If your house was on fire, which items would you grab?
Guys, I have a problem. I have a legitimate problem. Remember I wrote that article nearly three years ago, called What Sort of Collector Are You? I’m sure you remember. It was only three years ago after all. I wrote about digital creep and the impact that was having on games and game-adjacent merch and consoles. You remember. It was back in 2012. Three years ago is a pretty short time when you consider the groundbreaking importance of such a treatise on video game collecting. You remember it.
I am reducing my living space from 93sqm to 75sqm… what the hell do I do with all my gaming stuff?
Well, I now have a legitimate problem that is kind of connected to that article.
I am moving – from an inner-city apartment, to a newly-built house out in the country (ish). Houses are really expensive (no one tells you that when you’re a kid) so the new place is very small. I am reducing my living space from 93sqm to 75sqm. If I was majorly into cat swinging (which I’m not) I would have to seriously reconsider this.
I am making this move, and now I have a problem: what the hell do I do with all my gaming stuff?
I have a legitimate first world problem on my hands here.
Of course, now everything I own is up for debate: would I save this tie shaped like a fish if there was a fire? Would I save this beard trimmer in a fire? Would I save this DVD of Empire Records in a fire? The only answer I have for sure there is yes to Empire Records (those kids just wanted to be free).
That question punctuates every decision I am making about the objects I will take with me to my new, smaller digs. But it’s not that simple, is it? Even though many of you pointed out in the comments of WsoCAY that I’m not as much a collector as an accumulator (with varying degrees of academic objectivity and scorn) I still have to consolidate a sizeable collection/accumulation of stuff.
And that’s damn hard.
Three years ago, when I was writing that article you totally remember, I got swept up in my own gaming story: it was made visible by looking at the sum of my collection all in one place. I remembered which friend was with me when I bought Banjo Kazooie, and I re-traced my steps as I looked at my DS, DS Lite, DSi and 3DS XL. I thought about how digital was changing all that, and I put it into a bunch of words that you read and remember now in vivid detail (perhaps even with a tear in your eye).
As it turns out, digital wasn’t the real threat: a lack of space inspired by a smaller living space is. It can’t all come with me.
So what would I save in a fire?
I am starting to realise the valuelessness of novelty styluses I’ll never take out of their packets. And I am starting to realise just how attached I really am to my ex-rental, banged up copy of Smash Brothers on N64. I may never be able to get rid of my Red Dead soundtrack, but I am actually willing to consider selling my Wii for beer money to someone who’s convinced they’d exercise regularly if only it was a bit more fun. I need my DS Lite to play Gameboy Advance games, but my PS2 has just been sitting in a box with my collector’s edition of Shadows of the Colossus for… years.
So what would I save in a fire?
1) My Nintendo 64
When you read that article I wrote three years ago and committed it to memory and identified with it and decided it was mostly genius, you’ll have noticed with a significant deal of respect that the Nintendo 64 is a very important machine to me. It was the first gaming apparatus I bought with my own money, and it marked my formative shift to console gaming.
I would save the hell out of my N64 in a fire. I would carry it out of the building while Up Where We Belong plays in the background.
2) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I know what a horrible cliché this is, but the fact is that Ocarina of Time is the second best game I have ever played, and for a long time it was the first best. It was the second game I got for my N64 and some of my North American friends who missed out on one were jealous about my gold cartridge.
But all of that’s sort of beside the point. If I’m gonna save my N64, I have to save a game to play on it.
In a fire, I would save Ocarina of Time and its rich story and lovable characters and the infinite calm of Kokiri Forest would be with me always.
3) Red Dead Redemption soundtrack (on vinyl)
I don’t even have a record player. I have spun this badboy only a handful of times, but the music in Red Dead blew me away.
Buried on Side D of this two-LP set (and it’s red, too, how cool is that?) is a song called Compass by Jamie Lidell. It plays as John Marston rides back to his family following Dutch’s artful dive into the abyss. The crunchy snow gives way to dirt as his horse carries him home, and those long minutes of reflection and justice are just perfect – and made more perfect by that song.
Yeah, I know I can get it on YouTube or whatever, but it’s not the same.
I would save my Red Dead soundtrack in a fire, bursting from the flames like a fearless and bearded turn-of-the-century outlaw.
This was the first Fire Emblem game I ever played. It’s my favourite. This would be super easy to save in a fire, because it’s tiny. I don’t have boxes and manuals for many of my GBA games, because they were given to me by someone who knows what I like and tells me, “YOU NEED TO PLAY THIS GAME.” He gives them to me, cart-only.
This person is hardly ever wrong. And Fire Emblem was one of the best recommendations he ever made.
I would save Fire Emblem. I would carry it from the fire with me as an emblem of my gaming past. Ha.
5) My Xbox 360
This not only reminds me of my first E3 (the year this particular iteration of the 360 was released) but it’s also the console I have probably put the most creative energy into. There’s lots of saved games on there I want to go back to, as well as the achievements I have unlocked along the way.
I have never saved any of my Borderlands characters outside of that machine, for instance, and there’s DLC on there it would be a shame to see burn up.
What’s interesting about that last example is that part of its worth is in its digital bank. It’s the same with something like Pokemon: you can replace the cards and carts, but not the hours and hours you spent cultivating the perfect team.
In the fire scenario, having a whole and complete digital gaming library could be a really good thing, despite many of you suggesting three years ago, as you’ll recall in bright and vivid detail, that digital collectors aren’t really collectors at all.
So. Your house is on fire. You can save five things that tell a story about your gaming life: what are they?
Sam Prescott is a freelance gaming journalist based in New Zealand. He writes for IGN as a form of catharsis. Why not follow him on Twitter?