The BackLog – “A Dance with Death”

Games are great.  We all love them!  There’s nothing better than getting a new game, ripping off the packaging (or waiting for the download to finish) and digging in.  Oh, but then a week later this other game comes out that you have been wildly anticipating, shows up from Amazon and you get ready to pop it in.

But what about the original game?  And there was that 3DS game you started last month that you’re still working through.  And that Saturn game you picked up because people were raving about it.  And that NES game from when you were a kid that you have sworn a blood oath to conquer before you expire on this earth.

:deep breath:

Ok.

Obviously we are dealing with a small case of overload here.  This is not something I have experienced just for myself, I would feel comfortable saying that this is now the norm for anyone that calls themselves a gamer.  Especially a “retro” gamer (We have ALL the systems to play games for!) (or a reader, a TV buff, etc.)

Now if you’re like me this can be known to induce stress levels way past the point of being comfortable.  “How am I supposed to have “fun” when I have all of this shit to play?”  It is no secret that the majority of us are not kids anymore and the seemingly endless well of time is no longer accessible.  Families, jobs, chores, obligations all get in the way.  And if you finally find some of that elusive “time” you may be so shot the idea of putting any amount of brain power towards anything is akin to smashing your face against a pane of broken glass for an hour straight.

So what’s a guy/gal to do?  Obviously everyone’s situation is different but here are some tips and tactics that may help you out.

Do you have too much stuff?

Of course this is the first place I go.  Seriously though, take a step back.  Our culture and the hobby by large is focused on accumulating things.  This may mean buying junk games, buying games as soon as they come out, or the holy quest to get every system under the sun.  I have been through facets of all of these things and here is what I have personally learned.

  • When I went for the “all the systems” approach I quickly found myself with not only too many options but also a wealth of inferior software.  Sure the 3DO was great and I was excited to get one, but did I need one forever?  Absolutely not!  I took a little bit of time with my CD burner and played a bunch of games I knew I wanted to experience and when I was done there really wasn’t much of an argument to keep the system around.  I have since moved to a “rotating” philosophy – not only am I saving money and space but focusing on one system at a time I am also limiting my options so I can narrow my focus a little.
  • Buying (or pre-ordering) new games as they come out.  This is a defninite TMG no-no.  Unless the game is something you have been dying to play (hello Trails of Cold Steel II) if you’re playing other shit just leave it.  It will only benefit you since chances are you can pick it up for cheaper on a sale down the line when you are ready to play it.  Otherwise you are paying more money for absolutely no reason.
  • Keep a list.  This one isn’t for everyone, but I have embraced it (I also love lists).  When I was feeling overwhelmed on “the backlog” and was thinking about all the crap I wanted to play I just started writing them down in my notebook one day.  I have a number of titles from the 16 bit and 32 bit eras that have always eluded me so it was nice to see everything laid out on paper.  Once you see it visually you can kind of prioritize and have fun with it. (Note – Once again I know this may sound nuts to some people.  This is just for people like me who not only love lists, but LOVE crossing shit out on them!)
  • Finally, ENJOY what you are currently playing.  Don’t look at other stuff, don’t look at sales (that’s how they get you) just have fun with what you’re doing.  Sales is how they enforce the “grass is always greener” mentality.  Here’s a secret – all of the companies (Steam, PSN, XBLive) run these stupid sales so often if you missed one on a game you wanted chances are there is one coming up soon.

Granted this all does not change the fact that in most cases we do not have enough time to play the game we want, but like anything else in life it is how you approach it.  I have my nice (long) list and have been thinking about getting a PS4 soon.  I just got a PS3 last year so I’ve barely touched that library.  And let us not forget the Nintendo Switch was just announced.

How you feel about/manage your backlog? Do you ever feel overwhelmed or do you just go full yolo?  Let me know in the comments.

Good ol’ Number One

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This is not as post about a topic, or an idea, or an open dialogue for a discussion.  Instead it’s about playing games!  This past weekend I brought my RetroUSB AVS to my folks for the weekend and my brother and I spent a decent part of the weekend on it.

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We started off with some Little Samson, then decided to enter murky waters we had not ventured to in many, many years – Zelda II.  Holy moly is this game a challenge. As with other games that are “Nintendo Hard” we quickly got much better and are currently at the end of death mountain.  imag0420

The rest of the time was spent with a full Mega Man 2 run and a few Blades of Steel matches.  So good.

