to quiet moments that help quell stress.  Who knows if our children will continue what we do with the game collection in thirty years?  As of now, that is their intention, and the beauty of that knowledge is that we can plan for it together in the now.  I find myself picking up as many or more games for our kids and their friends as I do for myself.  Our collection has grown into a hall of memories, and after we are gone it would not surprise me if the kiddos make a little Dreamcast memorial for their mother or perhaps an old CRT with my (probably broken) Turbo Duo atop, sitting in a corner surrounded by whatever VR/AR/braintap device they play on by then. 

Of course, maybe we'll all need kidneys before then and this stuff will just have to be sold for other life needs.  Maybe our kids will grow into other competing desires, or live in a space that just makes having this stuff impossible.  Who knows?  I wouldn't hold it against them.  The point is that we have a plan, an intention, and a future for what we are currently cultivating. 

The video game collection is far from the most important legacy we would like to leave behind, but it is a fun one.  And ever since we started planning on what to do with it, collecting has become more broad and at the same time more personal.  We talk more as a family about the kind of things we would like to look for, we plan ahead, and we work together to shape our collection into something we can enjoy more together.  I find myself learning more about games and entire genres I hadn't spent time in that my kids enjoy, and vice versa.  Collecting together with my wife has been at least as much fun as playing games together, and now that has extended to a new audience with different interests and perspectives.

If the stuff we own end up owning us, then it follows that we should think about not just what we own, but how we own it.  I don't think any of us want our media collections to end up as someone else's problem, or destroyed or forgotten, and I also don't think my family's methods are a template for very many folks.  We are each as different as our respective collections, and the purpose those collections serve can reflect not just the moment but also where we intend to go.  As the famous poet and scholar Yogi Berra said, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else."

One of the most important things I have learned over the last few decades of collecting is that looking forward to the future is as important as enjoying the moment, and one enriches the other.  What is the future of your collection?

Smiley



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Comments
 
Man, as usual, a very thoughtful article.  When it appeared I was going to have children through some means (adoption or foster care, most likely), my plan WAS to pass that on to my kids, as I would naturally have tried to cultivate a love for the hobby in them so we would have that commonality.  Now that it appears I will no longer have that opportunity, my current plan is to pass them on to my nephews and/or my niece.  By the time I'm ready for that, assuming I have any choice in the matter, I hope to have everything cataloged and have at least some sense of scale for them as to the then-current value of the items, so they'll be aware of what's there, and how much it's worth.  2 of my nephews are gamers, and I know for sure that the oldest would be respectful of the legacy I've built, simply because of his age and maturity level at this point.  With some of the optical media-based systems already beginning to die off, a number of the games may not be as useful by the time I pass this stuff on, so some of it I may donate to whatever organizations can either utilize or appreciate them.
 
I would have preferred a tombstone from Oregon Trail as the leading pic but a great article! I've been seeing more and more people keep their original hardware but sell their games and switch over to flash carts.
 
I've thought about this a bit. While my initial thought is simply to have it sold off, as my kids wouldn't be interested, but we have the largest Children's Museum in the country in Indianapolis, and perhaps they would be interested in the collection. Hopefully, there is time to iron all of this out before the time comes, but that's my thought at the moment.
 
@Duke.Togo: That's an awesome thought! Hopefully, they'd be interested (or a similar organization) in preservation of the medium, given its cultural significance over the last 50 years.
 
I rarely post here, mostly a lurker, but I must say this is a very thought-provoking piece. As I enter a transitional period of my life as I finish up college and I plan my life, I must admit I never really have given this much thought. Soon I will be moving back home for the inevitable job search and GRE cramming, but I am not sure how I will even fit the games and DVD's I accumulated over the last few years in my college apartment in my already full room back home. I really am not the type to collect games for the monetary value per se, I appreciate them more as artifacts and remnants of past culture and for the value they have as an artisitic experience. And though, at my age, the end of my life seems a distant event, I hope that my collection could be passed down to someone who truly loves and appreciates it in the way I do. I hope I can someday instill a love for this dead/obsolete media to my children, but I sometimes wonder if it will mean anything to them beyond Dad's weird obsession. Even if it does, will it inevitably become a Grandmother's china situation where each successive generation loses sight of its hereditary value, and eventually it is thrown out or given away? I think slackur is right to theorize that we cannot imagine what the market for games will be like in 30 years. Perhaps they will fade away into obscurity or perhaps they will explode in value. Regardless, all I can do is live day-to-day and try to share the collection with those around me to try and make others aware of our collective heritage. After all, my friends in high school coming over and playing these old games made at least one a collector in his own right, which gives me hope for the future of the hobby.
 
Thanks for the sharing and feedback.

Here's to hoping we all get a chance to share the fun and worthwhile culture in video games with someone younger. Smiley


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