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Cardboard museum: the nostalgia of moving home

Wednesday, 24th April 2013 08:07 GMT By Dave Cook

It’s amazing what you can find when moving home. VG247′s Dave Cook takes stock of his forgotten gaming treasures as he heads back to Scotland, and reflects on the state of the industry today.

I’m in the process of moving back to Scotland after staying in England for over three years. Much has happened in the games industry during that time, and right now my flat is a maze of dusty cardboard boxes bound together with shoddily-cut packing tape.

Inside you’ll find several relics, such as the Mega Drive I’ve owned since 1990, my fledgling NES collection and two Streets of Rage 2 cartridges – just in case one of them breaks. Dusting these things off and packing them away really made me take stock of everything that has happened in the last few years.

I took a massive pay-cut to come to England in 2010 and give the old ‘games journalism’ thing a try after years of trying to break into the paid circuit. I started to see the industry in a new light and I’ve been lucky enough to have met many game developers I worshipped like gods when I was a kid. It was absolutely worth it.

Looking back I realise I was pretty ungrateful at the start. I took the free press trips for granted – I no longer accept them however – I viewed meeting game developers as just another unexciting part of the job, and I didn’t realise the implications of accepting free merchandise. To me it was just the done thing, one of the unspoken rules of the industry.

But over time – and thanks to the old Doritosgate meltdown last year – I can see how far I’ve come in terms of appreciating the job and how much the industry has changed.

I get now that taking freebies has implications and that it’s much better to act as independently as possible in the name of integrity. Truth be told, the job just got me excited to the point of honest, genuine ignorance. In short, I was an aloof idiot.

The industry really has moved on in many ways, and I was reminded of this constantly as I taped up all my eBay spoils. All of my 16-bit cartridges alone took up two pretty hefty boxes, which is a problem you don’t get on Nintendo’s Virtual Console and other digital channels. Where once I cherished these pieces of plastic like future unborn sons I now viewed them as a cumbersome annoyance.

Be it age, or just the fact that I’m getting used to my lovely digital libraries I really didn’t feel that emotionally attached to my boxed copy of Vagrant Story any more. I could happily bin the box and keep the disc, or worse still flog it on eBay back whence it came. I didn’t go through with it though.

Then I started to imagine how the rest of you felt about this issue. As publishers seem hell-bent on re-releasing the meat of their back catalogues on digital platforms, is there a chance that the physical boxes really are losing relevance? I used to laugh off this notion until I binned all of my current-gen boxes in favour of a single, easily-stored CD wallet.

It didn’t hurt to do that as much as it might have done – say – five years ago. Seriously, if you tried to prize the Dreamcast out of my hands in 2008 you would have found the corner of my Power Stone box lodged in your eye. But now, in all honesty I don’t care any more. I really don’t.

That’s not to say the games themselves have lost their value, as I’ve said many times on this site that I’m one of the least-cynical game critics you could ever meet. Seriously, the slight hint of a teaser trailer for some new project gets me bouncing in my seat like a moron. The hard fact is that I love games.

If that’s the case then shouldn’t I be more cut up about binning all my game boxes? Probably, but perhaps this is the digital, switched-on world we live in now? Perhaps it’s OK to part ways with the past and look towards new, exciting things in the future?

As I thumbed through my CD wallets full of old PSone games that I scrimped and saved for over the years since my teens, I realised that it’s not the box I’m attached to, or even the disc itself. But it’s the memories attached to the experience that I’ll never forget.

Be it on a physical disc or delivered through the wire over Steam, I truly believe that no matter what happens to the games industry in these volatile times, the experience is the one constant that will always make this hobby – and the industry that provides it – such an incredible phenomenon to be a part of.

I feel lucky to be here.

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21 Comments

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  1. Brenna Hillier

    I think I’m gonna sell all my less-rare games next time I move; if I can get it on Steam or the PSN, why hold onto it?

    I would like to bin all the cases and just keep the discs, but I’ve always really loved the way my games line up on the shelf, and it seems a shame to deny another fan the chance to take on my collection if they want to.

    After four international moves in the last decade, plus god knows how many domestic ones, I’m really over carting around my games for the memories in the boxes and manuals. I can always load up FF7 on my Vita and rediscover the memories in my brain.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. salarta

    @1: “I think I’m gonna sell all my less-rare games next time I move; if I can get it on Steam or the PSN, why hold onto it?”

    Depends on your priorities and interests. You can get them on Steam or PSN, sure, but there are a few things to consider. Will the game remain accessible and compatible with your hardware well into the future on Steam or PSN? What if you lose your internet connection and want to play the game at that point (we’re assuming there will be no ludicrous always-online requirement for other concerns)? And then of course, there’s purists, for whom playing it on a different control scheme that the original one just isn’t the same.

