Moving In My 30s Made Me Nostalgic For Physical Games

Eleven. That’s the number of times I’ve moved in my life. Across three continents, four countries, and five cities, many boxes have been filled and unfilled throughout my thirty years on this spinning rock. Boxes filled with essentials and non-essentials; knick-knacks that hold sentimental value, some of which you have to conjure the courage to let go as there’s simply no space for it; things that your parents threw away on a whim thinking your nine-year-old heart wouldn’t miss but you cry for weeks because of how much you miss it (yes, dad, I’m still upset about that Buzz Lightyear figure); and, of course, for any self-annointed gamer: video games. Lots and lots of video games.

As a child, I didn’t think twice when my parents told me I had to put all my PlayStation 2 discs in one of those thick CD binders, discarding their actual cases (and all their manuals) into recycling bins in order to save space during one of our many moves. I even thought it was kind of neat to be able to have all of my games in one, alphabetized package. A little over a decade later, when I was in my early twenties and about to move back from New York City to Vancouver, I remember thinking how much of a nuisance it was to fill my entire carry-on with my old Wii and Xbox 360 games. Not to mention the questions I was getting asked at JFK during security only added to the frustration–although, being a bearded South Asian man, that likely would’ve happened either way.

As the years have passed, I’ve slowly but surely embraced our all-digital present; from the Xbox Series S being my foray into this current generation of consoles, to not shutting up about how amazing it feels to play triple-A titles via cloud streaming services on my Logitech G Cloud. Though I’ve written at length about the concerns of the eradication of physical media as it pertains to one’s media ownership being at the behest of billion-dollar corporations, I also cannot deny the many positives, like its lessened environmental impact to other factors like convenience and accessibility for the end-user. If it weren’t for services like Xbox Game Pass, I likely wouldn’t have played many indie titles from developers I previously hadn’t heard of, some of which have turned out to be all-time greats; leading me to purchase said games outright, or support them on their next game. Having a carousel of titles loaded up and ready to go on my Switch without the need to carry a bunch of individual cases makes switching games on the fly on a ten-plus hour, cross-Atlantic flight a lot easier. Furthermore, having rows and rows of game cases not sullying an otherwise tastefully decorated condo that my wife had worked tirelessly on is a perk I didn’t expect.

Physical Games
This library isn’t much, but it made me happy to go through it.

All of that said, however, it was during our latest move that I realized I had grown nostalgic for my old physical collection. I’d lined up rows of the few dozen games I still owned physically at the back of our media station in the living room. The collection wasn’t much to be impressed by: a couple dozen PS4 titles, a dozen or so of some of my favourite Xbox 360 and Wii games, and a handful of PS Vita and 3DS games. Most of these were blocked by our soundbar and were frankly used as a barrier to hide all the messy wires behind the open-backed stand. I hadn’t even taken out a single one of these games in over two years–until just last week. The stand was the last thing to be moved, as such these few dozen game cases were what I was left with in an otherwise empty living room. As I sat there with feather-duster in hand, brushing away the many layers of dust on these neglected cases, I couldn’t help but get a tad emotional. Holding game cases the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, titles that I’d played while still in high school on my then (and possibly still) favourite console of all time; or PS4 and PS Vita titles like The Last of Us and Gravity Rush, games that brought me solace during quiet lonely nights in my decrepit studio apartment in New York City; it all felt as if I were going through not just my gaming history, but quite tangibly, my life.

I’m not sure if this is some third-life crisis of some sort, or if having recently hit the big three-o is giving me some sense of existential dread (though in fairness I’ve had the latter for well over a decade), but I can’t help but feel grateful for having decided to not discard these few handfuls of physical games. It’s made me realize the value physical media can have, beyond just the monetary or preservational reasons. Now, I should note that not all of my physical games resonated equally. My copy of Destiny for the PS4 elicited no more than a, “huh,” whereas seeing Okami for the Wii nearly brought me to tears when remembering my memories with that game. This is to say that, though this trip through memory lane has been wonderful, I doubt I’ll be fully reverting to an all-physical library anytime soon, just that I may reserve some space on my shelf for those select few, truly special titles; ones that I can pick up another thirty years from now and walk through their memories, waxing nostalgic to the wife from when I’d played them.

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