Collecting games is a bit akin to collecting books. They might look good on the shelf, but a lot of time needs to be invested to get anything substantial out of them. A game disc in itself is worthless unless the game itself is played with some attention. Just as a book is useless when sitting on the shelf without being read. Yet a lot of games we gamers collect in a more or less obsessive compulsive manner end up unplayed – or underplayed – in our collections.
One of the problems is of course the release schedule. Just because your gaming shelf is filled with unplayed titles doesn’t mean the industry will pause churning out desirable new ones. Also there’s always – really at every point in time – more games either being newly released or on sale than any one person could possibly play. But it is of course possible to buy those games. For those never occurring, entirely hypothetical hard times somewhere in the future, when there will be neither sales nor new games. Nor anything else like a job, the family or school to keep us from playing.
And that’s just the thing. When my gaming shelve is filled with shrink wrapped titles, I still keep on buying new stuff. A part of the reason for that is that I just like the act of buying. Instant self indulgence. Waiting for the mailman to arrive, open the package and place the game box on the shelve. And for that part to be fulfilled, it’s entirely unimportant if I’m going to actually play the game. It’s a collector’s drive. And that even extends to immaterial games on Steam.
Another problem, although a minor one, is technical progress. It used to be worse, these days the age of a game doesn’t start to show as quickly as it did some years ago. Still, games being released now do look and feel oftentimes better than those being sold for bargain prices. So it’s easy being spoiled. Just play the latest Uncharted title and then fire up a game made before that and observe yourself cringing at the facial animation. Hell, just fire up any game that’s not up to the production qualities of the Uncharted games right after playing them and see how you feel about that. Getting spoiled is really easy. Advice against that? Go play some really old game. 10 years or older. Play an indi title with 8-bit aesthetics.
It gets worse of course once you delve into those, since that opens yet a whole new can of worms. There’s more so called “indi” titles out there than you could shake a controller at. Those cost even less than regular games do, and some of them eat your life for breakfast. Just ask people about how many hours they poured into that 10$ game of Minecraft. That game alone could keep a working man busy for months. Yet still we buy on.
My game collection has grown to a quite impressive – or rather obsessive? – size over the years. I’m arriving at a point, where I’m buying games that end up shrink wrapped on the shelf for some months before I either bother or find the time for playing them. And still I buy on. These days, there’s not a month without at least one big huge must-have release. I like my gaming shelf. It’s an expression of my love for the hobby. It gets a bit more complicated with digital downloads. The Steam Sales of late saw me buying at least one game a day – for somewhere between 2.50€ and 14€.
Prices for games also drop rapidly, if you know where to look. Paying less than 20€ for a game that’s just over a year old isn’t that spectacular a find nowadays. On console. It gets much, much worse with PC games. 10€ for Dragon Age, a game that could easily last for 20+ hours in one playthrough? Lots of bang for the buck. The latest Fallout title set me back only about 29€ on PC. That’s again 30+ hours on one playthrough alone. Have I played it yet? Of course not.
Huge open world games that come in at less than 30€ are probably the best valued entertainment in all media. GTA IV + expansions on a Steam Sale for 13€? That’s what? A cent per hour of action? This does have a side effect of course. There is a sort of devaluing happening with games like that. Entertainment inflation.
Interestingly it’s the opposite to what’s happening with gaming in general. The trend nowadays goes towards games who’s single player campaigns take 6-8 hours while costing 60€ on release. So the subconscious mind is of course tempted to perceive these games as inherently a lot more valuable and more worthy of one’s time than a game one already owns. Also this game appears more valuable than any 30+ hour game that’s on sale for a fiver.
But will this cheap while deep game get that one playthrough that justifies even the 5€ spent on it? Oftentimes, and that’s speaking from personal experience, new releases are so shiny and tempting, and all the net is abuzz about how shiny and tempting about how great and discussionworthy they are, that they are just so much more appealing to us than the games we already own. Like Tantalus, we are never satisfied, the game we want to play right now is always the one coming out next week.