I caught myself staring at my wall of video games recently. It’s a vast collection of over 1,300 video games spanning multiple generations: Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation 2, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, up to the current generation PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. They sit on shelves, displayed out like you’re inside a GameStop. After a few minutes I asked myself, Why the hell do I have all this?
Collecting old, antique items isn’t anything new, and in some cases it can be a beneficial financial investment. Tangible investments like toys, stamps, coins, and in this case video games can appreciate in value in many different ways. These particular investments have a connection with our childhood, and what we were raised around. I’ve mentioned in a previous editorial about how nostalgia has an effect on our psyche and latches on to memories in our past which can affect how we live in the present. For many, collecting antique physical items hearkens back to the old days—not only with how things were made, but how we experienced them.
I continued to look at my collection as I pondered, eventually throwing my hands in the air. “This does nothing for me; this was all a waste of money.”
The reason why I say this is that, often with collecting, I purchase items that I remember having, or have experienced when I was younger. Those feelings of nostalgia are ones that I never want to go away, like the memories of an ex-partner, remembering those good times we shared. I display it on a shelf, show it off to friends, and yet—it sits.
I spoke of collecting earlier as an investment; a purchase should hopefully appreciate in value, giving a beneficial return. In the case of video games, more often than not, they are wasted, like driving a brand new car off the lot. You won’t make your full money back in the short term unless by some random circumstance what you’re holding on to becomes valuable enough to some middle aged man who gets a tickle every time he sees TMNT: Turtles In Time.
What I’ve seen in recent years is the retro gaming market skyrocket, where nostalgia meets dollar signs. Retro video games are going up in price and continue to do so with every passing year and passing hand. The prices of many retro video games continue to rise up like cream and tend to plateau at a certain point. One such example is the Nintendo Entertainment System game Little Samson, notorious for being highly sought after and valued at up to $2,300 as of this moment on Price Charting. I would never pay that much for a video game personally, but I do know many out there that salivate at the mouth for an opportunity to own it. As I continue to wonder why I have all this, I started to dig a little deeper.
I’ve mentioned before how I dislike the term “gamer” as if it’s a class of people; however when I stare at my collection, I refer to myself as a “video game collector.” I hang out in circles of other video game collectors where I’ve made friends and acquaintances and shared experiences with surrounding retro games. I’ve created a social identity, and it’s not an uncommon experience. So I started thinking about Social Identity Theory. It’s a “social behavior determined by the character and motivations of the person as an individual (interpersonal behavior) as well as by the person’s group membership (i.e., inter-group behavior).”
It’s pragmatic for me to say such a thing, however I got to thinking if this social identity I created spurred my desire to collect video games. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people tends to have these effects, and I wondered if I collect because of that feeling of belonging, or that I collect because I truly care about what I have.
I shop around; I’m a stickler for a quality product. I have vanity in the way I display my collection, and I often talk about it with others like I’m some sort of paragon of video games. I follow YouTube personalities and Instagram influencers that match my persona, which encourages me to go out and hunt for more, furthering this artificial identity. Deep down, I have a jealousy of what others have when I don’t. I can only imagine this social identity is affecting others in more close knit groups and collectives out there.
The reason why I said earlier that it was all a waste of money is that none of these video games are going anywhere. They are valuable investments that are sitting on my shelf, and I will never make a financial return on them because I refuse to sell them.
There are a ton of collectors out there that collect video games like it’s their job and resell them for profit (Pixel Game Squad, Chase After The Right Price, and Phoenix Resale to name a few). They are wise investors because retro and nostalgia are big money makers currently, requiring smart investing at not biting off more than you can chew. Unlike other investments that can be regulated by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) or FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), video games don’t seem to have a governing body that sets prices, unless you count eBay as a governing body. Nostalgia, rarity, and quality can drive up prices that are often determined by someone who feels personally connected to such products. Their personal connections to video games, including video game systems and accessories, can artificially inflate prices in an unregulated market, and if one wants it that bad, there’s nothing that person can do but fork up the cash.
You see, I collect because of the nostalgia. Yes, it tickles me too. The video games on my shelf are merely there for show, and I look fondly at these games that I had great experiences with. I don’t use these games every day, and many have sat on my shelf for years not being touched, much less played. That’s why I collect and keep, because of the memories, and also because at some point these games may be hard to come by, a rare experience in an impending all-digital future we’re heading toward. I may at some point want to pop in the original Resident Evil for the PlayStation, and I’m thankful to have that opportunity at any given moment.
I’ve been collecting video games for years, and if I were to have jumped into the game at this point, I would be immensely dismayed at the prices. In my eyes, video games shouldn’t rise in price because some dude has great memories playing games as a child. Whatever a game was worth on day one of its release, it should not rise in price any higher.
That, of course, is my personal feeling; however it means little in the grand scheme of things. Retro video games are investments to many people, and for many it’s how they make their money, whether it be their main line of work or a side-hustle. Collecting nostalgia can only be financially responsible if you intend to resell to break even or profit.
This thought gave me a sour feeling in my mouth as I walked away from my collection. Those games serve no tangible purpose in my life other than looking pretty on a shelf. They aren’t pieces of art in a museum that people can pay to see or gawk at. So why do I have all this? This question still eludes me, and I still question my motivations on why I purchase wasted products that do not produce anything tangible for me. Memories aren’t in physical form after all.
What do you think? Do you collect video games? Do you intend to resell or just keep them as trophies? Discuss in the comments, or head over to our Discord. You can also use the QR code at the bottom and keep the conversation going!
Stoy Jovic is head of the EXPCast: A Video Game Podcast with friends Pat, Dan, and Josh, part of the Boss Rush Network. He is also on the Cross Roads Podcast with LeRon Dawkins and Andre Wilson, and a writer on the Boss Rush Network. You’ll get annoyed every time he gushes about Mass Effect, Silent Hill, and racing games.