What’s on your shelf?

High on the list of commonalities of our culture is displaying games (or various other items, figures, etc.) that mean something to you.  Why is this?  Why do we do this?

Let’s try to break down the reasoning.  What is the fundamental reason you put something on a shelf?  It could be for easy access.  Is it something that is moved frequently – like a controller or a remote?  If not, it is probably there to give you an emotional reaction when you see it.  Thus having it on a shelf gives you easy access to not a thing but an emotion, always just a glance away.

Being that there are different strokes for different folks, it should come as no surprise that personally I prefer cleaner shelves with less items on them, uniformly arranged.

Storing things away (like in a closet, a drawer) is dangerous and you need to be careful.  Out of sight, out of mind is a true and powerful thing.  I have seen the majority of gamers (and people in general) stow some shit away and never think about it again.  This is a waste on more than one level. Even if you don’t know what’s in the back of that closet, you know SOMETHING is there, and that can weigh on your psyche.  Be honest with yourself.  Ask “Am I really going to ever play/use this thing again?”  The answer is often going to be no rather than yes.  Open up that tired space and free it and your mind a little.

Physical vs Digital

The argument versus physical and digital games has been going on for quite a while and with digital games becoming increasingly popular it is an argument that is not going away any time soon.

By their nature, us “retro” gamers are tangible people.  We like to hold the physical object, as it usually has more value in our eyes that way.  If you are like me and grew up in the 80s you most likely feel this way, it is a natural product of having grown up in a time when technology wasn’t nearly as balls out and it is now.

The younger generations (and this is by no means a “get off my lawn” post) do not necessarily see this as their world has always been one of iPads, mp3s and throwaway app store games.

So now that we have our backstory it seems easy now – physical games work best for the geezers and digital is great for the babes.

BUT WAIT, THIS IS A MINIMALISM BLOG!

Let’s look at some pros and cons.

For physical games you have something tangible to hold in your hand.  It can be placed somewhere and admired, lent out and (perhaps most importantly) resold to recoup some of the cost after your time with the game has finished. It is also by no means a secret that many games take up a lot of room.  Clutter, as least for me, is akin to a wild boar coming into my house and shitting on everything that I love.

Digital games are a little bit of a different beast.  They are not lend able or resell able but they do have some conveniences.  They are usually able to be accessed anywhere via an account login.  You can generally (though not always!) find them cheaper than their physical counterparts.  Some games also only have a digital release. They also take up no physical space.  Just because they take up no space does not mean you can buy them up and hoard them!  The mental part of it, that invasion of the nice comfortable “zen” feeling can be affected by not just physical but digital items as well.  Clutter is clutter, no matter what form it takes.

Minimalism is not just about keeping clutter in order (or non-existent!) it is also about simplifying your life. The number one reason these games exist and why we play them is that they give us experiences and enjoyment,  I can recall many a game, remember the play through, sometimes even remembering where I was when I finished them (looking at you FFIX on Christmas Eve many years ago).  However after I completed FFIX I have never gone back to play it.  I never will, because there are so many other great experiences (both gaming and otherwise) that I have not been a part of yet!  Thus I let it go and moved on to my next adventure.

Obviously which direction you go depends on what type of person you are.  Through this post I am only trying to get you to have an internal dialogue with yourself and ask, “When I look around at the games I have am I completely happy?”  I was not with a moderate amount of physical (and digital believe it or not), games but have gotten to a place I am personally very comfortable with.

 

 

 

“The Ability to Say Good-bye”

Our community is very hung up on acquiring new items.  There is always this air about that makes people feel that everything must be purchased now and if not they will disappear forever.

Here’s a little secret – this hobby is not only growing exponentially but there are more ways than ever to play these silly old games!  New systems, new flash carts, mod chips, repros, you name it and someone is trying to push the envelope somewhere.  These things are not going anywhere.

When you finish that game, it is ok to say goodbye to it.  Thank it for the enjoyment it gave you and send it on it’s way.  In fact this can work especially well for physical games, because afterwards you can sell it to another gamer and not only recoup some of your cost but it will also give another gamer the experience of playing that game.  Games want to be played, they do not want to be sitting on a shelf somewhere!

