As I`ve alluded to on occasion here, in addition to collecting retro video games I also collect a lot of other stuff. These include things like baseball cards, stamps, coins, old movie programs, action figures and a few other odds and ends that interest me. I`m not really a serious big money collector in any of these areas, but I do like to dabble in all of them. I seem to have some sort of collector/ hoarder gene in me somewhere.
Anyway, my multiple collecting interests have given me the opportunity to do some comparative study of the various cultures that surround each of them. I have noticed that one thing which all hobbies that involve collecting stuff have in common is anal retentiveness. Collecting stuff tends to bring this trait out in people, especially when enough other people start to collect the same stuff and a collector`s market evolves. Money takes over everything and if left unchecked it can totally ruin a fun hobby.
One of the things that I really like about collecting video games is that thus far anal retentiveness, hype and big money haven`t taken it over. I hope it stays that way, but I`m not so sure it will. As a sort of cautionary tale I thought it would be illustrative to take a look at what happened to the baseball card collecting world.
Back in the day, collecting baseball cards like the ones in the above photo was actually pretty fun. They were just kind of neat things that kids who liked baseball would go for. When you look at the mainstream of the baseball card collecting world today though it is such a dreary place so devoid of imagination that you have to wonder why anybody with an ounce of self-respect would ever involve themselves in such a soul-less hobby.
To illustrate my point, take a look at this post over on Beckett Media`s website. Beckett is the largest price guide in the baseball card hobby and back in my card collecting heyday twenty years ago was considered the bible of baseball cards.
Take a look at that awful video they posted. No wait, don`t. It is too awful a thing for me to inflict on you. I`ll just breifly describe it. Not because I want to, but because I have to. It is a video of two Beckett employees opening packs of baseball cards that seem to have been sent to them by card companies for promotional purposes. These, I should note, cost one hundred dollars each, which is just an obscenity in itself. Ignoring that for the moment though, the content of the video really showcases how awful the hobby has become. The two guys open their packs and show viewers what they got.
It is a seven minute video. It is painful to watch. The banter between the two stars is almost nothing but impenetrable collector`s jargon interspersed with an endless stream of numbers and statistics. Not statistics related to the game of baseball, I hasten to add, but numbers and statistics related to the baseball cards themselves. On opening his pack the co-host on the left starts:
`All the base cards are numbered to 799, there are parrallels to 199, 50, 25 and 1....`
And it basically just goes on like that for seven uninterrupted minutes. Nowhere in the video do they actually talk about baseball or anything like that. It is just a bunch of boring, overly detailed verbal diarrhea spewed onto the internet by a hobby that has been hijacked by extreme anal retentiveness.
This, I should add, is just a random video that I only looked at because it happened to be on the top of the Beckett news homepage. Pretty much EVERYTHING on that website is just as awful and dreary.
This isn`t to say that the entire baseball card hobby is devoid of imagination. There is sort of an underclass of bloggers out there producing tremendous and hilarious stuff (this is my favorite). These are mainly produced by people who seem to have been turned off by the sheer awfulness of the mainstream and, as with me, just like old baseball cards because they are colorful pieces of cardboard with pictures of players that they liked on them.
Returning to the point of my post, the thing that I like about collecting video games is that this hyper-awfulness that has so infected the baseball card hobby is almost non-existent. Go to any baseball card collecting message board on the web and you will find it populated by guys like those in the video discussing the most inane details of whatever god awful thing they think they should be collecting. It is just painful to read.
Go to any message board populated by retro video game collectors though and it is pretty much the exact opposite. They collect games because....they like playing games. To be certain there is a collector`s market for old video games and some people like collecting mint or sealed stuff - and that is fine. The anal retentiveness that so dominates the baseball card world though is just not there in anywhere near the same quantity.
I`m not sure why that is. Probably the fact that video games aren`t produced solely to be collected plays a big part. They are made to be played and thus attract a different crowd than baseball cards do.
One thing I do worry about though is that video game collecting is a relatively recent hobby. Thirty years ago the baseball card collecting scene was actually quite similar to what video game collecting is now - dominated by young adults re-living their childhood and not at all concerned about the money. I hope video games stay that way. I would hate to think that thirty years from now the biggest video game collecting website out there would be churning out god-awful videos like that one on Becketts.
OK, end of rant.