I have a new job, one that pays well enough for me to support myself and have a bit of extra scratch on the side. With extra scratch comes BUYING MORE GAMES! :D But I've been presented with a bit of a conundrum recently - do I prefer older games, or newer ones?
Before I go further, here's a list of the games I've bought in the last month or so. I won't post the prices, but I'll say that I usually shop around and get my stuff for well below market value. :P The Sega CD was $30 in perfect working order, for instance.
- Lightening Force (Genesis)
- Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete (PS1 - game, case, manual/art book and front cover only; printed the back cover myself)
- Sol-Feace (Sega CD - I got this one for free, since I paid asking price for the SCD and Lightening Force)
- Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis)
- Nightmare Creatures (PS1)
- Act Raiser (SNES - it looks like someone tried to take the label off and left a cigarette on it, but it still works flawlessly! O.o)
- Mass Effect Trilogy (PS3)
- Dragon Age 2 (PS3)
- SSX (PS3)
- Dead Space 3 (PS3)
- BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (PS3)
- Ghost Trick (DS)
In terms of my buying, it looks about half and half. But the trouble is this - even though I buy newer games, and I largely enjoy them, the games I lay in bed thinking about are the older ones. I think to myself, "Man, I never thought I'd want a Sega CD until I played the amazing Lunar 2," or "I seriously cannot believe I actually own a copy of Lightening Force; it's the only one I've seen in the wild!" I know why this is - With a PS3 game, I can walk into pretty much any EB Games and get it. With retro games, it's a hunt - you can get them on eBay, for sure, but a lot of the better games range between $25-80. If you're not willing to pay recent release prices for a game that may or may not have a working save battery or a label (seriously, fuck you, LukieGames), eBay isn't always the best place to shop.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of flea markets and independent game stores. My two favourite places are very much "hole in the wall," and I love them both. One is this tiny booth in an otherwise shitty flea market (it's in a very Indian neighbourhood, so it doesn't have a lot to offer if you're not into unlocked cell phones, bootlegged Bollywood DVDs or rugs). It's run by two guys around my age who started a few months ago with their own personal collections as inventory, and they're getting ready to open up their own storefront in Brampton. We have a lot of great conversations about the economics of the used games market, and I trade them some decent stuff at fair value as a courtesy. Interestingly, a game I once sold on eBay sits in their rare SNES case - a copy of Blazeon, with permanent marker and "void" sticker residue a Magic Eraser could not quite defeat. It went from Brantford to Pickering to Brampton within 4 months, and that's amazing.
The other store I love, my brother and I affectionately refer to as "Black Guy Store," since it's owned by an awesome Black Canadian guy in the heart of a very, very east Asian community. I think he actually lives in his store - he's open what seems like all day and night, where he sits up front playing video games until customers come in. My brother and I have brought him lots of great games, so we get a lot of really good deals as a result. For example, he sold my brother a stack of about 25 disc-only Sega Saturn games (including motherfucking GUARDIAN HEROES) for $30. We've developed something of a professional friendship with this guy, and going in there always makes me really happy, just to see what kind of weird stuff he's obtained in the past weeks.
I also wanna give a mini shout-out to the Gameplay store in Starling Heights, MI. I got a Sega Genesis there for next to nothing.
Compare the two paragraphs above to my typical experiences with EB Games - the sterile, brainless advertising for Shooty Kill Kill 7, even-faced employees who don't feel like putting any effort forth for their $10.25 an hour, and constant 4-person lineups of soccer moms asking what a good GTA game for a 6-year-old is. The stock is pretty much the same at every store, and the "no case" games decorating the bottom shelves look worth than suburban white kid graffiti. Where I can walk into the flea market or BGS and haggle on trade values, EB Games will give me a standard $3 (trade credit) for any game that didn't come out last month.
When held in that light, retro games seem so much better. To compare with coffee, walking into an EB Games is like walking into a Starbucks - everything feels fake and uncomfortable, and the people working there are often pretentious little shits who don't know how to converse with real human beings. My little indie places are like a local coffee shop that sends you home with a box of doughnuts they were about to throw out. People who have read my stuff for a long time know how generally anti-corporate I am, and I think this is the core of why: A corporate approach to any business completely removes the heart and soul of it all. Instead of being a fair exchange, of both cash and conversation, it's more of a cash extraction from you to corporation.
And you know what? As I've written this, I've realized... That attitude permeates the games as well. While I have loved a lot of games that have come out for the PS3, they're just... Different. You know, when I pick up an older game I know nothing about (like Gunforce, Dinosaurs For Hire or Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter), I'll often find something "quirky" about it. Gunforce, for example, is so hilariously glitchy and primitive that it's like watching a B-Movie. Great fun to play with a friend. If I walk into EB Games and raid the bargain bin, I'll find a ton of Shooty Kill Kill clones that all more or less work, all of which are comically bland and, well, identical.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, retro games, like the stores I buy them from, have this clear heart and soul, this spirit of effort that most newer games can't match. Even though there are examples of newer games, like Mass Effect, the Metro series, Valkyria Chronicles and LA Noire (gotta keep it international! - Canadian, Ukrainian, Japanese and Aussie!), that break the mould and stand out as classics in their own right, they are increasingly becoming few and far between. And because of that, I think I'll be "retiring" from modern gaming - I'll keep on Steam, but I doubt I'll buy any of the new consoles.
And my retro collection continues to expand.
(P.S., there was something I forgot to mention - Japanese games this gen have been amazing, but for some goddamn reason, the best ones haven't been coming over here. Take some time out of your day to look up games like EX Troopers, Gundam Extreme VS., Jump Victory Vs., Gundam Breaker and the new Super Robot Taisen game, because they are mind-blowingly great-looking. My brother is heading over to Japan next month, and I'm getting him to pick up a ton of Japan-only games for me. I'll probably do an article about them once I've had a change to play them. To me, this only speaks to the increased homogenization of the games industry - during the PS1 era, we got a ton of great games that were very, VERY Japanese (like Lunar 2, for example)... But somewhere between then and now, some 50-year-old fuckwit(s) decided there was a "western" market and an "eastern" market, and like a Duck Dynasty fan, he/they decided segregation was a great idea.)