Thoughts on Choices and Changes

We have to make choices in our every-day lives, in most aspects of it.  This includes the gaming side of our lives—which games to purchase, whether to get one that seems good when it’s new or wait and see what player reviews are like, whether to drive farther to a great used game store or go to a closer one with a smaller selection, and others.  Recently, I’ve found another choice, one I haven’t seen discussed as much.

As a bit of forewarning, today’s discussion will be a bit more personal-ish and, thus, a touch more meandering.  This site is not going to become a “personal blog” or the like, but today’s topic of discussion would be difficult to enter into without the more personal aspect.

Alright, so—thanks to collecting over quite a few years of life and gifts from friends and family, I have a good few game consoles.  I have an Atari 2600, a PlayStation 2, and most of the ones in the middle.  Now, my television, like most, has a limited number of ports, so I’ve had to choose which consoles to hook up and which to leave carefully packed away.

That decision was mostly easy—my SEGA Genesis is left packed because I currently only have one video game for it (moving around often in my youth meant I lost some, and being acquaintances with people of lower caliber meant I “lost” others).  My Atari is packed because—I’ll be honest, here—out of the six games I have for it, I’m only half-good with one.  So on and so on and so on down the list, deciding which console to hook up and which to pack away was mostly easy.  Until now.

One shall stand...

I’ve been thinking about getting another console, so I look under my television.  Right at this moment, my Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 (X-Box started gasping and wheezing and clutching its not-so-little chest) have the “spots of honor”—which means one will have to go.  But which?

We can compare game collections, which on its face seems an easy choice.  I have dozens and dozens of titles for the PlayStation 2, while I have only a small handful for the Dreamcast.  However, I really like the Dreamcast games I have for it, including Marvel vs. Capcom 2—one of the few fighting games I’m actually pretty good at.  Plus it’s just a fun system to tinker with.  There are more titles for the PlayStation 2 in my library, but that doesn’t mean I play them as much as Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

I can’t imagine this choice being all that rare, yet to date I must say it’s been rare indeed that I’ve seen or heard anyone else talk about it.  When the choice is an easy one, it’s not that important, but when it’s not so easy, well, it does kind of run around the mind a bit more.

Sure, one can always get one of those switchers, but I began to wonder how gamers handled the situation who might not be able to get one, for whatever reason—though one of the most likely, at least with gamers of my age, is that getting money for a new or new-to-you console usually involves saving money, and we gamers aren’t exactly a patient lot.  Waiting and saving even more to get a switcher or other such technically-unneeded accessory (unneeded in the sense that the console doesn’t need it to operate, nor does it really enhance how the console does operate) isn’t always an easy thing to do.

There’s another side to the decision, too—packing a console away also carries a deeper meaning.  It can be like packing away a part of one’s life.  This hobby of ours—it can be a big part of our lives.  Hopefully a healthy part, but a big part nonetheless.  Putting part of it in the back of a closet or in an attic can sometimes feel like putting away cherished memories.

This is something that usually seems to affect older gamers, since we came from an era where playing a game with other people meant that they were next to you in the living room or arcade.  These days, with X-Box Live and PlayStation Network, you can play with anyone, almost anywhere.  Older gamers still try to get together, when possible, for multi-player games—so putting a relevant console away can feel like putting that part of our hobby away as well.

It doesn’t inherently mean that, of course—but the feel of that alone is enough to give some of us pause.  Some of us look at our N.E.S. and remember playing Super Mario Bros. with a sibling or a friend, taking turns as Mario and Luigi to try and beat that insanely hard game.  Some of us remember playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with a friend, one controlling the technically invincible Tails.  Not that such is only available to older games and consoles, of course—there are plenty of stories gamers could share involving sticky bombs, players who are supposed to be teammates, and plenty of laughs with a Halo game.

I only read the articles, I swear!

The difference isn’t the game, the console, or even the era.  The difference is, in part, the gamer.  Those of my generation, who grew up with video gaming as a hobby being sparkling new, some unknown but exciting adventure—we look at it a little differently than the younger gamers who grow up with gaming as a part of their daily lives.  That doesn’t mean either generation has a “better” view or the like—but when gaming is more accepted, when commercials and advertisements can be seen everywhere and gaming references in movies and television are common and easily “gotten”, that can engender a different view than one engendered by buying Nintendo Power almost feeling like buying a certain kind of men’s magazine.

Looking under my television at my PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast, I know it’s not a decision of which hardware does what I want, which console I have more software for, or even which games I’m particularly good at.  It’s something different, something that makes such physical concerns almost irrelevant.  It’s something that brings with it a certain level of nostalgia, too.

The decision is, at least in part, something along the lines of, “Packing this away means packing a part of myself away.  Am I prepared to do that?”  That isn’t really true, of course, but it can sometimes feel that way.

Like in other hobbies, or other, non-hobby aspects of life in general—on some level, we define ourselves, even if only to ourselves, by certain external criteria.  Having this item means one thing, not having that item means another, so on and so forth—even if we know it’s not true, even if we don’t let such thoughts “out” often around other gamers, sometimes there’s a part of us that looks at such a decision as which console to unhook from the television and pack away as having something more of a metaphysical meaning.

Naturally, this again isn’t true of every gamer who thinks over such a decision, but it can be there.  In talks with friends and such, I’ve encountered something similar now and then—which, once more, makes me wonder why it isn’t talked about more often out in the open, in a forum like this site and others like it.  I think we should.  If we can talk about this sort of thing more, laugh about it and about ourselves, that can really only help us.  Anything that helps us, anything that makes our hobby interesting and gives something to talk about with others—well, that certainly isn’t a bad thing.


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