Friday, 19 May 2017

How I became a game collector and why I continue to be one

So I thought I would write a piece on how I became a retro game collector, I have proberbly touched on it in the past possibly during my run of SNES reviews but I figured a more expanded piece would be intresting. I recently wrote a piece on what it was like to be a gamer in the 80's in the uk which you can access by following the link, its not necesery but it might throw a little more light on some of what I am saying. For the puropse of this I am going to consider retro basically anything that is no longer current, sure that might not be accurate but it makes sense to take this view because my first retro purchase would have been made when I was at school and back in my day at that kind of an age things were very much set in absolutes something was either new or it was old. Consoles were looked at as either being the current machine, the future as in it wasnt out yet or the past as in it was old (in the sense it was not the currently newest system from a company, it could be there last machine or second to last if it wasnt the current it was old) and at that time the SNES was the current console, the N64 was announced and on its way and the NES was old.

A lot of people in England like to claim that they owned and played on the NES at release as I have mentioned before in previous posts but it wasnt really like that, we were all busy with our micro computers with most of us only jumping on the console bandwagon when the SNES and Megadrive came out, we did however hear and read a lot about NES games in video game magazines of the time. We would pick up an issue of the official Nintendo magazine to look at games that were coming out for the SNES and they would compare them to old NES games, they would highlight when sequels to NES games were released on the SNES and they even had a few pages at the back of the magazine which had scores for all of the NES, SNES and Gameboy games they had ever reviewed. I used to take these pages and use them as a guide for what to buy and what to avoid for my SNES but I also looked at some of the high ratings particular NES games got and it began to wet my appetite to make me consider what it would be like to play them. I had both a MegaDrive and a SNES by this point as well as an Amiga 500 but I just couldnt get enough of video games, it was then that I saw a NES with something like 7 or 8 games in the paper for next to nothing, litterally something silly like £15 to £20 this was my first retro purchase and I really enjoyed it.

I dont know if youd consider that the proper start of me being a retro game collector but it is deffinetly the point at which a seed was planted which would grow into my new hobby. I was actually a Star Wars collector first, it was easy to go to markets and boot sales and other places and find Star Wars merchandise for very reasonable prices, sure you could pick up price guides and find out that something was worth £10 or £30 but if you looked hard and invested a little time into it you could find this sort of stuff for very little. It was a nice fun hobby that I enjoyed but soon everyone started doing it and all the bargins dried up and well thats when I fell out of love with the hobby. For me the thrill was in finding a figure or such that was worth a whole bunch but not paying very much for it at all and then comparing what I had to my friends, when it turned into people selling and buying an ewok for £40 because well thats what he is worth I simply lost my love for it, there was no thrill of the chase and I released that this was the part of the hobby I had enjoyed it was more about the quest than what I owned.

I was one of the few kids who had owned both a SNES and a Megadrive, I was also one of the only kids who went backwards and got a NES and then a Master system 2 and well I found myself becoming a sort of authority figure a games guru people would come up to me and ask me what to get and my oppinion on companies and hardware and I guess this kind of fed into me becoming more intrested in broading my experiances. I made a few what I know consider mistakes I sold a handful of spectrum games id owned, and then I sold some SNES games to get my N64, then sold my N64 when I needed to buy replacment parts to repair my computer as I needed it for my college work and it had broken, and I started to regret these decisions and swear that I would rectify them. On top of this I had always been a very trusting person who wanted to help people, a friend of my mum and dads had a child who was slightly older than me and I lent him a tin with 40 megadrive carts in it, to cut a long story short he turned to drugs and sold these, it knocked my megadrive collection basically in half and I vowed to get all of them back, there are actually a handful I still dont own but I do now have a collection boardering more around the 250 mark.

I remember setting out to go to carboots and independent game shops with the idea of getting lots of SNES and Megadrive games but id bump into NES, Master System, PS1 and N64 stuff and if it was cheap I would just think what the heck I will grab it, if its a decent game and its in good condition and its going for peanuts then why not? I took to it in the same way I originally took to StarWars collecting, I had wanted to get all the SNES and Megadrive games I had ever owned and then my favourates I had played at friends houses but it just grew and grew from this point, I would realistically buy any game but it had to be at the right price, I didnt mind spending £10 on a game if it was good and usually went for more but if it was a crappy game then I would only grab it if it was like a quid or two.

 At first my buying was rather casual but then I found myself in a bit of a bad place. I was attacked during a robbery at a place where I worked and I got held hostage and had my head beaten in with iron bars, I managed to sort of overcome this and return to work but my stress level had massivly increased, I was also trying to get promoted to make more money to give my daughter a better life, soon I was working 70 hours a week trying to make somethinf of myself and I was also dealing with panic attacks, flashbacks, audio hallucinations, bad dreams and all manner of other issues. It came to a head when I started having physical problems, my eyes mouth and throat all started regularly swelling, I found it hard to breathe and eventually this ended up after several visits with me sat in a Doctors office with him explaining that I was under massive stress I had gotten Anagodema and Ultacaria and in his oppinion if I didnt lower my stress level somehow then I would be dead in 6 months, he wasnt right but he wasnt far off. 6 months latter I had what you would describe as a nervous breakdown, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had to leave work and begin attending theraphy.

During my theraphy for PTSD I was told that I had to come up with a happy place, now coming up with a happy place basically means coming up with a place real or fake that you can think of in your head that you will feel secure and happy in, basically so that if you start to feel  distressed during your theraphy you can go there mentally and escape. I chose being in my childhood room playing Super Mario World as my safe place and it helped hold me togther. Every time I was in therapy I would have to relive the robbery, talk about it, close my eyes and see it, I learned that I had repressed certain parts of it and my therapist had to help me regain my memory of the whole ordeal, it was a terrible thing to go through but I not only had my happy place to go to I had my retro collection to go to. I didnt have a lot of friends to talk to during this time its funny how sometimes everyone just seems to up and disapear when your at your lowest and need the most help, my partner at the time wasnt very much help emotionally in fact it was while I was at my lowest that she began to get abusive. When my daughter was at home I put on a brave face and made out that I was OK but when I was on my own I would sink in to my world of retro games, I found that when I invested time in them I felt better they calmed me down playing them, sorting them, buying them, I had very little money at all but that only meant that I had to spend it all the more carefully.

My breakdown was approximatly 8 years ago and ever since then I have found that every time I buy a retro game for a good price I feel a rush of excitment and a feeling of release from my stress. So I guess I am a collector because it makes me happy but also because it helps me maintain my stress levels and my mental health. I enjoy playing the games but both playing and collecting them serves as a sort of giant stress tap. So does my collection have limits or boundries well yes it does, I am never going to go for a full set of anything basically because I am not going to pay huge money for bad games, heck I dont even want to pay like more than £40 for a brilliant game, there are no bounds as in the consoles I will collect for , I have atari 2600 games, spectrum games, NES games, Megadrive games. Will I ever stop collecting? Most likly not after all it helps calm me down and control my stress but most of all because it makes me happy

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