cunzy

Rare Loot: The Games We Treasure – Jay Edition

Despite much of modern gaming firmly being digitally entrenched, there’s a large chunk of gaming still very much locked in the physical world. From companies specialising in limited physical runs of digital-only games to statuettes and steelbooks, from luxury vinyl soundtracks to custom arcade sticks it looks like physical gaming stuff (A.K.A. pile of plastic tat) will be with us for years to come. In this column I interview gamers about a much loved, maligned, or sought after item from their collection. Welcome to Rare Loot!

This week’s looter(?) is videolamer’s own Jay. He asked me to write for the website a while ago. He likes video games. He’s sort of the Leonardo to the mutated reptile videolamer crew except he doesn’t lead, or have swords. He can be found dreaming of deeply obscure 90s Japan-only releases whilst secretly playing Souls games again like a proper Chad with painfully mainstream gaming tastes.

Cunzy: Before we look at your chosen item, what kind of collector are you? Are you a collector(™), a hoarder or a connoisseur with a few select gaming items in your collection? 

Jay: Please don’t use the word Chad on this site. Pat and I share our collection and we refer to it as The Library. We fancy ourselves historians, but really we are just two guys with too much disposable income. We have been adding pieces to The Library for two decades or so and a lot of the rarer stuff comes from my days of scouring eBay while working at the university library in the early and mid turn of the century.

Cunzy: What rare loot have you decided to highlight today? Don’t worry we’ll drop the annoying thematic trapping loot nonsense by the next question. 

Jay: Standing amidst my collection, a single game cried out to be honored and I had no choice but oblige: Zelda The Wand of Gamelon on the CD-i 

I implore you to buy my game, Link.

Cunzy: Where and when did you get it? What condition was it in?

Jay: I bought it off eBay on April, 4, 2016. It was complete with mild wear.

Cunzy: Why did you “need” it? 

Jay: I did not. I don’t even have a CD-i.

Cunzy: Is it any good?

Jay: No, it is terrible.

Cunzy: When was the last time you played it/used it?

Jay: I have never played it. I did play Faces of Evil when I was in junior high at a friend’s house, though. It’s running in the same engine and by the same developer. That was a very bad game, despite the internets fondness for its cut scenes.

Cunzy: Do you regret wasting your money on it?

Jay: No, because I bought it in a lot. This is really the crux of why I have the game and why it was a cool find. There was an $85 lot of CD-i games on eBay. This was in the era of parking on the site and looking at every newly listed item in hopes of snapping up a deal in seconds. So I got a lot of 21 CD-i games for roughly $4 a piece. The lot came with other heavy hitters such as ABC Sports Presents: Power Hitter, Battleship, Stickybear Preschool, Pinball, and ABC Sports Present: The Palm Springs Open.

What could be more fun than golf meets FMV?

Cunzy: See this is one of the things that interests me about what drives video game collectors and their collections. I can understand having a copy of a game you owned and loved that you can’t currently play but it’s stuff like collecting copies of games for systems you’ve never owned or don’t own that is bordering on the pathological. What’s the thought process? Is it an archive? A way of proving the game existed? Is it just to inconvenience your family when they’re tossing this stuff the second you die? Is it prepping for some post-apocalyptic future where you have a CRT and a bunch of old consoles hooked up to a generator to show the kids how awful some old games were?

Jay: That’s not one question. We call the collection The Library, so sure we pretend it’s some sort of archive. To elevate the level of pretense in this discussion, I would suggest you find that Umberto Eco quote about how a library should have stuff you haven’t played in it. He probably said “read,” but what does he know? At its best, The Library is there for reference and preservation. More realistically, it’s a testament to some form of pathology.

Choosing a specific item is difficult because I have put more time and money into making old games playable than is reasonable. Between PC emulation, flash cartridges, and optical drive emulators, I have access to basically anything I would ever want to play. Multiple lifetimes worth of crap. All the physical stuff is redundant. So I chose something interesting and fitting for me, an infamously bad game I got a great deal on by compulsively checking eBay.

Cunzy: And lastly, do you have a gaming item on your list to acquire or one that you regret not picking up at the time?

Jay: About a hundred games from the latter, and a thousand from the former. The number of times I picked up Kuon for PS2 then put it down because it looked bad and got bad reviews kills me now that I, along with the world, are From fanatics and it sells for $600.

Affordable

What I plan on buying changes constantly. I am partial to the idea of completing a developers set or getting everything appealing on a single console. Developers I have built a strong but incomplete collection for include Camelot and Treasure. Getting every “real” game for the Saturn and Dreamcast also sounds possible, at least for the NA region. Other temporary angles for collecting I have tried include buying RPGs regardless of region and buying cheap Japanese games. That’s how you end up with things like Tokyo Bus Guide, Terra Phantastica, and The Great Battle Gaiden 2.

