The mistakes I made while collecting games
I’ve been collecting games my whole life. You can tell, not by the size of my library, but my regrets. Over the years I’ve bought countless titles only to never enjoy them. I’ve wasted money, filled my shelves with junk and, worse of all, fooled myself into thinking I was enjoying it. It’s time to disclose all the mistakes I made while collecting games so you don’t make them as well.
HOPES AND DREAMS
I used to buy games because I saw myself enjoying them. In my mind, they were endlessly appealing. They gave me the chance of living adventures, of playing as a hero, businessman and general, of high-stakes tournaments against the best players in the world. Unknowingly, I was thinking of games as a promise, a hopeful future event that will surely come and I would surely enjoy.
Hence, I read ten books for Vampire: The Masquerade. I bought two keyboards for the Dreamcast and piled up some of the best and most highly regarded JRPGs onto my shelf. And yet, none of the promises I had created for myself came true. How could they? I did not ask anyone if they wanted to play a long vampire-themed game. My Dreamcast wasn’t working and I would soon realize that I no longer enjoyed JRPGs.
That’s my first mistake; not being able to tell between the ideal and the most likely outcome. There’s an alternate universe in which I would get into RPGs, another in which I dedicate myself again to Flesh and Blood and Netrunner, and a third in which I become a streamer. But there’s no universe in which I do them all.
My advice is to be realistic. Do you have the time to play this new game? Will it require an additional effort from your part? If so, how will you manage it? We can enjoy all sorts of games, no matter how involved, long or difficult, if we are willing to. But in order to do that we must like it as it is, not just the idea we have of it. Ask yourself first, find how much effort it takes and then, if you truly want to, then go for it.
CHEAP AND CHEERFUL
Our ability to obtain games exceeds our ability to play them. Even with a meager budget, we’ll run out of time way before we run out of currency. Between sales, giveaways, Humble Bundle, our friend’s cardboard collection and whatever we have in our own shelves, the average gamer has no shortage of games to play. And I was no different.
However, it took me a while to come around that fact. For years, I judged my acquisitions as a matter of good and bad deals. If I could get a well-regarded classic for a low price then I didn’t think twice, particularly if it came complete in its original box. And don’t get me wrong, they were mostly good deals. The issue is that they were good deals mostly in the abstract, I wasn’t paying enough to account for my own personal situation and taste.
N+, Shin Megami Tensei, Pikmin, Disgaea, Re-Volt, Project Zero, Micro Machines Turbo Tournament. All fine titles many would be glad to get their hands on. But they weren’t exactly at the top of the line, either. In the end, my teenage self ignored them in favour of what I truly liked: Rhymtn games, competitive Pokémon, Team Fortress 2 and arcade machines. By the time I got into board games, they had all gone years without being played.
This is a lesson I keep coming to, even today. Not long ago I was tempted by a copy of Carcassonne, sold for fewer than five euros. And Carcassonne, derided as it might be amongst the hardcore, is an excellent title. It was a “good deal”. But I did not want to play Carcassonne before seeing the price, why would I want it after? The low price would only be appealing if I wanted the game in the first place.
In other words, do not buy games just because you can. Decide first what you want to play and then, only then, look for a way to obtain it. Being “a good deal” should be the last step of the process. And while it’s perfectly fine to seek “good titles”, we tend to stretch that definition until it justifies a purchase. Great games are rare and time even more so.
THE GOAL OF PLAYING
Every game we own makes all others worse. They compete for our attention, which is always in short supply. And the more it splits, the less interest we are able to put into them. Often, too often, I found myself trying out games, quickly jumping from one to another hoping to find one that would make it all worthwhile.
It rarely happened, of course. The whole search worked against it. There were always more games to check out and not enough time to give them a fair shake. In the end, I spent too much time deciding what to do and too little actually doing it. The entire point of collecting games should be to enjoy them, not to promote indecision.
This is particularly important for board games, as they demand both repeat play and the involvement of other people. Having twelve games competing for the same evening just leads to a shallow experience, where you learn the game once and never touch it again. If you, like me, want to play games like Food Chain Magnate, The Republic of Rome or Dune, you may to push aside the conveyor belt of newer purchases.
Fortunately, I managed to focus by the time I got into analog games. I pared down my collection and sold all those games I “could”, “should”, “would” play in favour of what I actually did play. I even sold most of my books! Reading them again once a decade no longer justified keeping them around. Similarly, I became more careful about my digital collection, only adding games and emulator ROMs when I needed them.
With fewer distractions, I found it easier to enjoy myself. I could give more attention to the standout titles and less to the middling experiences I never liked in the first place. Instead of wasting my time and money browsing, now I delve into deeper analysis. I care more about strategy and less about trying out the next big thing. Ultimately, in order to enjoy games to their fullest, we must play them. They do little for us just sitting on a shelf.
Prioritize what enables play. The best money I’ve ever invested into the hobby was not on Kickstarter or a Summer Sale. It was in a club membership, where I could meet other gamers. The best thing I did for my video game collection was to get a proper desk, where everything stands ready to be played. Even exchanging thoughts in my blog has done more than any purchase ever could.
To err is human, and we wouldn’t play games if we were perfect. We have all fallen into consumerism, procrastination and boredom. If you have struggled with this, feel free to leave a comment. What helps you enjoy the game better? What mistakes have you made trying to enjoy the hobby? And what can we do about it?