Part I – An Intro
Hello! I would like to welcome you to the world of Retro Game Collecting. That is why you clicked, right? Either way let’s us have a talk, dear reader, and you might find something that catches your fancy.
Retro Game Collecting (referred to as RGC farther in) is a hobby that is only growing in popularity these past few years thanks to Youtubers like The Angry Video Game Nerd, Game Grumps, The Game Chasers, and in other spots like Twitch Streamers with a retro focus. And as the AAA industry seeks to shove everyone into multiplayer shovelware that is less game and more a method to pry hard earned dollars from the safety of your wallet, more people are turning to retro games as an outlet to keep playing games, while also getting something different — even if it’s older.
I’ve been a part of the hobby, and it’s absolutely a hobby, for about four years now. I started off with the total of all the games I collected over the years just playing normally and never selling anything, minus what was lost or stolen from a variety of moving days. Starting off, I had roughly 126 games across 9 systems (SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, N64, Plastations 1 through 3, Dreamcast, and Game Boy), and it had been an item on my bucket list to collect games since I was in middle school. Which is kind of messed up, if you think about it.
Since then I have added new consoles, and now I have almost 800 games (crossing that line any day now, fingers crossed). I know what it’s like to go into a brick and mortar shop not knowing what you’ll find, and the giddy feeling when you find treasure. It’s a hell of a drug.
That said, I have been around the block a bit when it comes to collecting games, and while there are people who have done this longer than I have, they aren’t here. Are they? I’d like to offer you my tips, suggestions, and serious considerations to take to heart before you dive into the world of RGC. It’s my hope that this series will give you what you need to make smart and informed choices. The stuff that I totally wish I had when I started.
For the purposes of this series, I’m going to assume that you’re new to collecting. Hey, I know it’s not nice to assume, but work with me here. I’m also going to assume that you haven’t started yet. Maybe all you have is your current and last gen consoles. That’s fine, we all start somewhere! Before you begin collecting for any one console, or begin collecting in general, I have a few questions I need you to ask yourself. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. These will help give you a frame of mind for your approach to collecting, so you won’t dump money into dumb shit you don’t even want just for the sake of collecting.
Let’s also assume for sake of argument you have decided to begin collecting for the Super Nintendo. The SNES Mini just came out after all, so it’s fresh in your mind, reminding you of your childhood. The first couple of questions to ask oneself is:
Why do you want to collect games? And why do you want to collect for this machine?
You only need to answer the first one once, and the second one is more or less a starting point of any console you’re considering collecting for. As I mentioned before, I started because it’s been something I’ve always wanted to do. There were a lot of great games that came out when I was a kid that I never got to play, either due to a lack of funds or because the game simply wasn’t made available in my area of North America (it’s more common than you think). This is my chance to play games I’ve only read about, or find gems I never heard of. To experience all those great stories that so many people worked hard on, and because making the ship fly across the screen and blow things up is just plain fun.
But why are you collecting games?
As I mentioned up above, some people are tired of the crap from the current industry leaders, and they want to reach back to the offerings of a different era, when big game studios literally littered the country. When you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting an acclaimed studio. Before EA bought the studio and closed down the rock.
Some people just want to go back and play the games they remember as a kid that they don’t have anymore, so sometimes it’s as simple as nostalgia. Some people want fresh material to stream on Twitch to hopefully score some tips for the tip jar. I won’t judge, that’s a tough gig after all and I’m not doing it. Knowing why you are doing this from the beginning will help set you into a frame of mind that should keep you from blowing cash on anything retro you see lying around; keeping you focused and your dollars conserved until needed. Let’s say you just want to play the old games you used to have, eight really good ones. And if they are fairly common, then great.
Now, as you are selecting the console that you will be investing money into for the next forever, ask yourself this next question.
Why do I want to collect for this machine?
Always ask this before picking up a new console to start collecting for. Using our example from before, this is the game system you had as a kid, with those eight games you really liked. Good ol’ SNES. And you never would have thought about it if not for the SNES mini. You are collecting to get those eight games you liked, they’re common and you find them fairly quickly and cheaply. So are you done then?
Really quick, I’d like to remind you that the SNES had over 700 games give or take, plus or minus some European only releases. If there are eight games you know you like out of 700… well really bad and sloppy math says that there may be as many as 100 games in that library that are just as good that you might like just as much, or even more. Gems that your parents didn’t even think to get you because you were a dumb kid, and a SNES was cheaper than a babysitter in the long run.
What 721 SNES games look like. (Via Ebay/kaisetsuna)
My next riddle to ask yourselves, dear reader, is such:
What do you want to collect?
When you start collecting for a console, you to have a goal. Something attainable, something you honestly believe you can do. You want to find the games that you know you would like, you don’t want to waste money buying games you would probably hate, like We’re Back! A Dinosaur Story (fun movie, shit game, I regret buying it very much). Keeping this frame of mind, you want to have a focus only on the titles you know you want now, or at least know you want and can reasonably get without much issue. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the rest of the catalog later. But let’s say that, thanks to a few Youtube countdown lists, and the latest batch of Let’s Plays you watch, you found 25 games that you really want for the SNES because they look like your cup of tea. And all you had to do was stay focused, and do a bit of research that some folks on Youtube were kind enough to do in advance (thanks guys). Now that we have our goal, we know what games we want to look for and try to add to our new spiffy collection. So what are you waiting for sport? Go get ’em Tiger!
