Xavier’s Guide On Game Collecting: Part 2 — The Adventure Begins

Image via Wikimedia Commons — NaBUru38

Part II – Which Way Now?

Ah, wel­come back dear read­er! I see that for some un­known rea­son you have re­turned to my of­fice seek­ing the sum to­tal of my boun­ti­ful wis­dom. I’m glad to see you again, sor­ry for for­get­ting our ap­point­ed time, have a seat and tell me your tale. Tell me of your many trav­els and ad­ven­tures af­ter tak­ing on the Retro Game Collector job class. How much EXP have you earned? What spells or skills have you ac­quired? What trea­sures have you dis­cov­ered and what al­lies have you gained in your quest? … Okay, I can see by that mild­ly an­noyed ex­pres­sion on your face that you are prob­a­bly not dig­ging my shtick this time around or have no idea what I’m get­ting at.

Welcome! to! the! World of Retro Game Collecting! … Shit, I al­ready said that last time did­n’t I? Well, it’s more im­por­tant now. To keep this seam­less and easy to un­der­stand, I will be reusing the ex­am­ples from last time. You who have cho­sen to col­lect Retro Games, and take on the Job Class of Retro Collector and have start­ed at Level 1, you de­cid­ed how far you want­ed to go, you de­cid­ed what kinds of games you want, and you set goals for your over­all col­lec­tion. I’m proud of you, I mean it. Sure, you have a SNES Jr., with 3rd-par­ty re­place­ment con­trollers and ca­bles man­u­fac­tured re­cent­ly, but that’s OK. You not only have the 8 games you want­ed from your child­hood, but you have got­ten 2 more games you did­n’t know about as well, and you have a list of things you want to get. I am very proud of you in­deed, dear read­er. But now that you’ve ac­cept­ed the ti­tle SNES col­lec­tor (a sub­class of the Retro Game Collector), I need to teach you how to lev­el up your char­ac­ter and the class pro­gres­sion sys­tem. Come with me, my friend, and I as­sure you we are friends now… come with me into the tall grass.

Via Wikimedia Commons — Ryan Hodnett

For today’s les­son, I will teach you about ran­dom en­coun­ters, equip­ment up­grad­ing, and par­ty for­ma­tion. Before you can go out there and ex­plore the var­i­ous dun­geons and ru­ins of an­cient gam­ing, you will need to know about pur­chas­ing equip­ment and gear. And if this RPG metaphor is al­ready get­ting on your nerves, then buck­le up moth­er­fuck­er, ‘cause this train is rid­ing straight into the ground and through un­til it hits Space China!

Purchase and Acquisition

Using our ex­am­ple from our tu­to­r­i­al (you and your SNES Jr. of child­hood nos­tal­gia), let’s con­tin­ue our sto­ry. You pur­chased 2 new games for your col­lec­tion, keep­ing in line with the goals you set us­ing the frame­work and ap­proach I showed you. But you bought them from Amazon be­cause you have an Amazon cred­it ac­count, and it was sold di­rect­ly by Amazon for some rea­son. There is­n’t any­thing in­her­ent­ly wrong with this ap­proach, but you will like­ly wind up spend­ing a bit more than you would have oth­er­wise liked go­ing this way. SIDE-QUEST: What I rec­om­mend, is to check Google, and look for a Brick-and-Mortar game shop that is with­in an hour of you. You aren’t go­ing every week, and an hour dri­ve time is still pret­ty rea­son­able if you go maybe once or twice a month. You are like­ly to find one with­in this dis­tance un­less you live out in the deep coun­try. My con­do­lences to read­ers of the deep coun­try, but I will help them as well later.

