Stacks of games sit around my living room, as I organise photographs from my phone. I log onto ebay and check prices. I list a few games. I sell one almost immediately. That one doesn’t surprise me. Tales of Symphonia. It’s one of the rarer in my collection, and I had expected to make quite a bit, quite quickly. Ebay User #1 meets my expectations.
We had finished our wedding budget a while before I began selling games. I’ve been asking myself where all of the money is going, and I have yet to come to any sort of satisfying conclusion. Planning a wedding is an expensive project, even if you try and cut as many corners as possible. Our wedding isn’t even that big, but it’s big enough. And when you have an expense this large, and you don’t have enough money to cover it, you begin to look for ways to raise some dough. Tonight, I’ve started selling my video game collection.
The sales start rolling in. Ebay Users #2 through #4 exceed my expectations. By the end of the night, I’ve listed five and sold four of my games. Beyond this, all of my buyers have paid by Paypal, so by the time I go to bed, my extra wedding fund has already received its first deposits.
I told her a little earlier in the night what I was doing. She asked why. I told her that if we need money to pay for the wedding, selling video games seems like an easy solution. I’ve left her speechless. I love to leave her speechless.
Spoiler Alert: In the mid-1990s, I brought a ragtag group of warriors to what I thought was the end of Final Fantasy III. (Years later, we would learn that what we believed was the third Final Fantasy game was actually the sixth Final Fantasy game, but only the third to be released in the US.) The villain of the game, Kefka, had harnessed massive amounts of magic and was planning to use it to take over the world. I prepared for what I believed to be the final battle of the game, a battle which should have lasted close to a half-hour, the standard convention of other mid-1990s Japanese role-playing games.
Instead, in one of the greatest video game twists of all time, Kefka, who had, throughout the game, revealed himself to be insane, turned the magic on the world itself. Mountains rose out of the ground and canyons formed where cities used to be. It turned out I wasn’t at the end of the game at all. In fact, the world had changed, and I was only halfway done.
While choosing to sell my games may have been an easy decision, selecting which games to sell proves to be much harder. I have been playing games for nearly 20 years now, and some of my games date back to my high school years. It’s not just a matter of pulling the games out of my closet. I take a bit of time to think through each one and find that I can fit each of them into one of four categories:
1. Games I’ve played before, which I love and will probably play again. 2. Games I’ve played before, which I will probably never play again. 3. Games I haven’t played yet, but I am still excited about. 4. Games I haven’t played yet and probably never will for whatever reason.
The first decision is easy. I’m not going to sell any games that fit into categories 1 and 3. The games in category 1 are important to me, while the games in category 3 could eventually become important to me if I ever play them.
The next decision is slightly harder. Games that fit into category 2? Even though I will never play them again, they may still have a special place in my heart. Many of these games remind me of periods of my life, some good, some bad. I can look at one game and remember the time my roommate and I competed against each other in a speed-run, with the winner earning some major bragging rights. In another game, I see the drinking game my friends and I invented to make our gaming sessions that much more enjoyable. Selling these games feels almost like I’m selling a piece of my former life.
And then I realise, that is exactly what I’m doing.
In an old Polish wedding tradition, the bride would often cut her hair after the ceremony. The hair, which she would have grown out since childhood, would be kept in braids to signify her unmarried status. During the wedding, the braids would be removed, and the hair would be cut. This symbolised leaving her old life behind and beginning a new life with her husband.
In an American tradition, we go out to stores and fill out gift registries, asking for nice things we’d like our friends and families to buy us. We place things like dishes, pots, pans and furniture on the list, hoping we’ll receive some of them. Why do we do it? Don’t most of us already have dishes, pots, pans and furniture? Why do we need more? For some of us, it’s simply a matter of wanting nicer things. For most of us, however, it’s symbolic. We’re creating a new life with this person, and we want new things for that new life, even if the old things were perfectly fine.
The third decision — deciding to sell the games in the fourth category — is the hardest. At the moment, I have no plans to play them. But, what about next month? Next year? I’ve spent money on all of these games, and I stand to make back less than half. If I eventually want to play these games, I’ll have to buy them again, spending even more money on them. I eventually decide to sell them, because paying for my wedding is my primary goal, but it’s not an easy decision for the practical side of me.
Ultimately, the decision to sell these games comes down to time. I don’t have much time, and I don’t see myself having time in the future. In addition to planning a wedding, I am a full-time student and a teacher. And while video games have always been my preferred way to zone, it’s painfully obvious to me that they require some major time investment, some genres more than others. Even the shortest first-person shooter will still require 6-8 hours of my time. RPGs? A minimum of 40.
I remember when my sister got married. Their first year was hard.
“He used to turn off the games when I’d come into a room,” she said. “He doesn’t anymore.”
There were other problems, of course. But, as I move closer to my wedding, this is the one that sticks out in my mind. Back in my undergraduate days, I would play video games constantly. It wouldn’t be abnormal to find me up until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning playing Halo. While I don’t play as much as I used to, I certainly still enjoy dropping an hour or two, every now and then.
