For most of my life, I’ve dreamed big, glitzy New York dreams. Growing up, I’d beg my dad before every annual summer trip to take us there instead of some place like Idaho or Montana, but the answer was always no – he’d spent enough time back east as a detective in the 1980s to know he’d never, ever want to go back. So for the past several decades, I’ve lived vicariously through every single film and game set in New York that I could get my hands on, before finally making my first trip out there shortly after 9/11, and realizing that I was, without a doubt, going to live there one day.
Last night, I booked a trip for me and my wife to return, once again, to NYC – her third time, my…sixth? – but we’re not going for vacation. We’re looking for an apartment. I know relocating from one side of the country to the other isn’t going to be as glamorous as it has been in my dreams – most likely, it’ll be quite the opposite, at least in the beginning – but the fact remains: the dreams I’ve dreamed my entire life are finally turning into reality.
The past couple of weeks have been pretty surreal as we’ve started making concrete plans for how we’re going to pull the move off – eyeballing employment opportunities, figuring out how to get our dog and birds out there, weighing the pros and cons of real estate brokers – but one thing has been harder than perhaps it ought to be: coming to grips with the fact that I’m going to have to part with much of my classic video game collection, which has expanded, contracted, and expanded again over the past two decades into something I’m quite proud of. There’s stuff there that’s taken years to find and acquire, even with the ubiquity of gaming rarities on eBay…and with a few notable exceptions, I’m just not going to be able to take any of it with me.
The thing about collecting is, it’s addicting. It’s compulsory. You don’t stop when you’ve reached 100% completion – you move on to something else. $150 Famicom games. Trade show lanyards. Japan-only Gameboy variants. Every issue of Nintendo Power. “All the good Wii games.” It never ends, because there’s always something out there you don’t have that somebody else does. And you want it. You need it. You probably won’t use any of it more than once or twice, but doesn’t it look great on the shelf? Isn’t it awesome to brag about it on Twitter?
I bought my Dreamcast in 2011 because I wanted to play Phantasy Star Online again, but then I couldn’t pass up the chance to customize it with an official, Sega-produced Crystal Black shell, of which only 1000 were ever made. To get the system online, I had to find a broadband adapter…those aren’t exactly easy to come by. But once I got the system in the shell and the broadband hooked up, I played for all of 20 hours over the course of a year. The Dreamcast’s been off for months, while I continue investing time in XCOM, or Skyrim, or Super Mario 3D Land, or any number of other current-gen games. I’ve got two Famicoms and two Super Nintendos each – one for each room with a TV – just in case I want to take another crack at finally seeing the ending of Gimmick!, or do another Super Metroid run, or maybe actually start a game of Shadowrun. I’ve even got a little adapter to play Genesis games on my SNES – just in case. And I barely touch any of it.
Following through on my New York plans has given me some real perspective on how I’ve actually been spending my time and money. And it’s been a sobering realization that, at the end of the day, all I’m really doing is amassing plastic, without really ever getting to enjoy any of it. The fact is, I’m on the verge of leaving behind what has been a very good job, and until my financial situation stabilizes, the discretionary budget I’ve enjoyed over the past several years is going to be almost nonexistent. And this doesn’t just apply to my classic game collection, but everything I spend my money on that I don’t really need. At the beginning of the year, I cancelled every single game pre-order I’d placed for 2013. I used to be that guy who had every new release; now I’ll be lucky if I can justify getting BioShock Infinite and Fire Emblem: Awakening before Christmas.
You might be thinking I’m a spoiled moneybags who should take his first world sob story to someone who gives a crap. But let me tell you something that happened this morning after I left the post office, several pounds lighter: I realized I was never going to see the things I’d just gotten rid of, ever again. And it was freeing. I realized, this morning, that it’s really not that hard to let things go. It’s just stuff, in the end…stuff that’s probably gonna be around long after we’re all dead and gone. Yeah, there are some things in my classic game collection I’ll be hanging on to as long as I can: my Gameboy Light that took years of searching to find in great condition; the sealed copy of Contra III and salmon-colored Famicom Twin Turbo that my wife gave me back when she was making a little more money. But you know what? If I had to give these things up, I could do it. I can always find them again, in the future.
And if I don’t? That’s okay, too. I’m not moving to New York to stare at a bunch of trophies.