Ideally you will find a “Mom & Pop” store run by the own­er and maybe some of their fam­i­ly or friends; not every own­er is an an­gel, but so far I’ve nev­er met a game store own­er I did­n’t hit it off with. Assuming the own­er and staff are peo­ple you can form a re­spect­ful rap­port with, these will be your new best friends in RGC. Making friends with them, or just hav­ing reg­u­lar and mem­o­rable con­ver­sa­tions with them, will go a long way, as well as be­ing re­spect­ful and cour­te­ous to them and oth­er cus­tomers in their store. By do­ing so, the own­er will be more like­ly to of­fer you bar­gains, deals, or even work with you on the prices of some of their items. It’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween pay­ing $35 and $25, some­times. And that’s just awesome. 

I am friends with the own­er of my lo­cal shop, and thanks to this friend­ship, when he gets new mer­chan­dise in that he knows is up my al­ley, he mes­sages me and asks me if I want him to set some aside. He cuts me deals, and has even gone out of his way to ac­com­mo­date me and my ob­scene­ly busy sched­ule. Naturally, it does­n’t hurt that I drop with­in the range of $200 at his shop every time I come in, but I digress. 

Thanks to this friend­ship and mu­tu­al re­spect, I’ve got­ten first dibs on some pret­ty rare items that would dis­ap­pear re­al­ly quick­ly as soon as they hit the shelf. Technically this is­n’t just be­ing a good friend, it’s also good busi­ness. I don’t have to drop $200 each time I go, it just hap­pens be­cause every time I go I al­ways find “Treasure”. And the feel­ing is like find­ing trea­sure. Checking back at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals will guar­an­tee that you will prob­a­bly find new stuff be­ing put up for sale every time you come in, and some­times you find things you nev­er thought you would see in per­son. Or you find that rare game that no one no­tices at the bot­tom of a dis­play stack. Simply go­ing in with no plan, just to see what you find, and find­ing trea­sure… it does pro­duce a kind of high, and I love it. Be care­ful of this high, as it can lead you to overspending.

Be care­ful chas­ing that drag­on… Unless it’s a Double Dragon.

You will also spend much of your pur­chas­ing time on­line on eBay and even Amazon (no I’m not be­ing sar­cas­tic). eBay and Amazon are good ways to find spe­cif­ic games that may not al­ways come through the doors of the lo­cal game shop. Purchasing games from these sites comes with its own set of chal­lenges of course; you must al­ways check the prod­uct description/condition and al­ways check the feed­back rat­ing of the sell­er. Common sense stuff re­gard­ing on­line pur­chas­es. I should­n’t have to hold your hand on this one, I think you got it. You al­ready got 2 games from Amazon earlier.

You will, how­ev­er, re­al­ly want to find that lo­cal game shop, not just for the deals and the abil­i­ty to grind around the cas­es look­ing for ran­dom en­coun­ters, but be­cause get­ting in good with the peo­ple there will like­ly open you up to a va­ri­ety of goods and ser­vices you will need lat­er on that you might not have had ac­cess to before. 

This is why you want a small­er shop, and not a Chain Store. 

Ah, yes. Before we can move on to the next part, I must in­form you about Chain Stores. There are chain stores out there that deal in Retro video games, among oth­er things. They are typ­i­cal­ly be­hold­en to a larg­er company’s rules, and as such will prob­a­bly not wheel and deal with you. The peo­ple there are prob­a­bly not pas­sion­ate about retro games, it’s prob­a­bly just a job to them. Nothing wrong with that, but that does­n’t help you col­lect all those SNES games you are look­ing for. Chain Stores also tend to price their games high, us­ing eBay to de­ter­mine re­tail price based on the most re­cent High Ball. I can’t con­firm that every chain runs this way, but it damn sure feels like it when they are sell­ing Super Mario World for $45. I mean, come the fuck on.

Now that you know where to get gear and items, let me tell you about the craft­ing and up­grade system.

Repair, Refurbish, Replacement, and more

Many of the most pop­u­lar Retro con­soles are over 20 – 30 years old, and the games at least as old. This cre­ates its own prob­lems with a va­ri­ety of ways to solve them, which can typ­i­cal­ly be tak­en care of with, say it with me now… Friends with­in the Hobby! 

