I Like Video Games, Not Boxes

When people visit my apartment for the first time, they’re always disappointed. Box picture from Shutterstock

Maybe they expect something a little different, something more substantial. Maybe they expect consoles stacked upon one another like a stupidly expensive game of jenga. Or drawers and shelves overflowing with the latest releases. Knowing what I do for a living, I think my friends expect my apartment to look a bit like a colourful museum, a testament to a virtual life well led.

The truth is my apartment is quite dull.

At any one time I own a maximum of maybe 30-40 video games. I have all three major consoles, accessible, but not really on display. I have handhelds hidden in drawers. A DS, a PSP, a Vita a 3DS.

I have no last generation consoles stuffed away in an attic. I don’t have a PS2. I gave my GameCube away to a family friend years ago. I literally have no idea where my Xbox is. I had three of those over a period of about five years. I sold two, and have a sneaking suspicion the third is gathering dust at my parent's house. I don’t have a retro collection, I don’t keep gaming figurines unless I receive them as gifts and they have some sort of sentimental value. I just don’t keep anything.

I think my situation can be summed up with one simple sentence: I like video games, but I don’t like boxes.

——————— As I type this post, I’m sitting 20,000 feet in the sky, en route to Boston. When I arrive in Boston I will go to PAX East where I will see so many video games. I will get excited. Probably a little too excited. There will be announcements, games I’ve never heard of, brand new games, incredible stories, incredible people. It will reinvigorate my love of gaming culture – the games, the developers, the people.

But not the boxes. Never the boxes.

The day I left for Boston my wife politely made a pile of my stuff. She laid it on the living room floor. In that pile: a Nintendo Wii, a glut of Wii games, my old PSP, a spare DS I never use. “I’m putting all this stuff on Gumtree,” she said. It was barely a question. I think she expected a fuss, but I just nodded my head. Actually, I went into my rotating pile of 30-40 video games and chucked a few more on the pile. Games I bought but never played; or games I bought but finished years ago.

Maybe at one point in my life I had a sentimental attachment to boxes, the media encasing the games I once played. But now I’m only attached to the memories of the games themselves.

I hear stories about people who regret selling a specific game, or throwing out old magazines. Maybe they regretted tossing their Commodore 64 in the trash, but I’ve always found it easy to let these physical objects go, and it’s only gotten easier the more I throw away.

———————

On my bedside table is every volume of Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond. All of them, save one — I'm missing volume 21. Every time I look at that pile of paper – bound and printed, assembled into separate books – I feel a little twinge of emptiness. There’s something absent.

But I think I understand. The only reason I feel that emptiness is because I own volumes 1-20. And volumes 22-25. What I’m trying to say, I think, is that when you begin collecting something you are essentially creating a gap in your life where there was no gap before; an emptiness that's almost impossible to fill. There will always be something else to collect.

You might think that sounds like generic anti-consumerist clap trap and you’re probably half right. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone their collection, whether it be comics, video games, manga, figurines, baseball card – whatever. In fact, I understand it. When I was a teenager I used to collect anything Star Wars related. And I mean anything.

It started with books. I loved the Star Wars expanded universe and I wanted to read everything I could. So I did. I bought books, comic books – but before I knew it, the books began to sit on shelves. They began to gather dust. Books I never touched, never even opened. Before long I realized I was buying this media, not to consume it, but to fill some kind of idealised space.

——————— It was hard to get rid of things at first, but then it got easier. When I was 20 a deranged junkie broke into my apartment, stole my CDs, set a big stupid fire and left. I lost a lot of stuff.

My roommates really struggled with it. They lost photographs, clothes. They lost physical things that meant something to them personally. So did I, but I was surprised by how little it hit me. How little it actually bothered me.

At age 21 I moved overseas. All I took was a backpack full of clothes and money. I was stupid, I didn’t actually understand how much I should be packing or even what I should be packing, but I remember how good it felt to have my entire life for the next year in a medium sized bag. It felt like an adventure.

I lived like that for the next five or six years. I had very little, sold what I had before moving on. I was forced to let go of things frequently, but what I found was the more I let go of things, the easier it was to remember them. And the less stuff I carried around with me, the less gaps I had to fill.

———————

My wife reckons she’ll have sold my Wii before I get back. But I probably won’t even notice. I asked her not to sell Mario Galaxy 2, because I think that’s a game I might like to play again on my Wii U.

It’s a great video game, but I don’t think much of the box.