Most likely, I will continue to focus on limited physical releases of Switch games I already own on Steam or will never play.

Cunzy: But even if you did pick up Kuon would you ever sell it? Or would it be something you pointed to on a shelf to say at some point, before the disc became unusable this was arbitrarily worth more than a little bit of money. If it was in mint condition. And graded. And kept in a proper preserving environment.

Jay: Of course I wouldn’t sell it. If money were really the goal, I am old enough to understand the stock market provides better and more consistent returns than random games. No, the point is to dream of selling it and all the stuff you could do if you did. And then roleplay the inevitable lawsuit after I sell the entire collection without telling Pat. Also, as absurd as having a huge collection is, I firmly believe games are for playing. Grading games is a blight on the hobby and is quick shorthand to convey you don’t actually care about the medium.

So there we have it. Thanks Jay for this fascinating insight into the mind of a psychopath reasonable human being who collects video games and sometimes even plays them.

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pat
pat
4 months ago

This is the story, as relayed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan:
“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others – a very small minority – who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”
Anyway, that is a really pompous way of talking about the library, but it approximates the way I feel about it. Owning games is sort of about having access to them rather than playing any given game. As we discuss games, recommend them to each other, hear about them on podcasts or lists, etc it is great to be able to just grab something off the shelf, try it out, and see what the fuss is about. In the genres I care about, I like to know where series and ideas came from, and being able to reach back in history to check is valuable.

TrueTallus
TrueTallus
4 months ago

Nice feature, thanks for sharing Jay (and Pat), and I hope that Rare Loot makes a return feature appearance, Cunzy! It’s always fascinating to hear from a collector why they collect (I liked ‘Is it just to inconvenience your family when they’re tossing this stuff the second you die?’, lol). I’ve never really come across an instance of a shared library that was successful, so congratulations (in my experience, somebody always ends up wanting to either move on from the project, or the hoarding instinct gets too strong and the games end up being divvied up to separate silos).

How much regular interaction do either of you have with games in the Library (beyond ones you were immediately planning to play)? I definitely applaud the idea of having a reliable reference and archive, but I’ve found in my own life that I’ve been willing to gradually part ways with games as my own available time gets more precious and the time cost represented by a title becomes more considerable.

At this point, too, there seems to be such a breadth of games continually coming out that I have an underlying feeling that much of the experience I could find in an older game has been (or soon will be) perfected in a newer one. The VALUE of an older game, outside of it’s historic significance and perspective (something that seems difficult to understand properly by just playing it), seems diminished if I can get a more fully realized version of the same story/mechanic/characters/setting/graphical prowess on steam in short order.

The one difference is when a game in my library is a mnemonic, a link to a PERSONAL history, either as a game I already played, or as part of an era I can have enough immediate context to understand through experience. I want to keep ‘Tail of the Sun’ because traipsing my freakish cave person across the tundra finding angular mammoths under the flying dreamcake stars brings me close again to sitting in the living room with a brother who died more than a decade ago. SSX sits on my shelf partly because I actually really enjoy it, but also because something about the night-time lights and sound of the glass trilling under Zoe’s board in Merqury City Meltdown brings back the mingled wonder, depression and rebirth of going to (and flunking out of) college for the first time.

jay
Admin
jay
4 months ago

Thanks for sharing such personal stuff, TrueTallus. I have a handful of games that bring back visceral memories in the collection but 99% or more is just “stuff.”

I think the core idea of what you are saying about a newer game potentially replacing an older game is something I don’t agree with. This is all very hard to quantify and ephemeral, but there is something about some games that can’t be simply replaced. A charm, quirk, or whatever. If you consider only raw mechanics then you’re probably right that a lot of stuff just gets superseded, but the main reason Pat and I like having access to old stuff is because we feel there are ideas, feelings, or atmospheres that are unique to specific games. This is often unrelated to how “good” a game is.

I can’t think of a game that can just stand-in for, say, Little King’s Story. The Pikmin-esque gameplay has probably been done better, but the bizarre cutesy imperialism motif is still unique. And if it’s done by another game, the specifics will still vary. Or how about a classic like Diablo? It’s much more a horror game than its sequels, which certainly improved on it in most aspects. I still think it offers something distinct and is worth playing regardless of how many follow-ups they make.

A large part of why we are constantly lamented the death of mid-size Japanese games on this site is because those games are such a consistent source of uniqueness. My disinterest in most AAA games is likely the other side of that coin. Big games are maybe the most replaceable with newer entries.

I am tiptoeing around some argument about games being art that I don’t know I want to get into or have to defend. But if you consider any other medium (cameras get better, recording stuff improves, style of prose evolves, etc.) the idea that the new simply replaces the old is only really appealing to people who are not particularly well-versed or dedicated. Games are interesting because the biggest fans often see old games as obsolete. Maybe this site should cover more old stuff with a specific eye towards why this game is still interesting right now.

