The Weight of Things - Over Consumption of Videogames, Computers, and Technology

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/buckman/public_html/neo/modules/advanced_forum/advanced_forum.module on line 492.
Bill Loguidice's picture

I want you... to buy more stuff!I want you... to buy more stuff!After checking out the latest, typically profound Stuff No One Told Me comic, The weight of things, it got me thinking yet again about my own life and habits, and in particular an area that relates to Armchair Arcade's mission, which is primarily to chronicle the complete history of videogames and computers. As a co-founder of Armchair Arcade, I've obviously been a part of shaping said mission, which is no surprise as it's clearly a reflection of my own life. As I used to like to say, I have three basic loves in my life: family, working out, and of course, technology, with a big focus on videogames and computers.

As you probably know by now, I have a ridiculously large videogame and computer collection--more stuff than can be appreciated in one lifetime, stuff I've been accumulating for the better part of my 39 years on this planet in one way or another. It is in that particular area that that comic speaks most to me, as, as much as my collection brings me joy, it also feels like the beast I must constantly tend to, and, most sad of all, constantly feed, with little time available to stop and smell the actual "roses," which is usage of the very items that elicit the warm and fuzzies in me, both in recollections of positive childhood memories (again, as in the comic) and to satisfy my present desires.

I think as much as we'd like to think otherwise, I do believe we can have all of the same feelings of "weight" about digital goods, i.e., items that only exist as bits of information stored somewhere other than a physical medium we retain all rights to, like a record, cassette, disk, optical disc, etc. Again, there's a certain burden of guilt of lack of usage because there's simply not enough hours in the day. It's part of the reason why I avoid any and all MMORPGs--not for fear of addiction, but rather for fear of not being able to put time into it to make it worth the effort. "First world problems" as they say...

Naturally, abundance in that area also breeds indifference. I always like to use MAME as an example. It's something we would have practically murdered for as kids in the 1980s, but shortly after gaining the ability to replicate literally thousands of arcade games in the late 1990s, we as a whole became somewhat indifferent to the idea. It's there, it's free, it's accessible, it's everything we hoped for, but the "chase" is over. The dream has been realized and it's overwhelming. In other words, it's all in our possession without barriers and it somehow became far less special than when we had to plunk down .25 or more per play. In fact, digital subscriptions like Netflix and OnLive can feel like that too, where we can somehow complain about the lack of selection despite hundreds or even thousands of possible on demand selections that we couldn't possibly have the time to explore even a portion of.

So, can I rid myself of my possessions like in the comic and set myself free? Although I've fantasized about it, probably not. I don't think most of us could or ultimately would want to. You'd have to be at a very specific point in your life with very specific responsibilities. I guess all I - all we - can do is acknowledge the problem, try to keep it under control, and for goodness sake, try and really enjoy this trip through life a bit more. To put it another way, think about and smell those "roses" now and again, whatever form they may take...

Comments

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
I agree, Bill. We're all in

I agree, Bill. We're all in the same boat, I think--we're programmed to deal with scarcity, so when we have the opportunity to acquire a lot of stuff cheaply, we go for it and feel great about it. Oh, look--ten great games on Steam only $20! Clicky, clicky. That purchase feels good, but then you start to feel guilty because you've got hundreds of games you haven't even installed, much less spent any time with.

I get depressed every time I look at my shelves. D&D books I would love to study, games I should revisit...Always some "classic" out there I haven't played. I tell myself I'm "saving them" for the right moment, such as Wing Commander and Privateer, but it's probably more just laziness or apathy. In short, I think too much stuff makes us lazy and apathetic, perhaps even depressed. There's no wonder why extremely rich kids are always getting into so much trouble!

That said, I think we have to change our thinking. We need to see our time as the commodity instead of money. Games may be cheap, but our time is not. In other words, I don't feel bad about not playing games that don't hook me anymore. Before, I would be like, WELL, I BOUGHT this, so I'm damn well going to play it regardless to "get my money's worth." Now I'm like, "This game had better give me my time's worth" (i.e., worth my time). Something like Skyrim, with its crummy interface, or any game with tedious elements (long loading times, needless repetition, unfun grinding, etc.) is not worth our time in the same way that an overpriced game is not worth our money.

I think we're all hoarders. I've heard the same thing about kids who grow up without enough food. They get older and very obese. Same for very lonely and unloved kids...They want to have LOTS of children and shower them with affection.

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Interests and stuff
Matt Barton wrote:

In short, I think too much stuff makes us lazy and apathetic, perhaps even depressed. There's no wonder why extremely rich kids are always getting into so much trouble!

Related to this, I try to reconcile my own scattershot interests all the time. I try to fashion myself as a polymath (colloquially, Renaissance Man), but the reality is that's a poor way for most of us to conduct ourselves because it not only breeds mediocrity, but, much like your "lazy and apathetic" comment, it can freeze us into a position of inactivity due to so many conflicting interests/passions.

