Hey Harvey!

Posted on Jun 17th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under collecting, nostalgia, retro gaming, physical media, Pengo, what I would give for the 8 player Pengo Arcade cab

This is in its own way a companion piece to the reflections in Zophar53's recent article, What is Nostalgia in 2018?  I wanted to respond and take the conversation in a personal direction but I realized I needed the room to let my thoughts breath, so here we are.

Many of our collections, video games and otherwise, are initially based off some form of nostalgia.  Mine is no exception.  As I've referred to in past write-ups, it started with a simple childhood dream to own every video game so that anyone at our home could play any video game whenever they wanted (myself included!)  Many years and a family of my own later, that has transformed into the desire to use the medium of video games integrated in our lives as ways to connect socially, unwind mentally, and develop conversations culturally.  I am very pleased to say it has been generally successful.  That said, of course there are games and systems I have a special fondness for due to my earlier time spent with them.  Over time my greater connection has come from games I played with friends that I now keep in memory after their passing, and I imagine that to continue.  I also have no doubt our children are building their own nostalgia from specific titles our family enjoys together.

While I disagree that games (and other media) will effectively be stored online forever, I know the average consumer is fine with the bulk of what is available.  Sure, we will lose some greats in our lifetime (Panzer Dragoon Saga, Scott Pilgrim, P.T., Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, After Burner Climax, Marble Blast Ultra, etc.) but a big chunk of media will be around for us to enjoy and share. 

Gone but not forgotten.  Until my hard drive dies again.  (*Resists urge to post PDS as a mic-drop for games not preserved*)

Since most of it is available without the need for physical media, and indeed the current generation gamer often prefers the convenience of digital-only, where is the place for large physical media collections in the modern era?  What impact will the service-model driven future of consumer media have on collectors?  I agree with the assertion that there will always be some physical media hold-out, but I also believe Ubi-boss Yves Guillemot that there will likely only be one more console generation's worth of physical media before stream-based services are the standard.  Indeed, such systems are what MS, Sony, Activision, UbiSoft, and many others have already stated as the end-goal.  Even working in a rural country game store, I see the surprising adoption of digital-only and streaming service preferences.

But all of this ties into something magical that happens on a Friday night at our house.  It happens when friends peruse shelves of games and take one out to look at the box art.  Sometimes it even happens when someone has only played a digital copy, but then they see the disc version and remark about how much they enjoyed playing the game.  Even if we don't play it, there is a spark of conversation, the roll of eyes at disappointment, the jump of excitement to see a forgotten gem.  Spontaneous co-op, a sudden challenge, or just a quick load screen and intro to dust off a forgotten memory.  There is something different about holding a game in your hands instead of scrolling through an onscreen list. 

In my own experience, nostalgia isn't tied to a physical thing, or a smell, or a few notes of music.  It is all about the memory any of these may trigger.  That's why nostalgia is different for everyone; sometimes the owning of a specific thing, or even their own copy of that thing, or the tactile feel of opening a plastic box, or the clickity response to a specific controller.  Nostalgia is tied to memory, and memory is tied to our senses, and each of us have different anchors, preferences, and reference points for our senses.  Binge-watching a show won't necessarily prevent nostalgia from forming over it, if the memory tied to it involved watching with a favorite uncle or during a bad breakup.  In the same way, having to stretch seasons out across multiple weeks inflect a different anchor for our memory, with other events likely tied around it.

Though faulty, we are memory machines.  What is a personality without the history that formed it?  I would not be surprised that large media collections will continue to serve as a sort of cultural connection.  There is a fundamental difference to the experience of walking through a library, picking up a book, and sitting down to read it versus flipping through a selection on a tablet and downloading text.  I'm not saying one is superior, just that they are different.  If you are traveling across country, many modes of transportation will get you there; cars, planes, motorcycles, walking.  Each will give you a different experience, even if the goal is reached eventually with any of them.  The experience, and then the memory, is the obvious difference.

So it is with media.  We can consume the same content, but our vehicles will differ, and that will alter our respective experience.  It is easy to dismiss the how right now, but years later the memory that formed and the potential nostalgia that ingrained into our person will be cemented in the details.  Before the modern invention of the car, imagine how ludicrous the idea of walking for fun would be to people who had to do it daily.  (Thanks, Back to the Future III!)  Folks like me are already ostracized to some degree because of the preference of physical media.  And sure, I admit I (like most) often prefer to do things the way we grew up doing them, even if a more modern way goes against it.

But old ways aren't necessarily wrong ways.  Physical libraries still have a worthwhile place, as do movie theaters, vinyl record players, and other "outdated" media.  These will likely continue to lose market share, but their value is not in popularity nor in catering to a mostly older niche crowd.  What makes something valuable is the worth given it by those who pursue it.  As long as the memories formed and desired around something continue, in the present and the future, that something will continue to have worth.

Our video game collection is not just older gamers spending money to hold on to the stuff.  It is shelves full of great memories past, present, and future.  Our legacy is not found in rows of discs and carts, but in the fun we've shared and stories we enjoyed.  If you find that in any media, it is easy to judge its worth.

Many would tell me I could just ditch this stuff, download most of it, and save time, money, and space.  That is partially true.  But let me tell you a flow of events around a recent game.  At a retro gaming convention a few weeks ago, a vendor whom I've become friends with recommended a version of Pengo I had never heard of.  Being a general fan of the series, I was delighted to learn of this Japanese-only four player widescreen version that was region free and would play on any 360.  After taking him up on his recommendation (and later looking it up and realizing he gave me a steal of a price, likely because we have become such good friends) we took it home and loaded it up on a Friday night.  We stayed up very late, passing the controllers around, and everyone had a great time, from fellow hardcore gamers to my young kids.

Not shown; the screaming and laughter from across the screen.  (Image from Segaretro.org)

One could argue that I would have eventually found that title from a long list of downloadable games, and any other number of variables could have led to similar events.  Sure, many things are possible.  But my family and I now have a wonderful memory that stretches from a great convention, to a nice guy who sold it, to a night of hilarious ice-block squishing madness, and a game on our shelf we will revisit.  That, my fellow RFGeners, is why we have all the stuff in our basement; to make memories like that, and to have nostalgia years later when I catch the game on the shelf.  And load it up again.


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Loved the article!
Great article man! Couldn’t have said it any better.u
We really only lost MvC2 on digital stores. The physical game is still out there.
Man, you always go for the heartstrings, and with the deep, philosophical topics. Great article. I feel the same way, in a lot of ways, that it's not just about "the stuff" we collect, but about the memories built around it. I have plenty of games on my shelf I've never played, but I can often recall how I acquired them, and recount the experience of getting a game in a lot, finding it at random at Goodwill, scoring big at the pawn shop, making a great trade with a friend or fellow RF Gen member, or even sniping an eBay auction at the last second to win the day. I have a lot of memories of older games that I played as a kid, many of which were only weekend rentals at friend's houses, but experiences that stuck with me enough to seek out those games again as an adult. Some of them are great family experiences as well. It's these memories that really thread all of it together, and the physicality of the items lends itself more specifically to this kind of memory building, as with your example above.

Also, 4-player Pengo sounds absolutely insane, but in a good way Grin
Great great article my friend.
This was a really good read, thanks!

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