I decided to get back into video game collecting. Well not so much the collecting as just getting back into buying and playing some classic video games. Recently I have been in a little bit of a weird place in my life, trying to get back on track after being kicked out of school, evicted from my apartment and that spur of the moment flee to California which ended up a big mess. A few years ago I basically decided to give up on doing what was right and I drifted into the shady world of internet piracy. What started me down that path was buying a Nintendo Wii and getting addicted to downloading classic games via their Virtual Console service. I had amassed quit a collection of classic gaming machines over the years as well as a ton of movies on DVD and more books than I could ever read. At some point I discovered I could replace everything with digital copies, sounds simple enough except I was broke, no money to buy digital anymore, I was out of work and facing a low point in my life. So I turned to piracy as is often the case. I traded in my game consoles to pawn shops and I bought my self a series of USB external hard drives for my PC and proceed to download, everything.
I started out small and innocent enough, only classic games I either previously owned or purchased via Virtual Console, a few hundred MP3s from limewire to fill up my newly acquired 80GB iPod classic, and a couple of movies I ripped from DVD that I put onto my iPod video to try it out. That was the trigger that set me off, I needed more movies and soon enough ripping DVD’s became too time consuming it was just easier to torrent the stuff, once you go through the process of setting up a torrent client, setting up a secure network, and then waiting for an invite to get into the good sites, you pretty much have to go all in in order to make it worth the effort. I didn’t stop at movies, pretty soon I had TERABYTES of movies, TV episodes, cartoons, anime, pretty much anything I had ever seen I had downloaded, including a ton of commercials and movie trailers just for the hell of it. Oh and every video game ROM I could find, every ISO, every PC game I could get my hands on, pretty soon my digital collection far surpassed my wildest dreams of content, and as always it was never enough so I branched into comic books, e-books, magazines, pretty soon if it was available to download via torrent it was on one of my hard drives.
As a pretty decent and generally honest person I told myself it was ok because if I had a VCR I would be recording all this stuff anyways, and to make it look semi-legit and to ease my own conscience I even did just that, I purchased a video capture card (DVR) for my PC so I could record movies and TV shows straight to me PC, that is actually something that you CAN do legally but I used that as a front for the other, shadier stuff not that I took it seriously. Soon that wasn’t enough and I was DVR’s *and* downloading everything I could. It was like a drug the more I had the more I needed. It didn’t even bother me until I saw a movie at a store on DVD and offered to buy it for someone and they said why buy it when you can just download it anyways. It got me to thinking what I had become. Since I got into school and was studying mass media I really started to feel guilty because I realized who it actually hurts when people pirate stuff and then I started to pay attention to all the video game companies closing their doors and consolidating and they always cited piracy as a big cause. Because I was only downloading out dated games I never even made the connection until once again me and a friend found ourselves downloading Xbox 360 games and current gen PC games without even giving it a second thought.
A couple of years ago it finally got to me and I wiped my digital collections, deleted everything, well except for the classic video games I somehow convinced myself that buying a used copy from a store is no different than having a digital copy on my PC because the publisher is still not getting the sale. However I noticed more and more companies were releasing their old games on PSN, Xbox Live Arcade, Nintendo e-Shop, and even Steam. I did a quick search through each virtual store and realized not only are the prices very reasonable, but the selection was also top notch in most cases. Sure there are those few obscure games that nobody bought new that you can’t get, but for the most part the stuff I was playing the most anyways is still readily available, which defeated my DMCA clause I hide behind for so long, the readily available in the marketplace clause that I soon discovered no longer held any weight.
As a result I did some seriously long and hard thinking and decided to make a change, I got rid of everything, if I didn’t purchase it from a legit source I deleted it out right. I still have some CD’s and since iTunes does allow you to rip those my iPhone still has enough music, paired with Pandora I am pretty much set and don’t even miss those MP3s at all. I had acquired quite a few Blu Ray discs over the last few years and many came with iTunes copies so I still have most of those too, as well as a few I picked up with iTunes gift cards. I soon realized that it might cost a little more to do things legit but you gain two major benefits, first there is the quality as pirate goods are always inferior, second the affect it has on your soul knowing you are in the clear and have nothing to worry about. Even though it is something most people do without thinking, I realized piracy is not just bad for the industry, it is bad for society and that is why I shifted my focus.
Where does that leave me now? A much older and hopefully wiser video game collector. I don’t need to buy ten copies of the same game just because it was released on several consoles, and I don’t need to own every gaming machine ever made just because. Before I was collecting for the sake of collecting, sure I played the games too but not even a measurable fraction of the ones I had on hand. Now I am more collected and have a real purpose. I will begin obviously with what is available to me currently. I have Steam and my Laptop can surely handle most games from about 2011 backwards so I can pick up a few retro games here and there, I started with a Sega Genesis Classics collection. I also have a PS2 I can dust off and pick up some classic compilations for for pretty cheap, and my PS3 has a 500GB hard drive connected to PSN that is just ripe with classic PS1 and Arcade games to snatch. I even noticed recently I was about to buy Mortal Kombat Trilogy and held off because I thought can’t I just get it on mame? The temptation to go back to pirate will be there for a while but as I have done with DVD’s and Blu Rays, I have found a way to silence that voice. With movies and TV shows Netflix has provided me with an alternative and with video games Steam is holding me over just nicely. Eventually I will have to break down and get a few classic consoles, as many compilations and retro games are released on current systems there are still far too many classic NES, SNES, and Genesis games currently stuck on old dusty carts waiting to be plugged into a game console and replayed by a retro gamer who was there when they were new.
I began my journey of returning to legitimacy by picking up a Game Boy Color, and two classic games Tetris and a two in one cart featuring Centipede and Millipede. The used game store has a pretty big selection of classic games I can sift through and the internet always has whatever I can’t find locally. I don’t intend to go back into a hoarder mode where I buy it just to have, I mostly just want to get back a few games that I know I will revisit often, and keep a clear conscience in the process.