My plane is about to land. The first thing I’ll do is get to my hotel, check-in and probably try and get some sleep. But the next day? I have a bit of free time and I probably won’t be able to help myself. Maybe I’ll head out to the shops and try and find volume 21 of Vagabond by Yoshinori Inoue.

I suppose everyone has his or her own gap to fill.


Comments

    What a story, Mark~

    (No really, thanks for the insight.)

      I can't tell if you're being sarcastic so I'll just give you the good old thumbs up :b

        I assume he's serious, he likes to talk with italics and tildes :)

        No sarcasm here.

        I'll accept it warmly.

      Nobody on Kotaku AU has seen "The Room" I take it?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY29dSaCCu8

      Enjoy, PAX!

    I'm a collector but reading this affirmed what I've always known about myself. I do it to myself. Strangely though I'm ok with that. At least for now. It brings some interest to dull moments. I also just like looking at nice things an knowing they are mine.

      Yeah, great post. I think that's what is exciting about collecting stuff. Knowing that you 'have' it. That sounds really weird and obvious, but that's what it is!

        damn, i am a collector too, but i have much more self control
        i only collect things that i perceive have value

        things like figurines and stuff, i have always thought to be cheap worthless pieces of plastic

        but lately, even the stuff that i perceive to have value (like electronics, memorabillia, collectors edition games etc) i feel like im buying it simply because i have always been buying it

        this article made me a bit happy inside knowing im not the only one that is starting to not really care about this stuff anymore, and that its ok to do so

        i know if my teenage self time travelled and saw me saying this now, id get knocked out. cause when i was younger, i could only dream of having the stuff i have now

        with age, comes financial security, freedom and the ability to do everything you wanted but never could as a kid

        but at the same time, your too mature and old to want to do those things anymore
        or the fact that its so easy to obtain makes it not seem worthwhile or valuable anymore

        life sucks
        growing old sucks
        (and im only in my mid 20's)

    I regret selling all my old boxes. I had every box for every game that I'd bought since I was 14. And I sold them all.

    Now I look at my bookcase and feel regret. So many memories. All my youthful job money had gone into accumulating them. And I sold them all for a couple of hundred bucks. I should have kept them for my entire life. How cool would they have looked in display cases when I'm 60.

    Plus I value games more when they come in a box. It doesn't feel as substantial to download.

      I'll always remember buying Soul Reaver for $10 on Dreamcast from EB games Toombul, so many memories.

        I got Soul Reaver on DC new. I still have it (like all my old games) so many great memories of that entire series.

          I thought it had a fantastic story but the gameplay became less & less interesting for me as it went along.
          I miss searching for extra spells off the beaten track.

      this

      i was about to sell my stuff, but then i realised that maybe in the future when im older, id want to display them. I have recently bought my first home and now have a room i can dedicate to displaying my collection

      alas, at the same time i stopped collecting some items, so now i have a gap in some of the stuff i own.

      sigh

      im interested to know how you sold your boxes

      i never realised there was a market for just boxes???

        Ebay. I sold them with the games as well.

        I don't really miss the games. And the best ones, Grim Fandango, Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Half Life, I kept those.

        But I miss the boxes. The artwork. The smell. Being able to get one down late at night when the desire hits and just read the back, remembering what it was like to be a 17year old who was crazy about games.

    Totes agree, all my friends have at least 3 times as much stuff as I, most of it in boxes, and I just don't get why they hold on to it all.
    Also down with the digital distribution age: abandoned my book and game collecting for a kindle and steam and have not looked back.

      games I am almost pure digital but I still hold on to my books
      I really don't know why there is a double standard but it's there

        Ditto, down to maybe 20 physical games but a bookshelf and a half of books

        One day, when I have my own house, I will buy all my favorite books and make a proper library: shelves lining the walls, comfy chairs, globes and sextants and shit on tables, maybe a bay window.
        But not this day. I really enjoy not being weighed down by stuff at this point in my life.

    It's not the boxes as much as it is the ability to replay games I love or play games I missed.

    I like to go back and replay some of the classics, not all of the games I considered classic have been made available again. If I didn't own an N64 I couldn't play Mischief Makers or GoldenEye.

    I totally missed Odin Sphere when it came out, wandered into a cash converters and found it for $3, playing it now, loving it!

      When I was young, I had to sell my old games to buy new ones or I didn't get new ones.

      So happy to know now that I can afford to keep ahold of stuff. :)

    Anyone ever see High Fidelity?
    He sorts his record collection by where he bought it from.

    Awesome!