Yes! Your SNES has stopped play­ing your fa­vorite game and you don’t know why? You were al­most at the end, and you only had to clear the last dun­geon. Should you buy a new SNES? Do you need a new cart? That’s go­ing to take a day unto it­self un­less you or­der on­line. Many peo­ple in the Game Collecting Hobby are quite knowl­edge­able of the in­ner work­ings of their con­soles, parts, fre­quent is­sues, etc. By talk­ing to them, they can help you trou­bleshoot to find what the prob­lem is, tell you if it’s fix­able or if you need to straight up re­place the unit, and per­haps even… how to fix it. Some may even be able to fix it for you, if you throw a few bucks their way for parts and service.

Via Youtube — kliffte

Everyone likes to use the phrase, “I got a guy…” when re­fer­ring to some­thing they need done re­quir­ing skills they do not have. Now they can be a girl, or a guy, or some­one in a mag­i­cal Technicolor Dreamcoat or any­where in be­tween, but the point is you are gonna wan­na find some­one who you can go to when things get funky. Yes, some­times you need to get your games re­paired. Of course, don’t let this stop you from learn­ing to do it on your own, but you will sure­ly wind up as someone’s “… Guy” if you do so. Now, most mom & pop shops have some­one they call when they need merch test­ed, re­fur­bished, or re­paired. It’s also like­ly they of­fer a ser­vice where you give them mon­ey as a go be­tween and they hire out to fix your stuff if pos­si­ble. This is why you make friends with the own­ers, as they will cut you deals, work with you to get you back to play­ing, and you may even find that their “Guy” is an em­ploy­ee, and you can ex­change num­bers to work with them more directly.

The lo­cal shop I men­tioned had such a per­son, and he was a cool dude. I paid him to not only re­pair my bro­ken con­soles and con­trollers, but to also ser­vice ones that were get­ting on in age and due for a break­down. I usu­al­ly pay him $5 – 10 for a deep-cleaning and check-up of an­cient con­soles to keep them run­ning. Hell, he even fixed my lap­top as a fa­vor once. Everytime I came in and he was there, he and I would chill for al­most an hour and talk about movies, games, just about every­thing. And nat­u­ral­ly if some games came in he thought I might be in­ter­est­ed in, he was will­ing to deal with me be­fore it went out on the shelf. Both he and the own­er were pret­ty cool. He also un­der­stood the im­por­tance of prop­er disc resur­fac­ing. Disc resur­fac­ing will be some­thing I will write about more in the fu­ture… I have way too much to say about that.

The abil­i­ty to get your con­soles re­paired is im­per­a­tive, but some­times your con­sole can’t be fixed by sim­ply ad­just­ing the pins, or clean­ing it out thor­ough­ly. Sometimes you need to re­place parts, and your re­pair per­son will usu­al­ly know where to get them, and how much they cost. Sometimes they will even or­der them on your be­half as a part of the ser­vice job. I know my “Guy” did, he is great. I pre­fer to only use of­fi­cial parts in any of my sys­tems, which can be hard when they are no longer man­u­fac­tured. That means I of­ten pay ex­tra to get of­fi­cial parts that may be on their last legs them­selves, but that’s me. 

Let’s run a hy­po­thet­i­cal sce­nario here go­ing back to your in­ter­rupt­ed game run… it was your SNES bro­ken, and we should to­tal­ly get it fixed right away. Let me in­tro­duce you to my made up re­pair guy… Evan. Evan took a look and said your pins have gone bad (I’m not sure if this is a prob­lem that oc­curs on the SNES as much, but it sure as shit does on the NES). He tried clean­ing them and re­set­ting them but it just did­n’t work. He of­fers you a choice: he can look for of­fi­cial parts, but that could be hit or miss on cost and con­di­tion; or he can go on­line to a ven­dor who man­u­fac­tures new re­place­ment parts that are usu­al­ly com­pat­i­ble and prob­a­bly at an easier-to-swallow price. What you choose to do is en­tire­ly up to you, imaginary-person-who-is-talking-to-me-in-my-head-for-some-reason. No one will talk shit about you for us­ing new 3rd-par­ty parts in­stead of of­fi­cial parts can­ni­bal­ized from hard­ware that could not be saved. Unless you try to sell it lat­er, but in or­der to avoid any sort of dra­ma, just list what you swapped out and where it came from and you will like­ly be fine. Not every­one is as OCD as me about stuff, and even I would­n’t care if you swapped stuff out be­fore you sold it to me as long as you told me. I only sweat it when I’m the one pick­ing parts.

