Collecting video games is not as fun as it used to be

Collecting video games is simultaneously easier than ever and not as fun as it used to be

Unless you got linked to this article from some other website, then you've probably noticed that I have a fairly robust collection of old video games1. I never really intended to collect video games, I just kind of started trying to get my hands on a lot of the games that I played when I was younger and games that I wished I had played and games that look interesting and so forth. I'd also get games that I maybe didn't have a huge interest in because they were cheap (hello, three different editions of Wheel of Fortune).

And, really, there's no feeling quite like having a list of games that you really want in the back of your head2, and stumbling across it at a yard sale or a thrift store. It's the main reason that I would wake up early on Saturday mornings, grab some fast-food breakfast, and scour the town looking around at yard sales and church sales for old video games and old video game paraphernalia. It was worth it to me to spend an entire morning driving around town pawing through other peoples' junk if I could come away with some game-related thing that could make my collection that much more complete.

But, recently3, finding anything video-game related at a yard sale or even a thrift store has been getting a lot harder. So much so that I could go for weeks and not find a scrap of anything for an entire season. No games, no books, no toys, nothing video-game related at all, and that's annoying. Or, if I did manage to find anything, then the seller wanted way too much for it.

For example: about five years ago, I went to a yard sale that was part of the (semi)famous Highway 60 Yard Sale4. I stopped at a farmhouse that had dozens of tables of crap out in the yard where I found a lone NES controller. Unfortunately, it had rained overnight and everything was wet. I figured the controller might be salvagable, so I looked at it. There was no price (*groan*)5, so I take it to the proprietor and ask how much he wants for it. He says, "Well, that's pretty old! How about $20?" I told him, "Well, it's not that old, not particularly rare, and it's been rained on. Did it work before it got wet?" He admitted that he didn't know if it worked an backed way down to a much more reasonable $5, which was still a little high, but I paid it anyway, mostly because I didn't want to end the day empty-handed.

But I was mostly okay with it because, yes, having the collection of games and memoribilia is intrinsically fun (otherwise I probably wouldn't bother tending to it), but hunting down and finding bits to add to the collection is also its own kind of fun. And that's been tougher and tougher to accomplish lately.

At first I thought that it might be because the NES is over 35 years old now, and the nature of something being that old is that more and more of the stuff that's out there consolidates itself into fewer and fewer hands as people like me try to buy back bits of their childhood (or whatever excuse they want to use). This is even worse the older the games you want to collect are. Over the last 10-or-so years of scouring my local yard sales, thrift shops, and flea markets, I've found Commodore 64 stuff exactly twice, Atari 2600 stuff once, TI-99/4a stuff never. But if the age of the consoles was the key issue, I'd expect that instead of NES-era stuff that I'd now be finding PSX or GameCube software or something else, and I'm not really seeing that much, either5.

What I see is a combination of stuff like eBay and Craigslist combined with the occasional story that pops up on websites now and again where someone discovers a Holy Grail video game in some dusty forgotten corner of a farmhouse in the outskirts of Medicine Hat, so they think that their box full of games like Adventure Island, Duck Hunt, Spy Hunter, and Barkley Shut Up and Jam! is worth hundreds of dollars. So they put them up on eBay or Craigslist or whatever for way too much money instead of putting them in a yard sale for too little money6. Local thrift stores have a mandate to pull out anything that they think is worth any money to put on their own auction site, so they're out, too.

On one hand, it's nice to be able to go to an online auction site or a site like Craigslist and just type in what you're looking for and then find it immediately with no real work, but then that's just shopping, which I have nothing in particular against, but it does take a lot of the fun out of the hobby.

It's not all doom and gloom and boring, though. There are still shops around here at least that buy, sell, and trade games, and it's nice to be able to go into them and see what they've got on offer since it changes daily, hoping that someone will have traded in that copy of Kid Klown that you've been looking for, so that's something, at least.

And it's kind of a shame that part of the hobby that I found enjoyable has been obviated. But maybe that's for the best? I can focus on other aspects of the hobby, like learning to clean and maintain old games and systems7 and checking out the surprisingly-vibrant homebrew scene. I can work on my collection of Nintendo Adventure Books or the Worlds of Power series.

And if all that fails? Maybe I can start a video game podcast. There's certainly not enough of those on the Internet right now.


  1. If you didn't know that, then go back to the home page and check out the inventories. If you want. If you don't care, that's fine, too, I guess.
  2. Or, let's be realistic here, on your smartphone
  3. Global pandemics notwithstanding
  4. It's billed as a 200 mile stretch of highway that's jam-packed with yard sales all along Highway 60 in Western Kentucky, what it turned out to be was about 3 miles pockmarked with a few straggly sales and 30 miles of nothing before I got bored and turned around and went back home
  5. Protip: put price tags on all your crap at a yard sale. Don't try to wheel and deal everyone who comes by. Nobody likes that.
  6. Maybe things are different in a bigger city. Let me know in the comments!*
    • That was a joke. I don't have any comments on this website
  7. Or they think that their games are so old that they're worthless and they get thrown in the trash, which is unfortunate.
  8. I'm begging you, don't ever use oven cleaner on your old games. It works in the short term, but it shortens the life of the games, which is a shame.

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