Then there is the idea that different and newer actually equals better. Sega claimed that turn based games were old and boring when they made a bunch of the shittiest Shining Force games (sans Camelot’s involvement) and I think that’s simply a dumb stance. Maybe people buy real time games more but that doesn’t make them better. So there’s the effect the market has on design to consider as well in this, now thanks to me, very muddled topic.

To address your question on how much do we interact? Rarely if I am honest. The games are at my house so Pat sees them maybe once a year. Sometimes I will unlock the door (kids are dangerous) to add a new game, but mostly I load this and balk at how stupid prices have gotten. https://www.pricecharting.com/offers?seller=lagwffvde5qvs67umkntszlrd4&status=collection
If you know any cool people who want to play old games in the DC metro area, let me know. Waiting for Pat or Shota to make it here once a year or less so we can play a dozen games over a weekend is tough.

pat
pat
4 months ago

jay is right that we don’t interact with it that much, and the pandemic has made it so even our once or twice per year gaming weekends haven’t happened in a while. that said, when we do get together we use the library in approximately the way we describe in the piece. we will play a lot of games, often with a theme, each for long enough to get a sense for the game and what its qualities and significance are. then later thing about returning to some subset of them that are good or interesting enough to warrant additional attention.

we sort of keep a running tally of stuff that would be appropriate for a weekend like this, since it obviously lends itself better to certain genres or experiences than others. we have also deviated a few times, spending one whole (the last time we were together maybe?) on panzer dragoon saga, and a previous one mostly on la mulana.

we wrote up a few of these back in the old days. i think this was the first one we did, with a bit of a focus on bad games (superman and bubsy esp): https://videolamer.com/weekend-in-review
then this: https://videolamer.com/weekend-in-review-march-edition-of-march
and this, with 2 shenmue entries that arent the main games: https://videolamer.com/weekend-in-review-weekends-happen-once-a-year

TrueTallus
TrueTallus
4 months ago

Thanks for the response, Jay, and I may take you up on the invitation the next time I’m in DC (don’t worry, the chances for a visit are slim in the immediate future)!

I definitely WANT to believe the idea that each game is worth enjoying as an individual experience that can’t just be reduced to its parts and stacked up by color like a package of smarties, but I’ve started to waver as I’ve seen the deluge of Indie games and watched so many people striving to recreate and iterate on the ideas that moved or inspired them.

If someone’s desire has been to ‘make the best version of Symphony of the Night’, and if (God forbid) I’d never played the original, there may well be a reason to recommend some unknown game as the perfect distillation (the ‘form’ in a Platonian-ish sense) of that same experience. With so many folks able and willing to invest the resources to make that dream a reality, and the lowered bar in development allowing folks with creative and design skill to have an easier technical lift, more than ever it feels like that dream has a greater chance to be realized. I remember Jeremy Parish commenting at one point (I believe somewhat tongue in cheek) to the effect that he sort of gave up the idea of game development after playing Axiom Verge, as it was essentially the game he always wanted to create after playing Metroid. For Parish, a guy who’s spent a ridiculous amount of time documenting and discussing metroidvania games, Axiom Verge somehow encapsulated what he was most fascinated and inspired by in the genre in a way he himself couldn’t have built better. With so many games coming out, and so little time to play them, it’s hard not to repress the old min-maxing tendency to hold off until I can be sure I’m experiencing the best/clearest there is of something :P

This is really starting to become an offshoot discussion of the ‘are old games killing new games’ post, in a way. With the volume of titles of all kinds I’m simultaneously hesitant to try a new game because I can’t help but wonder if a better version of the same idea is just around the corner (should I try Horizon Chase, or…wait Hot Shot racing… let’s wait and see what comes next…), and hesitant to try an old game because (in keeping with your suggestion) I don’t really know why I should go through the hassle of trying to track down a working XBOX and paying for Outrun 2 again.

All that said, I can’t (and don’t want to) argue against the thought that games are the work of one or more actual human beings, and that the ideas woven into them make each one special (though I’d be hard pressed to see how over $600 of specialness is woven into Rule of Rose). I want to be able to experience them as special (worthy of being preserved, even played, within a game library) but for me at least, without the golden thread of memory, it’s gets hard to tell them apart enough to know they are worth keeping. To belabor the cloth/weaving analogy even further, games can feel like hand sewn shirts on a shelf – if I only see a few shirts, I’ll want to pick up a blue one, and if they seem different enough, I might actually take the time to try them on and find out that one feels particularly nice to wear. If the store has seven aisles of hand sewn blue shirts, though, it’s hard not to feel like any (or none) of them will do, even if each one was made with loving care.

TrueTallus
TrueTallus
4 months ago

Doh, I missed your response Pat, thanks for chiming in as well. Playing games from the vault together around a theme is a great idea! I’ll check out the links:)

Last edited 4 months ago by TrueTallus
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