      Jack Black's a riot in that. Did you ever see the title screen/GUI for Brutal Legend? Looks a lot like the same record store http://youtu.be/muikMwprWDE

        Yeah, that was when I realised he wasn't a complete dick. Good performance.

        (eeerr no I never saw that and wouldn't have recognised if I did) :)

      Mine are sorted in the order I got them for each platform. It has become a stupid obsession.

        wow, I do it at first but once sequels start popping up etc the order changes :)

    When I was living at home I was a huge collector of things. Now I just have no where to put it all.

    Each to their own. Personally though, I'm as much a collector as I am a gamer. I keep every game I buy, and prefer to buy a hard copy over a download. I love holding onto my old games because sometimes when I go through my collection to find another game to play, I come across an old game and remember not only the game and story, but how much fun I had and how much I loved it. I would never dream of selling my collection.

    I envy you Mark. I really, really wish that I could let games and books and movies and so on go like that. They do just sit in the spare room taking up loads of space. I never really use them. I don't know why I hang on to them other than it feels like what I should do, and that it would be too painful to let go.

    But maybe it wouldn't. Maybe I should just let it all go. Then I can feel as free and unfettered as you in that aspect of my life. And maybe next time I move it will require a hell of a lot less boxes.

      I think because I moved around different countries in my early 20s, I got used to getting rid of things because I had to. Pretty sure that's the only reason. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

    I kind of go through phases. I accumulate games. Many games. I buy them, play them, put them on the shelf and then go and buy more. Then eventually the shelf gets full, games are piled on top of other games, spilling off the shelves onto the TV cabinet, coffee table, floor, whatever. Then eventually I just say "f*** it all", pack up all but the absolute rarest/most treasured games and cart them down to EB and trade those dozen or so boxes for 1 new box. Sigh of relief, lounge room back to normal. Then it all begins again.

    Might need to bit the bullet and start ditching some of the ones that I've kept over the years. As much as I loved Resident Evil 2 on the PS1, it's highly unlikely that I'll go back and play it again. And if I want to I can always get a digital copy off the PS store. Of course, I've held onto it so long now that it is basically worthless and wouldn't be able to trade it in anyway, so it may well just end up in the bin. Likewise, as much as I love the PS2 versions of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus with their lovely cardboard sleeve packaging etc, I don't really need those AND the HD collection on PS3. And even that I could probably ditch and get digital versions pretty cheap if I decide I want to go back and play them again.

      I do the same thing. I periodically get overwhelmed and go on a slash and burn, getting rid of all but my most treasured titles. Then I experience a profound sense of relief because I have more space, and less games hating me for not playing them.

        I do this as my tastes change.

    I know why I collect games. I usually brush it off as the crap trade-in values, but it's mainly because I was brought up in a household filled with books. Every room in the house had at least one, if not two or three bookcases, filled to the brim. Hell, my first read of Tolkien was from a set of four hardcovers (LotR + Silmarillion) from the 50s, and my first read of Dumas' Muskateers was from a set of leatherbound books with paper so thin it was seethrough. I taught myself basic calculus from textbooks when my class at school was getting a handle on basic algebra, because I had access to those books in my house. Books were just something that were inherited, not discarded, and selling or throwing away books was almost sacrilegious. They were knowledge in physical form.

    As my attention drifted from books and the stories contained within, to games and their stories, treating good games in a similar manner seemed a natural progression. Although I may stop buying CEs now that I've filled 2+ shelves with assorted paraphernalia... after Bioshock, anyway. :3

    My game accumulation isn't too bad, I have a bookshelf filled with retro games and a chest filled with retro consoles, and my modern stuff is just set up in the tv unit with a smaller bookshelf for those games.

    With everything going digital the physical pile won't be growing so much now.

    I think getting rid of the retro stuff isn't such a drama nowadays. Most of the games can be found in modern day compilations, updated on Xbox Live / PSN / Steam, or there's the shady emulator route if you can't find it anywhere else.

    I used to buy lots of gaming magazines but tossed most of them in a house move a few years back. I still have my collection of Hyper mags but I'm almost tempted to spend a few weeks scanning them as pdfs then throwing the physical pile into the recycling bin just to free up some space.

    Haven't we had like, several articles like this in the last month or so?

      Very personal perspective pieces on aspects of general life associated with gaming? Yeah, I think so.

    this is why i like my girlfriend, she knows if I did that to her things she'd kill me.

