Friday, 30 January 2015
If retro gaming were a drug, not only would we all be addicts, we would all also be enablers. We fuel the fire of desire in one another, encouraging purchases, advising on which games should be sought out next. When you have a hobby that depends on the accumulation of things there's uncontrollable envy when you see what your peers have picked up, especially if it was for a bargain price. It's even been said that eBay "but it now" prices get raised when a certain retro game gets prominently featured in a magazine, on a website or even when a popular YouTuber talks enthusiastically about it. Retro collecting thrives because there seems to be an "I want what he has" mentality to it.
It's natural of course to want to share in the joy of others. When you see the happiness a game brings someone else why wouldn't you want to buy the same game and experience the same joy? It's worth reminding yourself though that you didn't want that game yesterday. Do you now crave it to play it or do you want it because another collector has it, and to be without would mean being left behind?
I am very much aware that I too am guilty of encouraging others to spend, albeit never explicitly. The first thing I do when I get a bargain game is post a picture on Twitter, especially if it is a particularly rare game or if I got it at a bargain price. Maybe I do it to get approval from those who share my interest; if others agree that I got a bargain it validates the purchase. Perhaps my desire to share my latest addition to my collection is to gloat. If I have just grabbed a fantastic bargain I can't pretend I don't delight in the envy of others.
Of course, we may just share what we have bought because we are excited about it and want to share that with others who appreciate it. My wife is not a retro collector, though she isn't against the idea of me spending money on old games (provided I don't clutter up the house). Though I show her what I've bought she doesn't really know if it's a good buy or not. For her a bargain equates to bulk, so buying 50 games for £100 is a far better than finding a mint complete copy of 'Earthbound' for the same price. Fellow enthusiasts will look through pictures of the mountains of games and pick a few that strike a chord with them. They mentally sort the wheat from the chaff, calculating the worth of the most expensive games to see if the bundle was worth the price paid.
I know this happens because last week I managed to grab a haul on a local selling page on Facebook. 38 boxed, 4 loose Mega Drive games, a console and 4 controllers ; all mine for £60. It was the type of bargain that others on twitter seem to be able to find quite regularly, but for me I'm rarely that lucky. Even before picking up the bundle I had shared the sellers pictures with my twitter followers. Their reactions ranged from envy ("how come I never find bargains like this") to excitement ("great find mate, what a bargain"). Other followers clearly took time to study the spines of these games and wanted to draw my attention to titles I maybe hadn't noticed. "The pick of the bunch has to be 'Ristar' or 'Battletoads'" one person said while another another remarked "trust me you'll love 'Kid Chameleon'". It may be pompous of me, but I have to wonder if my gloating on twitter caused action in others. Did seeing 'Speedball 2' in my bounty of games make anyone think "I love that game , I must dig it out" ? Maybe showing a picture of 'alien3' made someone think that their Mega Drive collection was incomplete without it, causing them to spend money on eBay.
In this way I am an unconscious enabler, through my actions I have made fellow collectors spend money on things they hadn't previously realised they wanted. There's dangers to being so ingrained in a community and being driven by what people think of your purchases or spending money on things you hadn't previously considered isn't the only worry.
When a community opinion means something to you, negativity from these respected fellows can be hurtful. We may have abundant appreciation for something we have bought but the one we remember is the person who accuses us of being wasteful with money. If pride drives us to boast then envy drives us to be horrible . I've seen this in people who used to love posting videos and showing people what they bought. Despite having 3000 subscribe to their YouTube channel their videos dried up solely because criticism made the idea of even turning on a camera upsetting . If others had known the result of their comments I like to think they wouldn't have been so rude, but careless words cost community members. We enjoy the praise and appreciation others give but when the opposite is true being part of a community becomes something we want to escape. Some YouTubers Have even said they have been forced to buy things they didn't really want just to have something to how on camera, just to be able to upload something and stop people asking when the next "pick up vid" will be. When you're not showing off what you have bought, you no longer need something to show off. If we buy to find out what others think and then stop listening to what they say will we inevitably buy less? If retro gaming is a drug, quitting the habit is made easier when you no longer want to be surrounded by fellow addicts.
For me, as I play through each of the Mega Drive games I got in my bundle I share my thoughts on twitter. Others feedback. They either agree or disagree but their opinions are theirs not always mine. Negativity can never have entirely positive results but hopefully the benefits outweigh any hostility.
Communities unconsciously or otherwise shape our own collections, but this is why we continue to be part of them.