Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Boxed Famicom Games and the Problem of Collection Creep

When I first set out on my mission to collect all of the carts ever released for the Famicom (1055 in total, of which I have just short of 700), I intended to only collect them loose.

Over the years though I have accumulated a fair number of boxed Famicom games. A little over fifty of them.
The first I got was Gradius, which remains one of my favorites. I bought it mainly because I needed Gradius and happened to find a boxed one going cheap, so I figured `why not`?
This process has repeated itself about fifty or so times with each of the boxed games I have acquired. Unlike the loose carts that I need, I don`t specifically go looking for boxed games. But when I see a nice one that looks good and the price is right I usually pick it up.
This presents a bit of an existential problem to my collecting mind. What, exactly, is it that I am collecting? With my loose carts the question is pretty easy to answer - I am collecting all of them. By definition, therefore, any loose cart that I don`t have is one I need. Its a very simple equation.
With boxed games though that simplicity and clarity of purpose vanishes. Collecting all of the boxed has never been a serious option - I have nowhere near enough money to do so. The ones I do possess provide no evidence of any method to the madness with which I have collected them. They are a random selection of impulse purchases made at various times and selected based on an amorphous amalgum of subjective criteria that I could not put into words if asked to do so.

In other words, they are just a random bunch of games that I liked the look of.
This is an example what I like to call `collection creep` and it happens with pretty much every collection I have ever started in my life. You start out collecting one thing with a specific goal of just collecting that one thing. But as you go about doing so, you start to find other, similar, things from time to time and you end up buying them as well. Slowly the amount of these `other things` which you possess start to dominate your collection, making a mockery of your original goal. The boundaries of what you collect creeps outward until it becomes absolutely massive.
The process with my current collection has gone something like the following, arranged in order with the first being my original collecting goal and the last being my current collecting goal:

1. Collect only loose Famicom carts of games I like.

2. Collect loose Famicom carts of all the games released for the Famicom.

3. Collect all the Famicom games loose and also a few boxed Famicom games.

4. Collect all the Famicom games loose, a few boxed Famicom games, and a few Super Famicom games I like.

5. Collect all the Famicom games loose, a few boxed Famicom games, a few Super Famicom games and some PC Engine games.

(a few intermediate steps ommited)

38. Collect all retro video games ever made.

Well, my current goal isn`t really to collect every retro video game ever made, but it now seems that pretty much any retro video game out there which I don`t have and which looks cool is fair game.

The end result is that I now have more retro consoles than I can count and a massive horde of games. This month alone I have added two more consoles (the Virtua Boy and Sega SG-1000-II) to the collection! It never ends. If I lived in a larger house this wouldn`t really be a problem, but being in a Japanese apartment with limited storage space - well, I won`t bore you with my tales of closet woe.

Anyway, any of you out there looking to start a collection - beware the perils of collection creep!


  1. I can solve one problem... wanna sell me Popeye English? :D

  2. Since my recent purchases I know where you are coming from Sean. I've been picking up random games for every retro system I can get my hands on these last few days, all the way from sinclair spectrum up to nintendo 64. Granted all the games were bargain purchases and I figured I might be able to sell them off for a profit later, but now I find myself wanting to buy the consoles as well. I figure I may have to put down some boundaries for myself (preferably in writing) or risk overcrowding my closets and storages with a bunch of random junk I may never, or very seldomly use.
    Seeing as you live in Japan and being surrounded by retro goodness, I bet your problem is much grander than mine. But just so you know there are other people out there who have a hard time limiting their collection goal :)

    Kiddo @ Famicomworld

  3. I only have Famicom, NES and SNES at my house here and since I live in a suburban area of the US, there aren't really any retro game stores around me (though, my local video store was having their bi-annual sale, and they have some NES and Famicom games in stock, so I got F-Zero and Ikari Warriors for $2.50 total), so I'm limited to buying off eBay and such, which is far more expensive. So when I first got my NES I bought games I just wanted to play.

    In Japan (and being in Tokyo no less), it was far easier to go to the store and buy a lot of Famicom games, or just buy games that looked interesting.

    I'm thinking when I go back to Japan, that I'll buy a PC Engine and start collecting games for it too, because I never had any experience with it nor Turbo Grafx-16.

  4. First, I love that Brandon, too, noticed that boxed copy of Popeye English. Should I even ask how much you paid for it? Regardless, know that the only time I've seen a boxed copy of the game on eBay the seller was asking $100 for it :(

    Second, you're definitely not alone. I started my retro collecting a few years ago thinking I would limit myself to the PC Engine. Now I'm collecting Famciom games, too. Every once in a while I think to myself, "I should buy a Super Famicom or a Saturn, too!" Thankfully I'm able to bring myself back to reality before I do so. I mean, all buying those systems would do at this point would be to keep me from buying more Famicom and PCE games.

    So, I'm doing my very best to stick with those two guns for the time being...

  5. Brandon - nice eye! That is one of my favorites - solely for the box of course. If I ever do sell it, I`ll send you a shout!