I'll give a recent example... I asked Christina for the Rocksmith bundle for Christmas, because I've always been intrigued by learning an instrument and see this as a fun way of learning how to play the electric guitar, if even just a little bit. Of course, this ignores the fact that I already have the Miracle Piano Teaching System (classic MacOS version) and have yet to even boot that up (which is the story of most of my videogame and computer collection - it warms my heart that it's there in my possession, but I can't get to it!). Mentally, I'm onto the next shiny new thing that caught my eye, despite the fact that I should be focusing on what I already have that's similar. That is one of my major self-identified failings. (And for the record, Christina called me out on it, as she should, but I'm still getting it for Christmas...)

Anyway, the point is, whether it's teaching myself electronics, building robots, drawing, creating a game, writing fiction and any number of other things that I'd LOVE to do/experience, I have no time for ANY of it. I can barely keep up with day-to-day stuff. I have a lack of focus simply because there are so many wonderful things I want to do and experience, and given my time constraints (work, family, freelance work, etc.), NONE of it seems to happen. It's a sad reflection of my failings, but I know I'm not alone in that. Most sufficiently motivated individuals have a similar problem of too many interests and not enough time.

n/a
Alan Vallely
Alan Vallely's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/11/2010
We're programmed :)

Speaking as someone who's gone through a "liquidation of possessions" a couple of times (I'm on my 4th country now), I swear we (North Americans particularly) are programmed to acquire "stuff". Bigger houses equal more rooms to put crap in ;) I find it's the big ticket items that are actually the most stressful and "weighted": house/dwelling, and car/vehicle. Those two can really restrict where you go, and they add a certain degree of stress to your life. In fact, the least stressful period for "stuff" was when I lived in Hong Kong, in a 400sqft (2 BEDROOM!) apartment. Space was at a premium, so you couldn't accumulate all that much. (Granted, I found a loophole, which was to bring some things back to Canada to put in my parents' basement!).

Electronics are a particularly tricky thing to accumulate due to the pace of technology. It's not like a guitar that is practical or an investment like a coin collection. Electronics pretty much always decreases, and there's always "something better" on the horizon. While it counts as "accumulation", one thing I -like- about Steam is that you can buy games on there and don't have to find physical space to put it anywhere. I also use steam to buy indie games specifically, because I figure the indies will get a better cut of the money through steam than another avenue. I've got my stack of "classic retro game boxes" but they're (surprise surprise!) in my parents' basement on the other side of the world until I stop moving long enough to have a house to put them in ;)

And we can't forget that we're all OLD now ;) We have a lot of other responsibilities. We can't put a lot of time into playing games anymore, now that we can afford to buy them all! Frustrating!

I will wholeheartedly endorse putting some of your "buy tech" money towards vacations instead - new stuff typically has a short impact on your life before you become accustomed, but a vacation can give you a new perspective! (and the images and videos you take are all digital, so they don't take up too much space!) ;)

Al.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Comments
Alan Vallely wrote:

Speaking as someone who's gone through a "liquidation of possessions" a couple of times (I'm on my 4th country now), I swear we (North Americans particularly) are programmed to acquire "stuff". Bigger houses equal more rooms to put crap in ;) I find it's the big ticket items that are actually the most stressful and "weighted": house/dwelling, and car/vehicle. Those two can really restrict where you go, and they add a certain degree of stress to your life. In fact, the least stressful period for "stuff" was when I lived in Hong Kong, in a 400sqft (2 BEDROOM!) apartment. Space was at a premium, so you couldn't accumulate all that much. (Granted, I found a loophole, which was to bring some things back to Canada to put in my parents' basement!).

One of the major reasons we bought the last house we did was the huge basement that would be ideal for my collection, among other things, so I definitely concur with what you're saying. I think it was George Carlin who had a routine about houses being a box to store our stuff, and how we needed a bigger box to store more stuff, etc. I suppose if we didn't have this need to acquire more stuff and store it somewhere, our requirements for living space could be far more modest.

Alan Vallely wrote:

Electronics are a particularly tricky thing to accumulate due to the pace of technology. It's not like a guitar that is practical or an investment like a coin collection. Electronics pretty much always decreases, and there's always "something better" on the horizon. While it counts as "accumulation", one thing I -like- about Steam is that you can buy games on there and don't have to find physical space to put it anywhere. I also use steam to buy indie games specifically, because I figure the indies will get a better cut of the money through steam than another avenue. I've got my stack of "classic retro game boxes" but they're (surprise surprise!) in my parents' basement on the other side of the world until I stop moving long enough to have a house to put them in ;)

Interestingly, there's a cut-off. In some cases, it is an investment, even if you don't necessarily recoup all you spent initially. Certainly not the newer stuff in most cases, but even with that you might get lucky with a few items here and there that are worth significantly more than you originally paid (modern console RPGs, for instance, tend to hold or exceed value in many cases).