Now that I’ve shown you around the equip­ment shop and how to main­tain and re­pair your gear, let us move on to your skill tree and mag­ic sys­tem. Hope you did­n’t have plans for the rest of the day, be­cause it’s about to get encyclopedia-length up in here.


Research is im­por­tant to most hob­bies, learn­ing things you need to get by (Oh, hai Mark!), and learn­ing all the things you need to be damn good at it (prob­a­bly not from me). There are many re­sources out there that al­low you to re­search the hard­ware you are col­lect­ing for (the his­tor­i­cal and tech­ni­cal), and many of the games for it as well. The sto­ries for which are in­cred­i­bly fas­ci­nat­ing. I rec­om­mend books like Console Wars by Blake J. Harris, Masters of Doom (sto­ry of Doom and Id) by David Kushner, and Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan. These sto­ries are of­ten as in­ter­est­ing as the games them­selves, and can of­ten point you in the di­rec­tion of games you would­n’t have oth­er­wise thought about. For ex­am­ple, “This dev team did in­cred­i­ble things that every­one rec­og­nizes them for, but they also made this game no­body ever talks about.” Or, “I’ve nev­er heard of that one, let’s give it a go!” types of information.

Other than the in­ter­est­ing tid­bits of lore you will pick up from read­ing such an­cient tomes, you should also seek the wis­dom of the Great Library of the Internet. Look up in­for­ma­tion on games you want, as you may find out things that can help you when try­ing to pur­chase them. For ex­am­ple: did you know Star Tropics is more valu­able if you have the book with it? It ap­par­ent­ly has a let­ter in­side that when you pour wa­ter on it, re­veals a hid­den mes­sage you need to com­plete the game. You can find out what con­sole a par­tic­u­lar game is for, or had been port­ed to, what the cur­rent prices are (and if you are be­ing high-balled or low-balled), or learn about prob­lems that may be as­so­ci­at­ed with a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct. A cer­tain game or piece of hard­ware may have a de­fect that caus­es some­thing to hap­pen, or not hap­pen… there is no fix­ing it, it’s just some­thing you have to deal with. Research could tell you that in ad­vance, so you can make the de­ci­sion on whether it’s worth it or not, in­stead of both­er­ing Evan again to ask if he can fix the thing that the Console Gods can’t fix.

Researching will also help you spot bootlegs, and re­pro­duc­tions be­ing passed off as le­git, among oth­er things. I will talk more about re­pro­duc­tions and bootlegs in Part III.

Now you may be ask­ing your­self, where ex­act­ly can I do this re­search? Are there places I should go? Who do I talk to? Do you know the Muffin Man? Who shot J.R.? Now, brave Adventurer, it’s time for you to go out there and start Looking For a Group. Join a Guild. Form a rag­tag group of ad­ven­tur­ers to share your ad­ven­tures in… ad­ven­tur­ing and stuff. ON TO ADVENTURE!!!

Community and Making Friends

I asked my friend who runs my lo­cal shop what he felt was im­por­tant to know when get­ting into this hob­by. He said Networking and Friendships. I could­n’t agree more. Having like-minded in­di­vid­u­als who know just as much about your hob­by as you do or more is great; there are so many great con­ver­sa­tions you can have that go on for­ev­er. More im­por­tant­ly, this will help you with your col­lec­tion, and not in a self­ish and douchey way, but in a cool and awe­some way. Shut up, my sim­i­les can’t all be winners.