    Kiddo- thanks, I`m glad to hear that I am not alone! We definitely have to start laying some boundaries for ourselves though;)

    Nate - yeah, Ebay does kind of have the benefit of naturally limiting your collection size. As you say, in Japan it is just way too easy to go to the store and browse around for impulse purchases! The PC Engine is actually a good one for that as both the console and the HU cards are very small and easy to store!

    Bryan - yeah it is funny that you and Brandon both noticed that one! Is that one of the pulse line ones you have CIB? If it is going for 100$ on Ebay I won`t rub it in by saying how much I paid for it, but it was way less than that!

    Also I noticed your recent post about the NEO GEO CD! You are wise to stick to the PC Engine and Famicom for now, adding more systems not only takes up more space and money, it also divides your attention too much!

  6. I started out collecting NES(I want to get every game, so far I'm at 200+). Now I'm also collecting SNES, Genesis, Gamecube and Game Boy. With the exception of NES and SNES, I try to limit what games I buy. If I see a CIB NES or SNES game for a good price, I'll pick it up, although CIB is not necessary(they do look better to display though). I typically buy loose carts, but it's nice to have the instruction manuals(you should know about not being able to play certain games without them :) ), and most of the time it will be CIB copies that have them. And I also have a sizable action figure collection(as well as 80s and early 90s toys). The "creep" has just kept on "creepin'" year after year.

  7. Hey there, Sean! I own CIB copies of all of the Pulse Line Famicom carts except for Popeye English and Donkey Kong Jr. Math. (I own loose copies of both of those games.) CIB copies of those games are rarely found on eBay (heck, I don't think I've seen a CIB copy of DK Jr. Math on there) and when they are found they're mighty expensive.

    Anyway, yes, I'm going to continue to focus on the Fami and PCE for now, esp. since there are plenty of games I still want for the DS and Wii. And then there's the 3DS, of course. Sigh :)

  8. Jason - Yeah, your NES approach (collect them all loose but buy CIB ones if you find them for a good price) is exactly like mine to the Famicom! Funny that you have a vintage toy and action figure collection too as I also have collection of those on the go. With them my interests are 100% nostialgic so it is easier to strictly stick to collecting the ones I had or wanted as a kid in the early 80s. Still though, the collectioin creep keeps spreading!

  9. Bryan - yes, now that I think of it I`ve never seen CIB copies of DK JR before either, and my Popeye English is the only one I`ve seen.

    If I find another one for a decent price I`ll let you (and Brandon) know!

    So much to collect out there, isn`t there? :)

  10. I was about to post something similar to this. I like to call it "that box" syndrome. You know? That box of full of stuff that you never needed to buy and have no use for it whatsoever, but it's in your collection anyway?

  11. LOL, yes I know the box of which you speak! I`ve been trying to empty it out by selling stuff off. The only problem is that as soon as I get rid of one thing, I find that I have bought another!

  12. Hmm I can't control myself to picking up boxed items...it has become a real problem especially with limited room that I had to rent a storage unit to put all that stuff in there! AWAAAAAAAA!!! Needless to say, I can see you rearranging your goals for what you want to do. I have become more pickier about picking up games. If I do pick up something of big masses it's usually to resell for profit and not to shove in my storage unit har har har Nice article master!

  13. Wow, a whole storage unit? Now THAT is dedication:)

    I really like boxed stuff but I sometimes wish when I find a good deal on something that the thing didn`t have its box just because it takes up so much space and once I have it I feel I have to keep it. Like with my recent Virtual Boy purchase, the box for that thing takes up a lot of space!

  14. Guffaw :) I also suffered from this phenomenon you call 'collection creep'. But then I started my own blog and, to cut a long story short, discovered that I no longer had time to play the original games, so with reluctance I started selling off my collection :( I do, however, wish these things:

    1. I had a wife who didn't hate gaming
    2. I had infinite money so I didn't have to work

    This would enable me to have a large house with dedicated games rooms with all consoles and computers (including some arcade cabinets, of course), I would have time to play them, and my wife wouldn't shout at me for 'wasting my life' on videogames :|

    A guy can dream...

  15. LOL, I am very lucky to have 1, and I wish I had 2!

    A guy can dream indeed:)

  16. Nice term, "Collection creep". I think a lot of us have fallen victim to it at some stage if retro gaming's a passion in any way/shape/form. I certainly know I have as well ;)

  17. Thanks, Sean! I stole the phrasing from some foreign policy article about `Mission Creep`, which I thought was a good analogy.

    We definitely are all vulnerable to this affliction! :)

  18. By the way, love your blog. Been lurking around reading your posts for a bit.

    In terms of collection creep, I'm a bit opposite. Since there is so much in the gaming world I originally told myself that if I start "collecting" games again, I'll only focus on...

    1. 8bit & 16bit
    2. Japanese only
    3. Complete in box

    So as time passed... I ended up with piles of loose carts, stuff beyond 8/16bit, a decent amount of boxed US stuff, etc.

  19. Thanks, Stealthlurker!

    Interesting that collection creep can work both ways;)

    Loose carts are a lot more easily accessible so I`m not surprised you caved;)