    As you said, you’re talking about doing this for less rare games, so maybe none of these are that big of a concern. But while today we can’t imagine Steam or PSN ever going away, times do change things, and companies that were huge do eventually go under. And there’s one more element to keep in mind: passing the game on to someone else, perhaps a son or daughter. You can give them a game disc, and they can get hardware for it or something to rip the software from the disc. You wouldn’t be able to pass a digital game on to them unless the company is perfectly fine handing it down in that manner, but even then we go back to access to the games being reliant on Steam or PSN staying in operation for a long, long time.

    Western culture has gotten stuck in the mindset of instant gratification consumer behavior, without considering long-term effects. I’m not saying physical media is the only acceptable form, I’m only saying that the decisions between physical or digital should keep in mind issues like future accessibility and if it’s important enough to be passed on through generations. Even the most famous material can stop getting re-released over time. There are movies out there that were put out on VHS and have never received a DVD or Blu-Ray re-release, for example.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Stace Harman

    I’ve come to bemoan the utter waste of physical components of retail PC games whose Steam activation renders the packaging and physical media redundant.

    Conversely, I’ve found that I’ve developed a growing appreciation of well constructed collector’s editions that offer more than DLC or a hefty piece of physical merchandise. Off the top of my head, the CEs of The Witcher 2, Halo ODST, Fallout 3 and Machinarium all tap into the lore of their worlds and offer physical bits and pieces that appeal to me. I’ve also developed a bit of a thing for video game art books.

    In this sense, I’ve replaced an attachment to one lot of physical media for an attachment to another lot of even bulkier items.

    I think I’m doing it wrong.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. friendlydave

    “is there a chance that the physical boxes really are losing relevance?”

    Probably, but I hope not. I have always gone for a physical copy over digital.

    I just love having all my games on display. To me the box, manual cover are just as much a part of the game as the content on the disc/cartridge. The only downside is I’m running out of space ^^

    #4 1 year ago
  5. BraveArse

    I’m finding myself more and more accepting of digital downloads for most media. The waste issue is actually a really big one with me, although I do still like to feel that I own a thing, even if it’s just digital.

    There was a time when my happiest days were spent browsing the wonderful shelves of FOPP ( Rose St was my main one ) for my music and videos. Now I’ll happily stream my music through Spotify, Grooveshark et al. Although I’ve recently started buying albums in digital form again, as I felt I was turning music into a grab bag, rather than appreciating the album itself.

    I’ll rent movies online, and love Netflix. I’m currently ripping my DVD collection to my HDD because it takes up so much physical space, it just needs to be boxed and stored away. Buy I still won’t /buy/ a movie online, because of the proprietary formats they come in.

    I’ve ditched most physical books in favour of Kobo ( not proprietary ), save for reference books and photo books which I think will always look far better in print. Magazines, I’m still struggling with digital versions of those. But I’m sure I’ll make the switch soon.

    Games have resisted longest. But they’re crumbling now. Mostly because of Plus. My broadband speed is such now that it’s quicker to download than go to the shop. Especially with Fife ( where I live ) pretty much having nothing except GAME to buy from now and Edinburgh not being much better. It’s something that even last year, I was quite strongly against, so the turnaround has been very fast in my case.

    I agree with Stace though. Collectors editions still make my wallet twitch, but then I was a designer so nice packaging and design will always get me. :)

    #5 1 year ago
  6. viralshag

    I’ve already started replacing older games from this gen with the Steam versions. I have never had a problem with digital purchases and in fact, I would say I much prefer them.

    I love on-demand services like renting movies from Virgin or using Netflix. Owning cases and discs of things that will not get contantly used is becoming a pain for me.

    That said the one thing I haven’t come around to yet is e-books. I will take the feel of a book in my hands over my iPad or a Kindle any day of the week.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. BraveArse

    @6

    Yeah, I know you mean re ebooks. I can’t persuade my Mrs to give them a try at all. She practically hisses at my kobo. =) It’s taken me a while to come round to the idea, but now it’s up there with Spotify et al, as a part of my daily life.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. friendlydave

    @6 I agree with books too, seeing people with kindles or reading magazines on a tablet really bugs me, Although outside of Art/Work related books I don’t own that many myself.

    Music and Films I have no problem with digital. I sold my DVD collection as soon as broadband was available in our area. Likewise with music. Games to me are more than Entertainment so that’s probably why I’m pretty attached to the physical versions.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. viralshag

    @7,8, I reckon I will eventually come around to the idea of e-books. Maybe if I got something smaller than my iPad, like a Kindle. I won’t deny that I see the obvious ease of carrying a book collection with you, I just like the feel of books.