You have re­cent­ly made friends who are also in the hob­by lo­cal­ly thanks to hang­ing out at your lo­cal game shop, even though you can only go to the shop once a month. But af­ter months of talk­ing to you, your new friend knows for a fact you would love a copy of EarthBound for your SNES. While at the shop on his own, he finds a copy in one of the bins or in the case. He may call you to let you know it’s there. Maybe the two of you will strike a bar­gain where he buys it for you and you re­im­burse him upon de­liv­ery. Or you may just make a point to come up and get it now that you know it’s there, and see what else came in since you were there last. Or he may buy it for you as a gift, since you two are re­al­ly good friends now, and you helped him move a couch last week. 

Friendship, baby! It’s a won­der­ful thing.

This very sce­nario hap­pened to me re­cent­ly. A friend of­fered to buy me a SNES Classic if I re­im­bursed him be­cause he saw them at Walmart. I had giv­en up on own­ing one be­cause of the fren­zy, but I told him yes, and now I own it. This is­n’t just our friend­ship at work, this is Karma. Back in May, when the Switch was nowhere to be found, I found one in a Walmart out in the middle-of-nowhere Kentucky. Called him up, of­fered to buy it if he re­im­bursed cost plus tax, and he got him­self a Switch.

The hob­by it­self has an ac­tive and very much thriv­ing com­mu­ni­ty full of like-minded peo­ple who may or may not col­lect the same con­soles, the same types of games, or to the same de­gree of col­lec­tion. However, more of­ten than not, they are very friend­ly, easy to talk to, and more than will­ing to help any­one who has any ques­tions, or help them try to find that one thing they are def­i­nite­ly look­ing for. While I have men­tioned find­ing these peo­ple among your lo­cal game stores, some peo­ple un­for­tu­nate­ly do not have that same opportunity 

Folks out in the sticks, and the hol­lars, not try­ing to hate on you guys. That’s a bit of a raw deal you have out there. Thankfully, there are plen­ty of Facebook groups and nu­mer­ous on­line fo­rums ded­i­cat­ed to the hob­by. There is most as­sured­ly a sub­red­dit, al­though I don’t re­call if I’ve been there or how ac­tive it is; I get around, so I’ve prob­a­bly stopped by a few times. But the best place I have found is the Atari Age forums. 

Atari Age is a part of a net­work of fo­rums that are all ded­i­cat­ed to the hob­by, with each ded­i­cat­ed to a par­tic­u­lar con­sole man­u­fac­tur­er: Nintendo Age, Sega Age, et. al. Discussions of ma­jor events in the hob­by (be­lieve me there are quite a few, it’s kind of ex­cit­ing), trades, sales to oth­er fo­rum mem­bers, and more abound there. They even of­fer on­line tools to help you with your col­lec­tion. I am a mem­ber there un­der a dif­fer­ent name, but I don’t typ­i­cal­ly go there. I’m just not a fo­rum type of per­son any­more, and I would rather chat di­rect­ly with peo­ple or via a chat ser­vice. So if you go look­ing for me 1) you won’t find me, and 2) why are you look­ing for me!? WHO SENT YOU!? WHO DO YOU WORK FOR!? *pis­tol whips*

They will pret­ty much of­fer you every­thing you need that I can’t, es­pe­cial­ly if you are a rur­al col­lec­tor. Be sure to check them out if you are re­al­ly in­ter­est­ed; I’m sure you will do very well in their Guild.

In clos­ing, as you be­gin your Adventure, it is im­por­tant to make friends and build a par­ty, as they have knowl­edge you lack, and you will need that. They will help you so long as you also help them in re­turn. They will typ­i­cal­ly treat you well and with re­spect as long as you do so in kind. 

So un­til next time, dear read­er, when we will hope­ful­ly wrap this beast up so I can send you on your way to the boss bat­tles with con­fi­dence… see you in Part III!

(Editing as­sis­tance pro­vid­ed by Indigo Altaria!)

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Xavier Harkonnen

Game Dev work­ing on ac­tive project at [Undisclosed Studio], Center-Left, I post ran­dom thoughts and goofy shit that amus­es me. Support Spacenoid Independence.

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