The Digital Age of Gaming

As a semi serious game collector I have a few topics in mind that I want to cover on this blog. A recent conversation between Joe and I prompted me address one that looms on the horizon for the collecting community…the road to digital media.

In recent years I’ve managed to come to terms with this inevitable transition…to a degree. My first hurdle came with Compact Discs. While I don’t collect them per se, I always enjoyed them; to experience the cover art first hand or to leaf through the liner notes. Their production continues but natural selection favors iTunes and eventually they will be phased out. I still purchase albums at release knowing that they will never see the inside of a CD player. So when they stop being made, I’ll remember to accept that the convenience far outweighs any need for physical ownership. Video games however are a different story altogether.

As a collector you’re naturally interested in everything – hardware, peripherals, promotional material – but it begins and ends with the games. Whether it be finding Shining Force II hidden under a blanket at a garage sale or bidding on Fritz Chess on eBay, the quest to find and aquire games is the primary focus. It culminates in being able to hold the prize in your hands; that collection of plastic and paper becomes a tangible object that serves to represent the very essence of the game.

And so it begins

I can’t blame companies like Valve. Being pro technology I understand that it’s the natural direction to go. Making all forms of media digital is part of us evolving. It even benefits the comminity allowing indie developers to make and release games. I get that and it’s great and all, yet the game collector inside me is screaming at them to back the fuck off.
Currently, Valve offers more than 3,000 games via Steam and they control 75% of the digital PC market. Consoles aren’t quite there yet, but their digital libraries are growing weekly. Past titles, indie games and new releases can all be purchased virtually in lieu of physical copies. How long until everything is digital we don’t know, but already consoles are seeing the changes of the digital age.

Believe it or not I could write an entire blog about manuals. From the perspective of a collector, they make up the triforce of elements when buying a game; the box – the game – the manual. Whether or not your game comes with a manual and it’s condition are a big deal. And rightfully so, because a good manual can be awesome. So when I opened my new copy of Sleeping Dogs yesterday, I was given a stark reminder. Instead of a manual, there was a slip of paper telling me that I could download the manual from the Square Enix website if I so desired. I should be used to this by now, but everytime it happens I still cry a little inside.

Of course once the games start to vanish so will the boxes, then it really is game over. In 10 years you’ll browse online libraries and download everything to your hard drive. My only hope is that some developers care enough to release physical editions of their games. Even if it’s just a digital copy on a flash drive, I’ll be happy. Of course old games will still exist, but their price will naturally increase.

So game collectors unite, and buy them now while you still can.

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