Here’s the truth: I’ve only recently had the opportunity to start collecting more seriously. During my younger years, I spent a whole lot of time sleeping on floors and cleaning toilets, so disposable income was pretty hard to come by. It wasn’t until 2013, at age 28, that I got a used PSP and started playing video games again. Everything since then has been a bit of a whirlwind: I’ve developed my own games and published them, I’ve worked on localization of Playstation-released games, and my collecting habits changed, too. While I focused mainly on just playing games at first (which meant cheap digital sales and loose carts/disks), I’m now focused on complete in box releases of games that are significant to me. This is a small tale of how my collecting habits have changed, and how it’s been affected by the PSP and the Vita.
THE EARLY YEARS – CHEAP AND CHEERFUL
If we start in 2013, the picture is as follows: a used PSP 2000 (hacked), that I used mainly to play ROMs. Particularly, I played through Pokemon Emerald. This was significant in a number of ways: first off, it was my first experience with Pokemon, a franchise that would become one of my all-time favorites. It was also my first taste of “cheap and cheerful and illegal* gaming. I had this cousin of mine that visited sites like this to gather extra income and pay for stuff like PS3, PS4, 3D TVs and all kinds of goodies. I, on the other hand, with limited income still, didn’t mind playing ROMs. Didn’t mind not owning what I was playing, not supporting the makers of the games, not respecting the legacy of these games. I thought my cousin was nuts, spending good money on games while I was playing these ROMs for free.
It was only years later that I realized that he was doing much more for the gaming community than me, by supporting developers and publishers directly. I don’t want to get into the whole “ROMs are good/ROMs are bad” discussion, but I can tell you guys with 100% honesty that I’m very, very happy to say that I no longer play games I haven’t legally purchased. That’s my choice, and it’s a choice that makes me happy.
THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION – VITA
In 2015 I joined Vita Player, after leaving another publication dedicated to the Vita that was actually just a cover for people to run giveaway scams (that was not fun, but it’s a conversation for another time). With this new position came the blessing of review codes. We had a lot of review codes for Vita games coming in those first couple of years after I joined, and I had PS+, which meant some really juicy discounts on digital copies of excellent games. I played through a lot of my Vita catalog digitally, having acquired it either by reviewing the game for the publication, or by buying them cheap during digital sales. I still couldn’t afford a physical collection, and my cousin was still raking in the fruits of his experimental labours, from crypto trading, to stock trading, to all kinds of business (even buying and selling used cars, computers, lawnmowers… the guy knows how to make a buck).
It was a this time, through my direct and indirect interaction with publishers and developers, particularly indie developers, that my attitude towards games collecting changed. I stopped playing games I didn’t legally purchased, and I started focusing on supporting smaller teams whose work really spoke to me on a personal level. There were a couple of titles in particular that really made me focus on trying to own these items because they held an importance in what I considered to be good about video games. This attitude change would inform the next era of my collecting habit in the most impactful of ways.
GETTING PHYSICAL – GB, GBA, DS, PSP and more
In 2017 my now-wife and I started building our own home. It was then that I, perhaps at first subconsciously, decided that it was time to migrate the way I collected and the things I collected. By 2018 we were fully moved in, and I had a small collection of physical games I’d accumulated through the years. I decided to take stock of what mattered to me, and I realized that the over 300 digital Vita titles I owned mattered to me less than the three physical Vita games I had in my possession. This was a critical moment, and it shifted my life as a collector forever.
Since 2018, I’ve been focusing mainly on physical releases, with an emphasis on retro handhelds. I’ve been collecting Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, PSP and DS games, for the most part, though I’ve been eyeing the Neo Geo Pocket Color for a while. Prices are much higher than for digital releases on, say, the Nintendo Switch (a console that I own, love and play with every week). But getting a piece of history is, to me, so important. I’ve just purchased complete-in-box copies of Pokemon Black and Black 2. These were games that I wasn’t able to afford when they came out. I’ll now own a tiny part of this franchise that I adore, and I’ll play through them fondly. I’ll read each piece of dialog with earnest. That’s something that we lose when we acquire a digital game for cheap: we lose a sense of perspective, a sense of the grandiose effort, the mammoth undertaking that making these games is. I don’t want to shy away from that anymore. I want to celebrate it.
There are a couple of things that I’m really, really happy to own. Now, mind you, I don’t feel like owning any physical item should be the determining factor for one’s happiness. But these are items that I am glad to be the custodian of, for the time being:
THE FLAME IN THE FLOOD (Nintendo Switch): this is a Super Rare Games release, so it was limited. I wasn’t able to get it on release so I had to eBay it up months later. This is my favorite game of all time, so it really is important to me to be able to make sure at least this copy of the game is safe, for as long as I’m alive.
THE SWINDLE (Playstation Vita), signed by developer Dan Marshall: this is a Limited Run Games release, so another limited edition. I played this game for review while in hospital, recovering from a stomach infection. The game really helped me cope with the recovery process. The copy of the game was given to me by the developer.
SIR EATSALOT CE (Playstation Vita), signed by the developers: I actually worked on the Spanish localization of this game, so the fact that I own a signed copy of the final thing means a lot to me. The developers were kind enough to send me a signed copy of the Collector’s Edition release.
RAINBOW SKIES CE (Playstation Vita): this is another game I worked on the localization for, particularly the Latin American localization. Eastasiasoft was kind enough to send me a copy of the Collector’s edition of the game, along with copies of RAINBOW MOON (the predecessor to SKIES), and REVERIE.
As you can see, there are things that go beyond “things”. Objects that hold memories, hold special meaning for me. And that’s what I want to focus on moving forward. I’m no longer interested in accumulating endless amounts of digital 1s and 0s. I want to own these small slices of memories, and hopefully, preserve them for other people to enjoy long after I’m gone.
What’s been your collecting journey? Do share in the comments below! And thank you for reading.