Moving and Ownership

All this week I have been in the process of packing up my apartment in preparation for a move in meatspace. It is just a move across town, and there isn’t too much stuff, but the process always feels exhausting. Packing up the essentials feels really easy, but then you get to all the miscellaneous stuff that you hardly ever use, but would likely miss if it were discarded. For example, how many of your pots and pans do you use on a weekly basis? Do I really need a colander, much less two of them?

What really struck me though was when I packed up my PlayStation 2. Both the system and the games didn’t take up all that much space, but I pretty much turned on the system once in the last year, during an abortive attempt to play FFXII. I kept the system around because at some point console designers decided backwards compatibility wasn’t a priority, and why get rid of it if I still have all my classic PS1 gems?

It was at that point that I realized that I didn’t really need these things anymore. In fact, why I had physical media of any type was a hold-over from what feels like ages ago. I am pretty sure that all the PS1 games I own are also on the PlayStation Network, or even on Steam. All the games and systems and movies I own could easily fit on the external HD the size of my hand. I should be finished packing by putting on a backpack, minus that behemoth of a PC I use.

At the same time… it’s hard. First, you have to fight against the feeling of conservation. Why throw anything away? It’s something that still has use, still has value, albeit diminished by the passage of time. Second, there are all the what-if scenarios and general optimism. Maybe I’ll suddenly find myself on a retro-gaming kick, yeah? Playing old games in 640×480 resolution blown up on my wall via 100″ projector screen… that’s the life. And what if I suddenly drop everything and go teach English in Japan? Surely I’ll want to pack… err… uh.

The interesting thing to me about this whole experience is my evolving concept of ownership. Back in the day, I fought hard against “all-digital media” and the notion that nobody ever really owned anything, they just licensed it. I was there jeering at Microsoft along with everyone else during the Xbone E3 reveal. The curbing or removal of the secondary game market was an existential threat in my mind.

Now? In the middle of packing up my life, I feel I’d be better off owning less. I’m not going to play Kagero: Deception 2 again. Or any of the Tenchu games. Even if I felt like I had the time and inclination, it’s tough going back to anything less than 720p at this point. The game discs might have retained some value – I certainly made a few hundred dollars selling my SNES classics a few years ago – but is that value worth the time and eBay headaches? When I finish a Steam game, I delete it and then set the Category to “Finished,” which I keep minimized. I don’t think I have ever gone back and played any Finished games.

Games are largely experiences and experiences only. Some have replay value, sure, and others (like MMOs) can keep you entertained and experiencing them for weeks/months/years to come. The vast majority though? One and done. The more time passes, the more I feel these accumulation of games are no different than old newspapers; the hoarding of which is something less deserving of a nostalgic nod and more of a questioning eyebrow.

I’m going to lug around my box of historical gaming debris this time around – there’s no sense to unpack what I’ve already packed – but the odds are good that this will be the last trip they make in my possession, one way or another. And I am becoming increasingly okay with that.

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Posted on July 24, 2015, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I have a very minimal approach to owning physical anything. I move too much to hoard things, especially video games. I only buy physical so I can resell.

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    • When I came back from my semester abroad in Japan (back in college), I absolutely shared that same sentiment. Hell, it’s still my ideal. And yet, I somehow still manage to accumulate a bunch of junk. Constant vigilance is required, apparently.

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  2. I’d just say that in my mid-50s I can’t think of anything I’ve kept,that I wish I’d gotten rid of but I can remember every single thing I got rid,of that later on I wish I wished I’d kept. The default,should be “keep”. I need a compelling reason to relinquish.

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    • Hmm. I suppose you can’t really answer the question of “what have you gotten rid of that you don’t remember, and thus didn’t really need?”

      I felt a little sad for selling my Chrono Trigger and FF6 cartridges to help me out of the financial hole I was in ~5 years ago – especially now that money isn’t really an issue – but the sadness is mitigated somewhat by the fact that I have had both ROMs loaded on my PSP for over a year now and haven’t touched them. Hell, the SNES itself was stuck in my closet since high school. How much of this is missing actual value, and how much is just sentimental nostalgia?

      Of course, the latter can have a value all of its own…

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      • It’s all sentimental nostalgia. Video games are only the beginning. There are millions of garages and basements across the land full of crap that no one needs but can’t bear to part with.

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      • @Matt

        It’s just kinda funny to me how videogames are somewhat of a special case, in that the thing we are nostalgic about still technically exists independent of the physical parts. You can go grab a ROM of Chrono Trigger in like 5 minutes and start playing it again (on your phone, even). It won’t feel the same, of course, but it’s different than, say, the 15-year old baseball you used to throw around vs. a new baseball.

        Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just adopting a new viewpoint now that 99% of my game collection is pure-digital and thus I have nothing physical to imbue with nostalgia.

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  3. I some ways I totally understand. When I moved from my 600 sq foot apartment to my house, it was so nice not to have to move that much. Paid some movers for one trip and done, but the SNES and PS2 both made the trip and it was a good thing I did with the PS2 because the dvd player didn’t do so well. But I do find myself in the same place as you in that I don’t play games on it very often anymore, except those that are split-screen co-op, and that’s the thing that I am going to miss when it finally dies on me. I find that I can still invite people over, pop in one of the old, ugly games and sit and play for hours, be it Dynasty Warriors, Timesplitters, Tribes, or Battlefront, with a beer, or without. That’s what I’d miss if I got rid of my PS2.

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