After the wedding, though, that might not be an option. It isn’t that I’ll have less free time-though between classes and work, I won’t have a ton of it — but I will be sharing that time with another person. Am I going to want to limit my already limited time with my new wife, by playing video games? Would my new marriage even survive that?
When I look at my stack of unplayed games, I realise that I’m looking at hours upon hours of gameplay I’ll never have the time to play. I bought them once, thinking I would someday have time. However, as my list of unplayed games grew, so did my distance from that magical “someday”. When I look at the next two years of my life, I realise that someday may never arrive.
Still, as I post these games to ebay, I can’t help but feel a slight pang of regret. I had plans. Plans to play those games. I am so excited to get married, and this woman I’m marrying is my perfect fit, but I’m still questioning what could have been. What things did I want to accomplish that will now be harder, because I’m sharing my life with someone else?
As I approached my 30th birthday, I started to panic. According to what I’ve learned from TV sitcoms, this is common. My panic stemmed from a perception that I had not accomplished much in my life. To combat this panic, I sat down with a piece of paper and wrote out a list of 30 things I wanted to do in my 30s. The list, as would be normal for someone feeling their life was limited, included a lot of travel, with a few personal goals thrown in for good measure. As far as I was concerned, if I managed to cross off half the items, I would be satisfied.
I met my fiancée not long before I started my list, and we started dating not long after. By the time I decided to marry her, I had largely forgotten all about it. Once, when I wanted to do something romantic, I decided to show it to her, crumple it up, and then work together to start a new list — things WE would do. When the time came, however, I couldn’t even remember where I had put the original.
Suddenly, all the plans in my world no longer mattered. And I was more than OK with that; in fact, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
The role-playing games are the toughest to let go. I’ve been playing them since I could first pick up a controller. As a socially-awkward comic book geek, the epic stories presented by these games represent some of my fondest memories. Two decades later, that hasn’t changed much, if at all.
I originally peppered my to-play list with quite a few RPGs, convinced I would someday (there’s that word again) have an infinite amount of free time. After all, at a minimum of 40 hours, they present the best “bang” for your buck, as far as video game purchases go. And while a good portion of them sat unplayed on my shelf for months, buying each one had still seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, however, I’m reaping the true benefit of those decisions. I’m packing them up in yellow envelopes and sending them around the country to new homes.
It’s a surreal process, making a decision like that: choosing to sell something that you feel has defined your past to pay for something that will define your future. How much is the future worth to you? Are you willing to let go of a piece of you? How about all of your previous plans?
In the games of our youth, when we’d die, we would be greeted with a countdown, followed by the words “Press Start to Continue”. It was a holdover from arcade games, which used the countdown method, followed by “Insert Coin to Continue” to encourage us to spend even more of our parents’ hard-earned quarters. The idea was that we had died so many times, we ran out of lives. “Continuing” was the game’s way of giving us another chance: start the game near where we died, fresh with a whole new set of lives to try again! In real life there are very few chances at a fresh start, but I believe marriage is one of them. Yes, I will have to deal with parts of my past; I’d be delusional if I thought I’d get a completely fresh start. However, getting married has forced me to examine a lot of those past experiences and decide what’s coming with me into my new life. As parts of my old life die off, I am pressing start to continue, ready to see what the future holds for me and my new bride.
I still have some video games. As mentioned above, there are a few titles that hold a special place in my heart, and I will never get rid of them. My video game closet, however, is remarkably empty. The auctions are over, I’ve received my payment, and the games have been shipped. There’s nothing left to do but look at our wedding budget and decide how best to apply the money.
I’m not sure what video games will hold for me in the future. I’m sure they’ll be there. They’ve been too important over the years to completely let them go. However, it’s important that I don’t forget that I will no longer be alone in life. I will be part of a pair, part of a duo. My time will no longer be my time, just as her time will no longer be hers. It will be “our time”, and I’m not entirely sure what that will look like.
They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. You spend all of your time trying to figure out what your new life looks like together, and there’s often bitterness and resentment over a loss of independence. I fully expect video games to play a part in that, as it did in my sister’s first year of marriage twelve years ago. Eventually though, I think we’ll settle into a new normal, and video games will become a part of my life again, though I’m sure my dedication will be much more limited. I doubt I’ll have many more 3am gaming sessions (which might be good, because I’m getting old), but an hour here and there will certainly be possible. Whatever the case, I’ll be married to the woman I love, and I can’t wait to see what that new normal looks like.
My world has changed, and I find I’m only halfway done.
Christopher Lawton writes a lot of words, which he then puts into sentences, which he then puts into paragraphs. He lives with his beautiful wife, April, in Bellevue, Nebraska, where he is working on his Master’s degree in English and teaching university students how to write. For more Chris, you can visit T.R.O.A.M.M.or find him on Twitter, though he makes no promises to update either of them.