Thursday, July 19, 2012

Game Collecting: A Hobby, A Sport, An Obsession

Author: Evan Butler
To collect something is to obtain something for the sake of obtaining it. The want behind it is purely superficial. To buy a new car is different from collecting, because there is the innate desire to get something that is improved from what you already own. That is the fundamental difference between collecting and other forms of obtaining things. Most collectors start with a passion, usually driven by childhood memory, a friend’s suggestion, or just pure serendipity. They pick up something for a bargain, maybe even free, and they just let things get out of hand. When you think about it, there’s just not a lot of sense behind collecting things. If a collector just buys things to sell them at a later point they are not a collector, but an investor or a reseller, and are driven by profit.

Budding stages of collecting are often categorized as a hobby, something in the background that doesn’t take up a lot of a person’s time but something they engage in in their leisure time. It is usually for a sense of personal gratification. Most hobby collectors have a theme, such as collecting solely bad NES games, or only Mario titles. The collection grows, and so do their tastes, as they become more involved in their hobby. More often than not, they meet other collectors.

It is as easy to make friends in the collecting game as it is to make enemies. The very nature of collecting is seemingly sport-like. One collector may go to another and compare the quantity, the size of the collection, its contents, or the price at which they acquired them. These comparisons lend themselves to the nature of a competition. People will strive to have complete collections and the personal satisfaction of their hobby will be replaced with competitor’s spirit and the ideology of having a “complete” collection.

It is so easy to like collecting. It fills a little niche in our hearts and is promoted by our commercialist culture and society. Having things is a sign of wealth, and being wealthy is a sign of being happy. And we have been told since our birth to be happy, to have a good day, to enjoy ourselves, and so on and so forth.

Collecting can become an obsession, and what denotes it as one are the unhealthy aspects. It is easy to spend too much money, to lose out big on what you thought was a bargain, and to spend way too much time on a wild goose chase. But I feel as though one of the most unhealthy aspects of collecting is the unhappiness this obsession can cause you, when you truly do have a “complete” collection. What have you really achieved when you have reached this goal? All you have is a pile of junk, and you realize that the admiration of all those collecting buddies of yours is in actuality the misplaced envy of rivals. Other people that haven’t dabbled in collecting will look at you and most likely pity you. You spend so much time, money, and effort on something and all you have to show for it are objects.

Collecting is dangerous. And it’s also fun. It’s easy to dabble. It is similar to gambling in nature, as you constantly check eBay and flea markets looking for that wild goose. Very recently, an eBay auction for 22 different complete licensed sets showed up. The Buy It Now price is a little over 1 million dollars. That is not what in actuality he is looking for, as he is actually looking for the highest offer but a Canadian buyer ponied up the entire $1.22 million for the collection. I’ve asked around and done a little snooping and found out that this is only part of the seller’s collection. Why is he selling these things? Is he unhappy? Or is he in it just for the money? And will that money, when he gets it, make him happy?

In recent interviews with the seller he revealed that he felt like he had completed a goal. That is why he is selling them. He feels as though he has won but what, what did he win? His own self-respect? I hope he is happy. He now has to deal with nightmare of moving all 7,000 titles in to collection as well as how to handle the payment. The buyer, unnamed for privacy reasons, has yet to begin to pay.

What can make a collecting hobby better for you is to keep it simple, or rather to make it personal. Go ahead and research and dive head first into the subject, but find what you really want. Make lists, and look for bargains and enjoy yourself, but the second you find yourself spending way too much money on something you really didn’t need or even want, take a step back. Look at yourself and look at what you’re doing. Look at how much money you have spent already and look at what you have. Ask yourself if you’re happy. And then ask yourself if this next purchase will move you towards happiness or if it’s just an obsession. I think this is something that this recent eBay seller has done. He is selling part of his collection because he realized that he didn’t really want it, or need it. But he’s keeping the parts of his collection that really do bring him happiness. You learn something new every day in the world of collecting. I’ll tell you right now, the hardest lesson to learn is, when to stop. So learn it now before it’s too late.


Anonymous said...

For me, what separates the enjoyment my video game collecting has given me the past 10 years over all the other various collecting diversions I've engaged in to feed my hard wired, survivor/provider, covetous brain is really simple: PLAY. Only with video games is the element of playing games and actual entertainment primary in making my vg collecting bug unique. I collect "complete," "original," and sometimes even "sealed," but there's a reason I've only retained a few rocks, coins, comics, sports cards, and signed books from my prior collections but have never sold off any games except duplicates. It is a DIVERSION based primarily on pure entertainment, not an abstract sense of satisfaction.

ccc said...

Very psychological article. I am def an investor, not collector. The only thing I have to own (collect) is Super Mario Bros. The rest can blow away with the wind and I wouldn't care.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article because I am beginning to notice a problem (and so is the wife!) and its all very true. When your laid off during the winter and all you get to do is surf....i then found my home filled with empty shipping boxes, foam peanuts, stacks of games, just a mess. Ive slowed down myself when i realized i was paying more attetion to "games" rather than the most important, family and friends. Relationships matter and a game is not worth losing your family. Hopefully anyone with a problem like this will think twice, I did, and still have a family while happy playing zelda and mario!

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