    Vice versa, we respect this and everyone gets a long fine :)

    I have given up on physical game collections too but I do still collect physical copies of movies. I think for the games I knew I couldn't /wouldn't replay them but i will re-watch old movies.

    Funny timing. Just the last couple of weeks, I've been working on reorganising my bedroom from a complete mess of piles into a properly organised place that can be used for more than just dumping things and going to sleep. And as part of this, I've gotten all my games together and arranged them nicely on a shelf, even taking out all the disassembled boxes from their shoebox and reassembling them for display. And absolutely friggen loved it.

    I could never do away with my boxes. I think I enjoy them more than the actual games.

    Im gearing up to finally sell my N64 (i still have the box!) and my PS2. They're great but anytime I play them now they feel like they belong to another time, and that time has passed

      ...what games you got for the 64? >.>

        None of the games have their original boxes (only the machine) but

        Mario 64
        Banjo Kazooie
        Banjo Tooie
        Donkey Kong 64
        Jet Force Gemini
        Ocarina of Time
        Majora's Mask
        Lylat Wars
        Perfect Dark
        Tetrisphere

        My only problem with it is the TV connecter is an S-Video connection, have to source an AV cable before I can reasonably sell it because noone has S-Video anymore!

          Damn, got all those except Tetrisphere :P Though funny you should say that about the s-video connection... I'm kind of vaguely looking into grabbing one of those. I've got all my consoles set up on a kickarse CRT now (even has HDMI!), and was considering getting an s-video cable to make use of that port too.

      How much for the N64? I've been hankering to buy one for some reason....Mario Kart mainly. And a decent DK game....Wake up Nintendo, give DK a proper game again.

        Wait...what? Donkey Kong Country Returns, dood. It's awesome.
        I'm a fan of DK64 but the Country series is definetly the best

    I LOVE collecting old games and consoles. My fiancee is pregnant and i'm SO looking forward to starting my kid off at the Atari / C64 / NES end and working my way up as they get older.

    I have a few games that I will never get rid of the boxes for, largely based on the amount of nostalgic love I still have for them. I have a copy of the original Discworld game signed by Terry Pratchett displayed on a shelf in the living room, alongside the small collection of games that I actually worked on signed by the teams.

    Others just end up in a CD sleeve under my desk, though.

    Basically, some boxes are worth keeping because they're about more than just the game to me. They represent a moment in time, a really good memory. I may never open them again, but they're as important to me as the family photos we have on the walls.

    I have a pretty good collection of games and film, and while they do take up space, my teenage son plays them now. I wonder if he will enjoy them as much as i did; get as freaked out at doom3, RE4 or eternal darkness and i did or obsess over age of lap times in diddy kong on the n64.
    Maybe it will give us something to relate to - who knows.

    I've always been curious about Vagabond, since I'm a huge fan of Slam Dunk. Is the series violent/gory? Does it have a bit of Slam Dunk's humour or is it pretty somber?

    I've been contemplating on this for many years now...this 'void', this emptiness...
    Should I just get rid of everything (video game related) and move onto another hobby (or nothing for now)? I don't get that excitement anymore, there's only 1 or 3 games a year I feel I would actually really want to play right through to the end!

    Have I grown out of this 'hobby'?? (addiction of collecting CE's as well)

    I hoard. I keep collecting. Video games, electronic games, board games, magazines, Dr who, comics, books and records. I think it comes from my childhood. I didn't get a lot but what I did get - I looked after. Perhaps it is a virus - a meme - my partner now collects (she didn't before meeting me) comics, antiques plates/furniture, pop vinyl and giraffes. F giraffes. I have to buy a new house to fit it all in. I buy a lot from secondhand stores etc. I see myself as saving these things (from what?). I have spent serious money on a couple of items but typically I enjoy stumbling over a game or book in a vinnies or market - recognising what it is and using it. I love it and thankfully so does my girlfriend.

    This reminds me of when I moved out of college for the first time. It was a rough time of life for me. Went into a share house with a mutual friend of my then-girlfriend. I spent my days watching movies and playing videogames. It was a good thing to immerse myself in, I think. I needed to get away from reality for a while. I collected heaps of pre-owned PS2 games I wanted but never got to play. Vexx was probably my favourite of these.

    I had to move out about 6 months later. Back to college, which was ironically the best thing that possibly could have happened. However, in the unnecessarily dramatic move, I lost my entire PS2 game collection complete with PS2. I bought a used PS2 on the cheap with the intention of growing that collection of games again. I haven't actually bought a single one. As it turns out, I don't really need them any more. Reality has finally caught up.

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