    And the content of the case has always been more important to me than the actual case itself, so I’ve never been that attached to most of the newer tech. I’m sure I still have my SNES knocking about though, and perhaps the original Gameboy but that’s purely for childhood nostalgia.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. ps3fanboy

    when things goes 100% digital the memory most of people have for older systems will be gone in the future. newer generation of gamers will not feel attached to gaming like dave here. reason for this is the physical object where you can touch and smell. without having this the newer generation of gamers, will have no attachment of their earlier systems and its games. it is just how we humans are build, its the physical object that we once had that created the memories.

    you can just look at music when it did go digital and most of the people didnt care anymore. now we have brought back the vinyl again and even if the music scene are shattered it is getting better and better.

    the sames goes for real books too, the digital books you read on your ipad, is not the same… you cant replace the smell and feel of a fresh printed book or a old one for that matter…

    only thing i see that did okay when getting to the digital age was movies. the move from vhs tapes to dvd and then blu-ray.. but that is as far it will go… most of us want to own their favorite movies, than watching it on a rented cable tv…

    as a publisher or record company i hope they have learned. the short and easiest and costless route will only hurt you in the end. it all about the physical object where you can touch and smell. to get people attached to your product.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. silkvg247

    I sold off a load of rare RPG like panzer dragoon saga some time ago. It was a little painful boxing them up and sending them off, but I have to say I haven’t missed them since.

    I still have a few ps1 classics to sell on if we have any collectors here.. ;)

    #11 1 year ago
  12. ps4some

    I think it’s an age thing. I used to keep all my games but now I always trade mine in and never have more than 4 or 5.

    The problem with digital is you can’t trade them in.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    Isn’t it great that we’re all better people now?

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Dave Cook

    @13 well, some of us ;)

    #14 1 year ago
  15. Samoan Spider

    I was once the same. A huge collection of game boxes all stored carefully but now I have an almost entirely digital collection on the PC and my consoles went a few weeks back. Certainly since I was younger I have gone from hoarding games and their packaging to a distinctly minimalist approach and I not unhappy about that. But as far as sanity is concerned, there’s no way that I could have the huge boxes each with a half dozen or so 5.25″ or 3.5″ floppies or CD’s/DVD’s knocking around all over the house.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. Len

    Sold my whole collection going back 30 years when we bought a new place 3 years back (I was such a hoarder) – most liberating thing ever. Kept 10 – 15 titles with the best memories attached and made enough money to buy a new uber pc. :)

    They were just cluttering up the place anyway, thoroughly recommend it to everyone.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. OlderGamer

    I also think age plays a role.

    When we are younger we identify ourself with the games we play. It is as much of our image as the clothes we were. But as you get older, you start to care less about that trivial stuff. If the clothes fit, are neat and clean, and you look decent…good enough. I don’t freat over what label is on the back of the pants I wear anymore. I also don’t care to continualy stock my shelves with new boxes. Not like it actualy impresses anyone anyways.

    So long as I get to play the games I enjoy, I am happy.

    I am very leary about PSN and XBLA and Wii/U VC. Because once those systems are retired those digital offerings(esp the ones requiring online authetication to work) will be gone. So In a sense it is like throwing money away. Steam, however, I don’t feel like it is going anywhere any time soon. But then again where older games are concerned and PC is mentioned, you have to consider emulation.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. friendlydave

    @17 Although I disagree with your example, [I can't speak for others but I did not go around waving my games about as a form of identity] I do agree with your overall point about age being a factor, I’ve found that I’ve started to care less about a lot of things as the years go by.

    There’s also the difference between someone who simply buys a lot of games and has kept them over the years compared to someone who actively seeks out and collects games.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. Stephany Nunneley

    With older systems I still have my Intellevision and all the games my Mom and I played on them as well as my Atari 2600 with two games left. No idea where the others went.

    I still have my non-working SNES (4 games) N64 (8 games) my GameCube (2 games) my Xbox (4 games) my PS2 (10 games). You will have to pry my pre- Wii Zelda games out of my cold dead hands if you want them.

    My Sega and Gameboy (non color) and all the games that I got for them were sold in “my parents are getting divorced so we’re having a yard sale” type event.

    Most of my last and current-gen games were traded in, but I still have a whole drawer full of 360 and PS3 games I will probably never play again, so I should probably head to GameStop with them. I just feel they are worth more than $2 each though. I am probably wrong, but they won’t fetch a thing on eBay so I will hold on to them for a while.

    I have a rather large box full of PC game boxes in the closet as well. Should probably go through it – no one uses floppies anymore anyway (do they even make the drives anymore?). Plus, with the discs, I don’t want to try and get my PC to run a Windows 98 game anyway no matter how much I love Titan Quest etc.

    I find I play on PC more than anything anymore – with the exception of Dishonored, Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3 and BioShock Infinite on PS3. Everything else was bought through Steam, and has yet to be played. I can’t figure out why I haven’t even installed 3/4 of the games I bought through the service. I just don’t have much free time anymore I guess, and what time I do have, I want to spend it unwinding in front of the TV with a cider.

    #19 1 year ago
  20. viralshag

    Jeez, maybe I should get rid of my patterned Voi and Moschino jeans… What about my Ben Sherman shirts and Reebok Classics?

    /pukes ;)

    #20 1 year ago
  21. aleph31

    @Dave: be careful if you decide to sell your stuff. Before something becomes a relic / antiquity, it must spend a lot of time being considered an old and obsolete crap. Maybe in 25 years you could regret it (just don’t apply this reasoning to everything, or you will end up with diogenes syndrome :) )

    #21 1 year ago