Game Collecting is the New Comics

This is a guest post written by Bradley Phillips

No hobby seems to be accelerating at the velocity that game collecting has achieved in recent years. Sure, YouTube shows like Angry Video Game Nerd and the Game Chasers have helped drive the push toward hoarding 8-bit cartridge based systems, bizarre accessories, and even home arcades. Of course, “Storage Wars” personality Mark Balelo’s now-infamous “NES-001” flub also elevated classic gaming into the 24-hour news cycle – though perhaps not in the most spectacular of lights. What the recent hype over video games really boils down to is the very nature of fandom and collecting: nostalgia.

Comic book geeks from the 1950s were collecting the volumes they once loved when they achieved a comfortable level of disposable income by the 1970s-80s. GI Joe nostalgia peaked in the 1980s-90s and toy memorabilia expos exploded onto the scene. By 2000s-10s, the kids of my generation were finishing university studies and getting big-people jobs. The itch to scoop up those childhood memories became quite strong for many – and so, game collecting took off. Now the rarer titles do, in fact, go for large sums of money. That NES-001 that Balelo was confused about – he was actually recalling an eBay auction from that time where a copy of “Stadium Events” had found its way into the mix. Perhaps the rarest commercially released title ever to hit the mass market, Stadium Events draws an enormous sum when a copy finds its way into online auctions. This rarity is due to the game being pulled from the shelves almost as soon as it hit, when Nintendo acquired the game’s publication rights from game producer Bandai. It was later rebranded and re-released to disaffected yawns from the public.

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Perhaps the most sought-after game ever, Nintendo World Championships, was not a commercially released product. Rather, it was a prize awarded through the 1990 contests Nintendo held around the country and via its Nintendo Power publication. The entire mythos and legacy of Nintendo World Championships nearly rivals that of many comic serials. The prestige, the prizes, the odd-duck cartridges with their cut-out slot full of dip-switches – it all makes for an allure any fanboy or collector pines for. The winner of Nintendo World Championships, Thor Aackerlund, will be appearing in just a few weeks at SUPER! BitCon, an Oklahoma video game convention hosted by the Retro Gamers Society that will be celebrating the entire hobby of gaming. The primary focus of this event, however – is game collecting in all its glory. Video game contest winners from the early 90s are now celebrities in their own light within the leagues of this hobby. And that’s awesome.

While comic books, action figures, and movie memorabilia have been longstanding staples of fandom culture, it appears video game collecting is here to stay. The eccentricities, rarities, and variants have much in common with other similar collecting hobbies, though since the hobby developed after the true advent of the Internet, much still remains to be seen regarding the stability of the market and pricing trends. Online auction giant eBay essentially killed the sports card market, but it seems to have only amplified game collecting. Time will tell, but if anything can be identified as timeless, it is the profound nostalgia that fuels these geek proclivities.

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