I have a lot of video games. My wife has a lot of video games. When we moved in together we had a LOT of video games. Before we had a kid and our money could be used for fun things we got MORE video games. The number of video games we have is very high!
Well, HAD is probably the better word at this point. We still have a lot, but noticeably less than we had before. I say noticeably, but it’s probably only noticeable to me and not to, say, my stepmom who looked at me and said “holy crap” when she walked into our living room and saw our shelves for the first time.
Anyway, I’ve been getting rid of a lot of games lately and I have to be honest, it feels great. Really, truly great. My anxiety and stress levels have been all over the place lately and games were making my problems worse, not better. I was starting to feel owned by my games rather than the other way around. I’d feel guilty playing a game when I knew I had others sitting there I hadn’t gotten to yet or stopped halfway through. Something had to give. So a couple of days ago I got a box and started pulling stuff off the shelf.
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When I worked at GameStop years ago, even before I started dating my wife, it was so I could buy video games. I worked a different “real” job and moonlighted as a Game Advisor for extra cash and that sweet, sweet discount. I told myself “someday I won’t be able to buy new games anymore and I’ll be happy I got all this stuff now.” Spoiler: that day never came!
Fast forward a few years and I started a YouTube channel all about obscure retro games. I spent a lot of time foraging game stores and conventions for all kinds of weird stuff, some of which got played once and sat on the shelf. I justified it to myself all the time – I’ll get to this stuff someday, when I have a kid they’ll be interested in these, and so on and so on.
It just got to be too much. I was constantly torn between the excitement of new games for Switch and PS4 and the comfort of familiar games on all my old consoles. Deciding what to play was daunting. Being in the middle of a new modern game but then wanting to dive into some video game comfort food spiked my anxiety. Why am I playing this when I should be playing that? I’ve had that game for years and never tried it, I need to play it! THEY ANNOUNCED A SEQUEL TO THIS GAME I NEVER FINISHED, I NEED TO GET BACK TO IT RIGHT NOW!
It was too much.
I did a very small purge a few years ago of some of my rarer, more expensive games I wasn’t that into and it was still very difficult. I liked knowing I had spent $10 years ago for a game that was worth $150 now, even if I didn’t like the game. Eventually I made myself part with them because I had really wanted to upgrade my computer for video editing and as time passed I realized I didn’t miss them.
I frequent a few retro gaming and collecting subreddits and I really liked seeing pictures from people with small collections. They didn’t hoard mountains of games that didn’t mean anything to them just for the sake of having them. I wanted that.
A couple of months ago my wife and I went through our shelves and pulled down things we didn’t need anymore. I still had a few rare games I was holding onto just because they were rare. Those went in the box. We didn’t get rid of a ton, but it was enough to streamline things and as a nice bonus we made a few hundred bucks to help with some bills.
With my favorite hobby now doing as much harm as good to my mental health I decided I wanted to try again and make some harder choices this time. If it wasn’t a “Joe Game” or a “Christina Game” it was going in the box. I want our library to mean more to us and reflect on our tastes and history instead of just being a big mishmash of stuff we bought and never paid attention to.
Yes, we do still have a lot of games. It’s still enough to keep us entertained forever even if we never purchased another game. But it feels nicer. It feels more like the smaller collections I saw other people post.
I made some hard cuts. I have the NES Double Dragon trilogy in the box right now. I wound up with them in high school and never played them. Beat ’em ups are one of my favorite genres and I still never popped them in. But I kept them for so long because I had all three games. I tried them yesterday, and like, yeah, they’re fine, but they don’t MEAN anything to me. If I want to play a beat ’em up I’m going to go for Streets of Rage 3 or Brawl Brothers or The Simpsons. I’m going to turn to a game that I know I like and is gonna deliver what I’m looking for. I’m going to turn to a “Joe Game.” The Double Dragon games are not “Joe Games.”
I did have a few rules when deciding what to part with. Obviously anything that was first-party Nintendo was staying put. I still have a few RPGs I never got to that I’m not quite ready to part with yet. Anything I did a video on or reviewed for Nintendo Life/Push Square/Pure Xbox was staying as well. I kinda wish I could break that rule, because then I could get rid of these:
I feel much more relived looking at our shelves now. I still think there’s a few things I could get rid of. I’m still allowing myself to keep a few things for silly reasons, like my copy of Shadowgate for NES that has a sticker from a used game store chain in the Sacramento area that I always saw commercials for as a kid but my parents never took me to. I have a couple of games with these stickers and each one has a different address. I think that’s cool.
I have a copy of I-Ninja on PS2 I’ll probably never play again, but my old friend/roommate and I played through it together when our other friend and roommate moved out and I felt like we bonded over it. I haven’t seen him in years and we don’t talk much anymore, but I look at that game and I remember that time in my life. That’s a “Joe Game.”
I’ve set a few rules for buying new games, too. I’m not buying anything unless I’m really, legitimately excited for it and not just curious about it. I’ll definitely be getting Super Mario Maker 2, but I’m going to pass on Fire Emblem Three Houses now. Like, I had been curious about Everybody’s Golf on PS4 for a long time now, and this time of year puts me in the mood for cartoony golf games. It was on sale on Amazon for $12 so I finally got it, but now when I play it I just think about how I’d rather be playing Mario Golf Toadstool Tour on my GameCube, which is definitely a “Joe Game.”
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Video games are just things. There was a time when getting new things and having lots of things made me happy. A lot has changed in my life and what makes me happy is different now. I like that I’ve accepted that. I feel much better.