But while I have you here, I have another important question for you. This is for the long-term future.
How far do you want to take your collection?
You’ve decided you wanted to look for more games like the ones you liked, or at least look for legendary gems that are definitely within your wheelhouse. But how far are you willing to go? Working with our original guestimate of there being 100 games that might be something you like, and we’ll assume 30 are good, 30 are great, 10 are just ok, and 30 are kind of shit. So are you going to collect just the great ones? The great and good ones? Or are you gonna say fuck it, and collect all 100 and see why people hated those other ones for yourself?
Even if we back up a little and don’t work within that framework, and you are simply looking for games from the entire library of 700 plus… Are you going to collect them all, knowing that some of them are things you would have never even played as a child, let alone an as an adult? Will you spend money to make sure you get that copy of Barbie: Vacation Adventure to sit next to your copy of Bebe’s Kids on the shelf, all while tracking down a copy of Super Caesars Palace despite being able to get casino-like games much more cheap or even for free on mobile?
Naturally you will have your collectors who are pushing for a complete collection, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re going to start collecting to complete the collection, it’s important to have this decided for certain and to approach your collecting adventures as such.
Personally, I don’t care for sports games. As such, I’m not about to bend over backwards to track down all the sports games for one of the consoles I’m collecting for. Except for NBA Jam, that game is cool, but that is a digression.
There are two consoles I am collecting to completion for currently, Sega CD and Dreamcast. This means I have many sports games, and games I never would have bought even when the hardware was new. Titles like San Diego Zoo, Wheel of Fortune, and Sega Kids Club for Sega CD are among many. But I’m not about to spend money on games I know for a fact I’m never going to play, such as any of the Playstation Madden games, RBI Baseball, or Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball for SNES. But that also means that the money I might have otherwise spent on them I can invest elsewhere. For the cost of every sports game on SNES, NES, and Playstation, I can get a copy of Snatcher for Sega CD still in the case. And that brings us to our next question.
How in depth do you plan to go for your collection?
Now I know this seems like a repeat of the last question, and it is a variation of it, but I need you to hear me out as it’s important to keep these separate. Most games come in a retail box with a booklet, and having all three (game, box/case, and book) is called “Complete In Box” or CIB.
Back to your figurative SNES collection. You are collecting that 100 games we guessed are up your alley. Are you happy just having the game? Or do you want the game and the book? Will you insist on CIB for all of them? For only some of them? Then which ones?
A game sold CIB is much more expensive than buying the game loose, obviously, but you can usually assemble a CIB form with individual pieces rather cheaply. But it can take longer. What do you want to do? Suppose this game has two editions with different labels, and the versions are slightly different. Such as on the NES with Mike Tyson’s Punch-out!! and Punch-out!! featuring Mr. Dream; they are technically the same game but the labels are different and the game sprites are slightly different. Which one do you want? Would you get both?
Another layer: Do you want the game sealed in the original wrapper? Sealed games are in themselves their own hobby with their own market and their own rules, but it is most certainly a path you can go. Do you want all the games you have sealed? Do you want certain games sealed?
Then there are reproductions to think about. As time has moved forward, it is now possible to buy hacked versions of games for these consoles on reproductions carts. Do you care if the copy you buy is a legit copy? Does it matter to you as long as you get to play the game and there is nothing wrong with it or different about it? Or do you just have to get that real version or it doesn’t count? For that matter, what about your console? Do you have to have an original SNES? Are you ok with just having a SNES Jr.? Do you need both? Or are you ok with a Retron console that will play it just as good as the original? Remember, each decision you make in this regard means money. Money spent or money saved. And collecting all comes down to money.
I’m personally a bit eccentric in that I insist on playing the games on the hardware they were built for, but I take it a step further. Not only do I play on old consoles, but I also play using CRT televisions simply because these are the TVs these games were built to be displayed on, and typically older games look best on these televisions. There are exceptions, of course, thanks to modern hardware. RetroUSB sells the Nintendo AVS, which is an HD NES with HDMI out and actually beefs up the sprites and makes them look fantastic on HD televisions. Otherwise I can’t play old games on new TVs.
But you don’t have to take it as far as I do… or you can take it father. It is up to you, I just want you to think about it, and maybe look into it a bit before you commit serious money to RGC. I have committed hundreds of dollars in finding and storing old TVs when they aren’t in use, and even more tracking games that are in a condition I prefer.
I insist on having legit copies of my games, so I don’t accept reproductions except in cases where the game was never released in North America and the repro is translated and formatted to run on NA consoles. I only buy sealed CD games, and only if the game costs as much or less than it did brand new, and I typically open them to play them. My thought process is that this copy has no mileage on it which means it will certainly last longer. The only time I don’t open my sealed games is if I somehow wind up with a second copy before I can open it. It can happen.
Of course can do as you want with your collection. It’s your money and you’re free to piss it away however you see fit, like me.
Holy shit, this was longer than expected. But we’ve certainly learned a lot today, haven’t we? You learned a little about me, and hopefully learned a little about yourself. I’ll have some more to share with you about this hobby next time around. It’s my hope to turn this into a three-part series to share with you everything I really wish I knew when I started collecting. Things I wish I knew early on after starting, and some things that are helpful to think about in general. I’d also like to dispel some misconceptions that some might have developed thanks to articles from other publications.
Until next time!
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