Editorial: Confessions of a Recovering Console Collector

Piles of systems in random boxes makes for a less attractive photo.

This is not actually my collection, as it is orderly and almost makes sense.

Collecting things obsessively is not a healthy pursuit, and I cannot recommend it to anyone. If your particular obsession happens to be video games then it can be very expensive, and the result is a lot of clutter that is very hard to part with. I have recovered from a bout of collecting, thanks mainly to a significant reduction in income. But the mental scars are still there, as is some of the physical evidence of this folly; even after selling off much of it over the last couple of years. How bad was it? I do not even know myself. I can only go by what is still here, and some of the numbers defy explanation. The best example of this is my Sony PlayStation collection; and yes, I am only talking about the hardware.

I currently count nine Sony PlayStation consoles in my basement. And no, I do not mean ‘PlayStation’ in general, of which there have now been 4.5 generations (as PS4 Pro is not quite a 5th-generation console); I mean this quite literally, as I refer only to the first installment, now referred to as the PlayStation 1. Four of these consoles are complete in their original boxes (in widely varying states of condition), and of the loose hardware three are of the later PSOne variety; one of which has the official Sony LCD screen attached. All of these consoles work, and obviously just one would suffice, with perhaps a spare to keep on hand just in case. But no. I own nine. This is not to say I do not own any other PlayStation systems (not counting the PS3 and PS4 upstairs, as I have three PlayStation 2 consoles (one original, two slim) on my basement shelves as well. What of the other consoles? I will tell you in the next paragraph.

There are no camera tricks that can make a pile of unused systems look as good as this photo.

The Sony PlayStation is a masterpiece of gaming hardware. But one is probably enough.

Within easy reach are a pair of SNES Jr. systems (the second version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, model SNS-101), which are on a nearby shelf, lovingly shoved into a shoe box. (I had three, but the complete-in-box SNS-101 went to eBay last year.) I also have two of the (rather coveted) top-loading, second-generation NES consoles (model NES-101), which I take better care of, due to their value. Then there are the Nintendo 64 consoles, of which I think there are only five. Or is it six? (I can only assume there are no more. But then again I have not opened every box and plastic tote that sits on my shelves, and there could certainly be more.) Three are complete in the original box (with only one of those truly complete, if I am being technical – with the manual and other paperwork, and original plastic bag, etc.), and the other two (or three?) are loose. All function perfectly, as most solid-state Nintendo consoles from days of yore tend to do (oh how I wish everything was as durable as an old Nintendo console!). This was not meant to be a comprehensive list, but as I am still remembering (and finding) more systems, I will continue into paragraph no. 3 of this confession.

The GameCube is next up as I move through Nintendo systems in my basement in chronological order, and of these I only happen to own two. (A minor miracle!) Both are of the black variety, and both also work. (One even includes the Game Boy Advance cartridge reader add-on with software disc!) There are also a couple of Nintendo Wii systems. This is nothing special, as literally every home in the world has at least one in a closet or basement somewhere. As to Sega systems, in addition to a Master System I have at least three Genesis systems, with two original and one of the second design; though only one original box. There is also a Dreamcast, though I have not powered it on in a very long time. Add in an assortment of portable systems (Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, original Nintendo 3DS, Sony PSP, and even a scratched-up Sega Game Gear, for some reason), and I think that is everything. I will doubtless remember something else after publishing this article, and I did not include the current consoles that reside in the main floor of my home.

I have several full-time employees who search through the wreckage for usable systems at all hours.

A recent photo of my basement.

So where did this gaggle (if that is the word I want) of consoles come from, anyway? It so happens that I purchased almost all of these from eBay auctions, mostly as part of larger sales that included various games. The worst part (well, really all of this is the worst part) is that most were collected in a relatively short 1 – 2 year span. But why did I do it, and how did this all begin? To understand, we need to start at the beginning, when my first PlayStation was damaged in circumstances that might have come from straight from a Tolkien story:

It all happened one afternoon, when I was preparing to grill some sort of meat product (I forget which. Probably hamburger patties). I had a ground floor apartment in those days, with a small concrete slab that served as patio, and grilling HQ. My charcoal, which was kept in an adjacent storage shed, was a bit damp from recent precipitation, and its ability to light easily had been lost. But I had lighter fluid, and so I doused the charcoal with this substance and lit up the pile in a satisfying roar of flames. Just inside the patio was my living room, and my TV and PlayStation were very near the slider door. I was deep into some Final Fantasy game at the time (either FF VII or FF IX, I have forgotten which), and the controller lay casually on the carpet next to the TV stand as I went back outside to check on my fire. Imagine my disappointment when I saw no fire at all, and instead a pile of black charcoal briquettes; their edges barely tinged in the grey color I had been expecting them all to be. What happened next will forever be etched into my memory, and should serve as a warning to any enterprising grill master.

Seeking an ‘easy fix’ to this non-lighted charcoal problem, I grabbed the bottle of lighter fluid for the second time, and pointed it at the ‘flameless’ briquettes. In an instant, an explosion of flames shot skyward, and I became aware that my face had not escaped them. In a panic, I rushed into my apartment to douse my head in the nearest sink, and in the process tripped over my PlayStation controller cable. After extinguishing the fire that left my hairline and eyebrows a crispy, white color, I walked out into the living room to assess the damage to my beloved console. The situation was worse than I had imagined, as I had managed to yank the entire console off of its shelf, and the consequence of my deed lay on the carpet before me. The end result was that my PlayStation never powered on again, and it was not until I could afford a PlayStation 2 console some time later that I was ever able to play my Final Fantasy games again.

Nintendo remembers. That's why they created the Switch, right?

Remember when gaming was about having fun as a family, and not hoarding old hardware?

There you have it. The remaining evidence – and possible explanation – of the obsessive binge that resulted in the console collection that I currently own. This is only part of a larger problem, however, as the urges which drove me to such irrational extremes were not limited to consoles, but games, as well. That is a subject for another time, and would require explaining the rationale behind things like three consecutive Suikoden II purchases, and the like. Ultimately, all of this is very depressing in light of the fact that I have finished fewer actual games in my lifetime than I have fingers. The truth, especially when I write it in plain English like this, certainly stings.

3 Comments

  1. Dancing Matt
    Posted 2017.01.27 at 01:03 | Permalink

    Wow. So this is all to have a backup supply of beloved, classic systems? Hence, no delving into TurboGrafxs or Neo Geos or Jaguar 64s?

  2. Sebastian
    Posted 2017.01.27 at 12:00 | Permalink

    @Dancing Matt I wish the explanation was so simple: that I just wanted a backup of favorite systems. But no, it was more convoluted. And I would have ended up branching out into the fringe systems eventually, I’m sure.

  3. Adeki
    Posted 2017.01.28 at 12:12 | Permalink

    We can get through this together.