Retro Gaming and Collecting in the Modern Age

Is the collecting of video games becoming more and more irrelevant as emulation becomes easier and mainstream?

I love video games. Gaming can be a great way to pass time and can fulfill several different purposes, like keeping your reactions and hand-eye coordination sharp with first-person shooters and fighting games, keeping you fit with dancing games, helping with your critical thinking skills through strategy games, being a social outlet through multi-player and party games, and even open your imagination and mind to different cultures and possibilities through story-telling and roleplaying.

They are also widely regarded by many as a form of art, with video games in themselves being an art form what with all the effort that goes into making one: the work involved with creating and writing characters, fun gameplay, and tying it all together with music and a soundtrack of its own. A lot of effort goes into making a game, so you could say that it is a bunch of pieces of art all put together into this nice package.

Perfect Dark for the Nintendo 64 was one of those games that had sleek packaging and aesthetic designs.

This makes me wonder why collecting retro games tends to be frowned upon.

Sure, emulation has made it possible to play classic games without having the physical cartridge or disc, and you could even download and play these games for free on pretty much any console you want, even your phone. The same game you would see being sold for fifty bucks, if not hundreds or more, you could probably buy in a downloadable compilation or collection set for a fraction of the price digitally!

Are classic video game consoles going extinct? Will we never see things like this in the mainstream?

I mean, why would you want to buy that copy of the game being sold on eBay for almost half of your entire pay-check and wait for the package to arrive at your door when you could buy an even better, remastered version of it, download, and play it within seconds?

Just look at the price of these games! Even the newer Nintendo Gamecube titles are starting to increase sharply in value.

The answer, my friend, is quite simple.

Yes, emulation is great, but nothing compares to having access to the original, physical cartridge or disc and access to play it whenever you want, just as how the developers originally intended.

Emulation also does not give the same classic feeling it did when you sat down on the floor and played a video game on a console in front of a TV. You can’t spin up an emulated Nintendo DS game on your computer and play it the same way you could on an actual handheld Nintendo DS.

As for those compilations and collections? Often the version of these games is sometimes somehow worse than the original versions. Take the Grand Theft Auto Definitive Edition Trilogy, for example, the games here are a higher definition for sure but the appearance of everything is jarring, and a lot of the music you could find in the original is nowhere to be found here. A lot of new bugs as a result of the porting process were introduced, making the experience nearly unplayable in some areas.

The rain in GTA definitive edition definitely left a lot to be desired.

There are other games for example too, like Sonic Origins. The collection as packaged here isn’t all that bad, but there are still glitches and bugs introduced throughout the game in its’ own right, and these are issues that weren’t present at all in the original games.

If you decided you didn’t like these versions of the game and wanted to go back, well- Tough luck. The publisher for these titles took down the original version of these downloads, making it so they were no longer available. All you have available now are these remasters that are arguably a worse experience that lacks a lot of the charm the originals had.

And this is not to mention games nowadays that are released as digital exclusives. Historically you could buy a game, and that was that. You had a physical copy in your hand, ready to play and ready to go whenever you were, but now games are being released on platforms that will only hold onto them for a limited amount of time, and console lifespans become something of a birdsong as you grow older and older.

Take Scott Pilgrim versus the World for example; a beat’em up game that was originally released digitally for the Xbox 360 and PS3. There was a period of seven years where no one could download and play it when it was delisted, at least not until the Complete Edition was released and made available for sale in 2021. Did you receive a new console and wanted to play an old favorite with some friends? Too bad.

Even worse was the groundbreaking “P.T,” which shifted and defined the genre of horror games we now experience today. That short, but amazingly sweet trailer to what was intended to be Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro’s rendition of “Silent Hills,” featuring Norman Reedus, is delisted now with the only way to play it officially through either older PS4 console hardware that still has it saved to hard drives or people who have thankfully taken it upon themselves to salvage and upload the game so that it could still be experienced as close to the original as possible.

P.T has been delisted by Konami already, so it is impossible to download now unless through unofficial means, usually involving mods or third party tools, or if you’re one of the lucky few that have a PS4 that has it preinstalled.

But this brings me to my original point: physical copies are an investment, with the art and experience becoming more valuable over time.

Emulation is all well and good, but there’s something to be said about having a piece of gaming history in your hands. There is value in knowing that you could play this game on an original console years down the line regardless of whether or not it’s still supported by the company who published it, provided you keep and take good care of it.

You might still say, “But Hedgehog, why spend so much on a piece of plastic that is basically hand-me-down scrap when you could simply download the game today and play it,” or, “physical copies being harder and harder to find makes emulation that much more important.” And to those people I say this:

I’m not saying emulation is bad, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy the games you like in the way you want to. Emulation is an important ally to video games collecting, their preservation, and enjoyment in fact! Each time you run a physical classic copy of the game on original hardware, it does add a tiny bit of wear and tear to it… but there is something special about having a physical copy of a game as a keepsake, or to show off to friends. It’s a piece of gaming history. A collectible. An heirloom that can be passed down, kept, and enjoyed for years to come.

It’s an investment, and one that I think is worth making especially if you were born and raised as a gamer.

Are you a collector of retro games? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

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