Everyone one is looking for poetry……

Ok Mr. MMG, what the shit does that mean?!

There was a time (or times!) in all of our lives when gaming experiences made quite an impression on us.  A particularly fond one of mine is playing through Secret of Mana with my brother.  We would wake up a half hour early during the week just to get a little time in before school.  The fact that the game was so good combined with the journey I got to experience with my brother really made it something special.

It is that feeling, and feelings like it that I feel ultimately drive the retro gaming hobby. At some point there was poetry being awakened in your soul.  Maybe it’s enduring the most difficult stages of the Mega Man games and finally beating it.  Maybe it’s that awesome RPG story that got you right in the feelings.  Maybe it’s a perfectly balanced fighting game that yells quality and screams PLAY ME UNTIL YOU ARE THE ABSOLUTE BEST!

These things sang to us.  They were poetry.  They still are.  As adults we are chasing those feelings.  Don’t be afraid to realize that those exact feelings might not be attainable anymore.  But this is not a bad thing!  It is those experiences that helped make you the gamer (and person) that you are now.

If you don’t like the same stuff you did as a kid it’s ok.  The most important thing is to not chase things you remember and are trying to recapture, it’s to focus on the present and just make sure you are genuinely having fun.

Prices you pay…..worth the bulk?

You are out shopping.  Maybe it’s a flea market or garage sale.  You discover an opportunity to make a purchase of item/s that you know can be had at a decent amount below their “street” value.  Your first thought is “Great!” and you go to pull the trigger.

Let’s put the brakes on for a second my friend.

There are two mentalities at work here.  The first is to buy everything in the hopes to sell it.  The second is to buy it for the sake of buying it due to the price and absorb it into your collection.

If you are like me you are borderline obsessed with not just having a nice collection, but also curating it.  I want each and every piece to be outstanding (to me) and give me joy whenever I glance at it or play it.  Having purchased lots before (first mentality) I have always been stuck with items that I did not want and had trouble getting rid of.

Having bought things because I couldn’t turn down a deal (second mentality) once again, I have been stuck with lots of crap that made my collection focused on quantity and not quality.

Each time the outcome was the same – I am stuck with loads of items that are essentially filler.  This filler clogs up what’s important – the good games!  It’s harder to find something magnificent to play whenever you have to wade through a river of digital feces to find it.  On the flip side, if you can close your eyes, pick a game and know you are in for something good no matter what….what a feeling!

Now I am not saying there are not times where you have to take advantage of a lucrative deal, let’s face it  – some things are too good to pass up.  However I feel that for the most part our community is increasingly interested and obsessed with just accumulating and obtaining things “at a good price” at the detriment of what this all (the love of old games) really means.

No one wants to pay any more than they have to…for anything!  But think to yourself, “Do I really want all of this stuff?  Or do I want to carefully build up my collection?”  I personally had a huge N64 collection, simply for the fact that I felt I had to.  It was a high profile Nintendo system and quintessential to the “retro gamer’s collection.”

Then I realized I kind of hate the Nintendo 64.

I won’t go into all of the reasons as they are not necessary to the current discussion but once I realized that I sold off almost the entire thing.  My thought process is that if I ever want to play a bunch of the games I can always purchase an Everdrive for a fraction of the money I got for the games.  In short, those games did not “sing to my heart.”

So next time you see that stack of PS1 commons, or that box of NES commons, just take a step back and take inventory of what exactly is going on in your head.  As people our first reaction is to act quick, accumulate, and sort the rest out later.  This might not be your wisest option and may take a little cognisance on your part to see it.

Welcome.

Welcome to the minimalist gamer.  This site was created to ask (and try to answer) the hard questions regarding minimalism as it pertains to video gaming as a hobby.

By it’s nature gaming (especially older systems which were not privy to digital releases) is “large.”  It takes up space.  It inspires people to “want want want.”  It can lead to a somewhat hoarding mentality if left to it’s own devices.

This is fine for most people, but for others who are trying to find the ever fleeting simplicity in a crowded and busy world it can lead to a lot of mental stress.  Not necessarily large mental anguish, but a general sense of unease.

These are just games after all.