Friday 9 August 2013

A Justified Expense?

"I just won an auction I forgot I even bid on" I excitedly tell my wife one Sunday morning.

"Another one?" She replies with all the enthusiasm someone can muster for a conversation they have had dozens of times already.

"Yes, but this one was for two games and cost me £117" I reply sheepishly, under my breath. "And it'll be free postage as he is going to deliver them, so that's a saving right there."

For the sake of an exciting blog post I'd love to say that she sprayed out her tea in shock and horror at the price, yelling at me for wasting food money and taking toys out if the hands of our child. But my wife is too lovely for that. She understands that I get a lot of enjoyment buying, playing and writing about these games. She also at the time was probably looking up the price of Emma Bridgewater water jugs so was in danger of looking hypocritical if she questioned the purchase of self indulgent luxuries! Putting my wife's indifference to the cost aside, £117 is a lot or money to pay for two games. I can of course attempt to convince myself that the box and manual add value, that one day they will be worth more, that it’s helping our struggling economy. But this is simply my own way of lessening 'buyer's guilt', of justifying treating myself.

The games in question are Megaman X and X2 I
This is what £117 looks like
got them for a fraction of the cost of what they usually go for, and always thought I would have to pay more to own them in such good condition. The reason they were so cheap was I suspect because they ended at an unusual time & because my maximum bid was so high it was un-effected by snipers. But does this mean the true worth of these games is what I paid or what the going rate is? A few years ago before the retro game nostalgia boom you could of course get SNES games at boot fairs, charity shops or Gumtree for a few pounds. I’d argue those days are gone, particularly if (like me) you only really want boxed games in reasonably good condition. Nowadays therefore, the only place a collector can get something is from fellow collectors be it in retro game shops or on eBay. The price typically dictated by what the most enthusiastic will pay rather than what a game has sold for in the past. Did I then get a bargain or has my opinion of value been compromised by the retro collecting friends I have on Twitter & YouTube?

As with all things, essentially value equates to what something means to you. What is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure rings true. Scarcity, condition and nostalgic reputation may inflate the 'buy it now' figure but a game will only sell if someone is willing to pay that price.

My whole life's purchasing decisions has been based on a value for money metre stick of '£1 per something'. If its clothes it's value for money based on £1 per wear: that £30 shirt becomes appealing if its worn more than 30 times.

For entertainment it's £1 per hour of enjoyment: if I play this £30 game for 30 hours it was a justifiable expense. The problem is this crazy life defining rule was established about 15 years ago when I first started part time jobs. It has not been inflation adjusted and the £1 of 1998 is different to the £1 of 2013. Even halving that cost/enjoyment figure means I would have to play these two games for a combined 58 hours to justify the expense. With the best will in the world that's not going to happen as it wouldn't be 6 weeks of very samey commutes.

On the surface this purchase then seems a very expensive one.  £58.50 per game is possibly what they cost to buy upon first release (games were shockingly expensive 20 years ago!) but it is also the price of 2 current generation games or 18 months of PlayStation Plus which would mean the 'rental' of dozens of games. So why then am I happy to have paid it, so happy in fact that I am willing to seemingly boast online that I spent so much? 

Now, being both British and reserved I know it's somewhat vulgar to talk in too much detail about earnings & money management so I write this with a certain amount of trepidation. I think it's important to put things in context though, so I will mention that I am lucky to have a job I both love and one that (when the work is there) pays reasonably well. However as a sole bread winner with a daughter (and another child due in a matter of weeks) once the mortgage, bills and all of our other expenses come out there's not a huge amount left. Additionally my job is also somewhat seasonal and as I'm self employed I'm also accountable for tax and all if that lark. I'm sharing all of these 'vulgar' revelations to foreground why I'm so careful with money and why I appreciate that £117 is a huge amount to spend on two old games. So why did I? Well life is more than bills and mortgages and each month my wife and I take a nominal amount to just treat ourselves to things.

For me these treats are usually games and until recently current generation games. But two things changed my mind that these were not the most sensible of things to buy upon release. Within six months they halve in value within twelve they are free on PlayStation Plus. I still enjoy playing current games whenever I can and I won't lie the second a new Uncharted or Metal Gear game is released will be the second I buy a PS4. However as a long term investment they are not a wise one. Unconsciously my attentions have turned to retro with its thrillinghunt and box anxiety. With this focus my choice of what to play next more considered. I could buy five Smash TVs for the price of one Mega Man X but which would I prefer to spend my free commuting time and monthly treat budget on? It may be great to surprise yourself with the unexpected but more often than not we want our treats in life to be as good as they can be. Each hour of play may work out more expensive but they will certainly be more enjoyable.

If you’ve reached this paragraph and made it through the above smugness, I applaud you. This topic has been something I've been meaning to cover for a while as it’s difficult to write about a hobby that is everyday getting more and more expensive. Maybe others are more liberated and guilt free about spending. Sometimes I wish I could be.  I guess the conclusion is that if self indulgence leads to happiness and can be afforded regardless of the cost, it really can't be that bad. 


  1. Thats really cheap for those games, seen them go for way more. You need to stop worrying and start playing.

  2. Get what you want, your money mate

  3. If your selling, I give you £200 for both. DM me if yes

  4. I sometimes feel guilty spending the amount I do on games, but it makes me happy, I don't work my nuts off all month to not treat myself! I've spent 4 figures on games in the past butI played and enjoyed them so I was happy :)


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