On Game Collecting:
When I had to Shrink my Shelves

Aug 05, 2015
Clutter 1

As we grow older, our relationship with the media we consume is constantly changing. We grow appreciations for different genres. We revisit things we used to hate and find new ways to appreciate them. We revisit things we loved and wonder why we ever liked them in the first place. We fall in and out of certain hobbies, and tend to build up a collection of stuff along the way. Whether they be physical or digital, pirated or purchased brand-new, our collections are a reflection of who we are. At the least, they serve as a personally curated history of our influences, at the most, they can be a treasure trove of good memories.

They can also weigh you down, just becoming stuff; Clutter in your house that you walk by without seeing. Sometimes, it's a good idea to go through your inventory, removing whole shelves, to both clean your house and your own thoughts.

I was huge into collecting games in grade school. I prided myself in having a massive, well organized library of games, always available when I needed it. I took care to make sure every game had a case and a cover, and spent hours crawling the forums at The Cover Project, a site dedicated to making printable covers for games that would otherwise remain caseless and ugly.

As I grew older and started earning my own money, I began to collect games at a faster rate than I could play them. This was helped in part by the fact that I couldn’t afford newer consoles or games, so my $60 often went a lot further than other gamers did. How could I buy the newest games when there were so many good old ones to catch up on, anyway? My mindset was that I was collecting for "future" me, and it often paid off on the many days I had time to myself: there was always something to play, some part of gaming history I could educate myself about some obscure game, or have some new genre to master. Even if I didn't play everything immediately, I was usually in good conscience that the things I bought were cheap enough not to be a waste of money. Rather, they were an investment for a rainy day.

The best part of game collecting was by far the hunt: I started this hobby before escaping the grasps of dial-up internet, and read about the best titles in gaming magazines. There was still a thrill to seeing something in a store that you had only once seen in mentioned in the editorial pages of Electronic Gaming Monthly. Even when broadband internet made its way to our house, I still preferred going to the store over ordering online. Once I had a car, I discovered the wonder of finding piles of cheap classics in thrift stores, and would amass piles of $2 games because hey, why not?

High school came along, and eventually college. My time for games weaned, even though I still bought new ones here and there. Eventually I fell into PC gaming after building a computer of my own. Humble Bundles and Steam Sales often beat out the prices I would get from hunting down something at a garage sale. Indie games became the primary thing I played, and consoles started to lose their relevancy. After moving a couple times between dorms and apartments, a collection I once loved became a resentment: "Why do I have so much crap? How can a box of DVD cases be so heavy? Why do all the places I live have so many stairs!?"

After shoving everything I owned into my tiny SUV for the third or fourth time, I started to rethink how important my massive amount of stuff really was to me. Was it necessary to keep all of my Xbox 360 games when most of them could be purchased on Steam for a couple bucks? Did I really need my massive stack of PS2 games now that most of them had been condensed into arguably better HD collections?


Believe it or not, this drawer is much, much less cluttered than it used to be.

I realized it was no longer my job to archive games. I didn’t need a huge library anymore, because the things I missed out on were probably going to be re-released before I had a chance to play them. I could afford paying a couple extra dollars for a game when I wanted to play it, not immediately when it went on sale. More importantly, I had other things to do.

These days, our primary way of consuming media is digitally. No one in their right mind collects physical copies of PC games anymore, and most console games are now downloadable the same day the discs are released. We often care more about a console’s hard drive size than whether it reads blu-rays or dvd’s. Our consumption of music and movies is so high that we’d rather pay a flat subscription fee to have it all instead of purchasing everything individually. In a similar way, we wait for Steam sales and Humble Bundles to stockpile our libraries so we’re never without entertainment. Sometimes it’s simply easier to throw a few dollars towards a download of an old game than it is to dust off and plug in the console it came out on. In a way, this diminishes what I used to love so much about game collecting: the significance of every item in it. Each game had a story or an adventure behind it, from childhood birthday gifts to amazingly cheap garage sale finds. Now we can find almost any game we want with the click of a button, whether it be a download or something we order off of Amazon. In reality, my previous desire to archive as many games as I could was made obsolete by the internet.

Getting rid of so many games was both nostalgic and therapeutic. Sure, it took effort to collect everything I had up to that point, but it was a worthwhile effort to get rid of most of it. As I boxed away piles and piles of games I never got around to playing, I realized my collection was growing up with me. I needed more practicality in my life, and less stuff. The time I used to devote to playing old sub-par games “just to catch up” didn’t exist anymore. It went into classes, work, and creating websites like the one you’re looking at right now. I care less now about consuming media and more about creating it. Instead of my shelves representing one huge “to do” list, it represents good memories and inspirations (and a new thing to try out here and there). Most importantly, it finally started to represent my tastes, not just what looked good on a store shelf or got good reviews.


My room, as it stands. Yes, I have an Amiibo problem, but I don't care.

To this day, I still surround myself with junk I don’t need. Sure, I still collect amiibos. Yes, I have the movie Alien on VHS and no VHS player. I still haven’t replaced my book collection with a Kindle, and my Google Music subscription coexists happily with my CD collection. My foot is still halfway in the doorway between physical and digital media, and it will happily stay that way for a long time. In a couple years, this will happen all over again, and I’ll have to reevaluate what matters to me once more. I'm not a minimalist, which is obvious, but going through and cutting down my collection to the things I enjoy the most did a lot to clear my mental and physical clutter.

At the end of the day, this stuff doesn’t really matter on it's own. No one is going to think greatly of me because of the amount of crap I have around me; what matters is that I enjoyed it while I had it. For the stuff I chose to keep, from consoles to toys to board games, I hope to keep sharing the joy of those things with others.

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Zoë Wolfe

Co-Founder, Webmaster