Alan Vallely wrote:

And we can't forget that we're all OLD now ;) We have a lot of other responsibilities. We can't put a lot of time into playing games anymore, now that we can afford to buy them all! Frustrating!

That is indeed our Catch-22. As kids, we had little, but all the time, now we have much and no time.

Alan Vallely wrote:

I will wholeheartedly endorse putting some of your "buy tech" money towards vacations instead - new stuff typically has a short impact on your life before you become accustomed, but a vacation can give you a new perspective! (and the images and videos you take are all digital, so they don't take up too much space!) ;)

Al.

Though my wife loves them, I was never a big believer in vacations. Personally, I've made my home my fun park, so I have little incentive to leave it for a fleeting experience, no matter how impactful. With that said, I do go on them because marriages are partnerships...

n/a
davyK
davyK's picture
Offline
Joined: 05/21/2006
Kind of the reason why I'm

Kind of the reason why I'm trying to blog my way through my own collection - actually playing the games reminds you of why you are collecting them and you rediscover the joy of some game that has aged particularly well.......

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
DavyK's comment sparked with

DavyK's comment sparked with me.

Bill, let me ask you this...Let's say I (or someone else interested in your stuff) came over and showed a huge interest in that Miracle Piano System. Let's say he wanted you to set it up, then went to town. I'm sure you'd end up talking all about it, and seeing the person trying it would undoubtedly raise your interest as well. If the person stayed motivated, perhaps coming over or buying his own unit and comparing notes, I bet you'd have all the motivation YOU'D need to stay with it as well.

At least, that's been my experience. It's very hard to get up motivation to do something if you feel like you're the only one. But add some like-minded friends and suddenly things that were collecting dust are suddenly new and exciting again.

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Miracle Piano as an example
Matt Barton wrote:

Bill, let me ask you this...Let's say I (or someone else interested in your stuff) came over and showed a huge interest in that Miracle Piano System. Let's say he wanted you to set it up, then went to town. I'm sure you'd end up talking all about it, and seeing the person trying it would undoubtedly raise your interest as well. If the person stayed motivated, perhaps coming over or buying his own unit and comparing notes, I bet you'd have all the motivation YOU'D need to stay with it as well.

This is true. I actually have two of my own guinea pigs in my daughters. I have definitely been contemplating trying it with them and seeing if anything stuck. That would serve many purposes.

n/a
Junkmale (not verified)
Strangely enough......

Strangely enough i've been thinking along similar sort of lines lately as i pressed 'Buy' for the Limited Edition Zelda Edition of the 3DS earlier today. A console i don't really even want. I suppose it will look good next to the release date PS3 which hasn't even been taken out of it's box yet!

Another thing crossed my mind. As i've reached a certain age (haven't we all) is what's going to happen to my collection when i shuffle off this mortal coil? In my own case in particular as i'm not married, likely to be, live alone and have no real close family to speak off.

Even though it wouldn't matter (to me anyway, after i was gone!) i would really hate the thought that something that has taken up most of my adult life would be simply boxed up and taken to the nearest Charity Shop by some faceless lawyer who had no idea of what he was looking at.

I have almost 200 Famiclones now in my collection. I could tell you the stories of how each and every one of them was obtained, where and how much. Would it all just go to waste?

It may be a depressing subject but it's one i've been thinking about a lot lately.

Alan Vallely
Alan Vallely's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/11/2010
Well, start doing your

Well, start doing your research now - find computer museums that would want the stuff, for eg. Put it in your will ;)

And the phrase, "You can't take it with you" applies. While it might be depressing for folks who have tons upon tons of stuff, I think it's liberating. I had a friend who lived in Canada for the first 40 years of his life - he had 6 cars, and about 5 different properties he maintained/rented out. He sold it all to move to Hong Kong because he knew he wouldn't be back to live. While initially overwhelming, he sold it all and is now MUCH MORE HAPPY with "less" (one smallish apartment, and now a condo in Phuket, Thailand where he plans to retire).

I'm not immune to "collect-fever", for sure. But I do remember that the collecting part is more fun than the owning. And part of the reason I want that stuff is so I can share it with others - what's the point of having the best collection ever that no one else ever sees? :)

Al.

Tuco40
Tuco40's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/30/2010
Damn this is a depressing topic

What's going to happen to my videogames when I'm dead thread makes for a helluva depressing topic.

Yeah, I too have realized that I'm probably never going to have time to really play all those games on my shelf. Bloodnet has been sitting on my shelf for going on 18 years now!

One thing i've done over the past decade is develop a keen sense of what i'm actually going to play, read or watch before i buy it. I dont own anything i dont seriously intend to use.

Seriously guys this thread is profoundly downbeat. You want to feel less lousy every time you look at those shelves packed with games still in their wrappers? Stop collecting things. Just stop. Only buy what you will play.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.