The retro gaming community is a wonderful place. Filled with plenty of like-minded individuals all focused on the love of pixels and a nostalgic past, it’s a great feeling being part of the second life we all lead through gaming. Having said that though, I’ve noticed a big increase in the number of fellow collectors claiming they are more than addicted to the hobby we know and love as retro gaming. On the surface this sounds a ridiculous claim, however, when you listen to their justification you’ll sit up and take notice. One YouTube user recently stated that retro game collecting has had a largely detrimental effect on his life. His fear of missing a bargain, an unquenchable desire to enlargen his collection and a compulsion to continually buy games to showcase on his YouTube channel, all leading to upset and frustration.
Every waking moment our addicted subject lived through in recent times had supposedly been tarnished by a need to continually check the latest listings in the video game category on eBay. He had spent more money and time than he should have on a obsession with buying retro games and everything else the hobby desires. Adding to this, the addition of playing through these purchases had become such a big part of his life that he claimed it interfered with other important aspects of life. In a movingly honest video, the YouTube user said he had once dreamed of travelling the world and experiencing different cultures – yet as a result of spending all his money on old games, this dream had been auctioned off long ago.
This YouTube user – one remaining anonymous – is not making any unique claims. Having talked to many members of the retro gaming community, there are plenty who state they spend more time playing old games than they probably should. If not playing, they’re also quick to admit that the buying side of things occupies their waking thoughts. One even admitted that while his wife was in labour he was looking at eBay on his mobile. Another said that he even bought games on his wedding day.
Born into an addictive hobby
Addiction is defined as the state of being enslaved to a habit, practice or activity to such an extent that it’s cessation causes severe trauma and its continued practices has severe social or economic repercussions. While it may not be driven by a substance dependency (like a drug or alcohol addiction) the aforementioned behaviour of some collectors certainly suggests that obsessive retro gaming or collecting exhibits signs of addition. Noted counsellor and psychotherapist Ciaran O’Connor is seen as an authority on video game addiction, though he prefers to talk of it as “excessive gaming”. He believes it is important to draw distinctions between, those who play a lot of games for recreation and those who feel played by the games.
“My research, my own experiences and my work have shown me that excessive gaming is gaming that is not solely for enjoyment. While many functioning gamers will play games with a genuine delight, those that struggle to control their gaming are likely to have other reasons to keep going.”
“Excessive video gaming should not be confused with spending a lot of time gaming” O’Connor observes. “Someone who loves games, but can easily put them down to spend time with others, or attend to their work and well-being, is not using them excessively; they are just enjoying them. When gaming becomes excessive it can have a powerful negative impact on mental health – commonly associated with depression and social anxiety.”
Like the common perception of video gaming as a whole, the public’s view of a video game addict is stereotyped: They’re the teenager who plays ‘Call of Duty’ when they should be studying, or the Korean MMORPG fan who forgoes food and sleep for a 48 hour session. “Historically, the excessive gamer has been the teenage boy playing hardcore games such as ‘World of Warcraft’ for six hours plus a day – this does not fully reflect today’s gaming market” O’Connor observes. “Today, the average gamer is in their 30s and the gender mix in gaming is nearly even.”
Gaming’s spread to a mass market means we consume titles in a much wider manner than ever before. Consequently, O’Connor notes that “social games” presents just as much of a danger, particularly when there’s monetary or tangible rewards for successful play. “Snackable games such as ‘Candy Crush Saga’ and ‘Clash of Clans’ encourage many brief, frequent visits throughout the day and offer the player in-app purchases upon which they can spend limitless amounts of money. Don’t be blinkered into thinking that you or someone you love is not gaming excessively because they don’t fit into an out-dated stereotype.”
Fortunately, I’ve never considered myself in any way addicted to retro gaming. I undeniably enjoy it and think about it a great deal, but no more so than I do my job. If I had to sell my collection tomorrow or could never play games again, I’d certainly be sad but my world would keep on turning. I’ve also (through strict and necessary budgeting) never excessively spent or had the buyers remorse that goes with impulsive gaming purchases. Family commitments mean that I barely get any chance to play games at home, so I can safely say that I also don’t have an addition to playing. That being said, every few months I do have a compulsion to play an RPG; a need driven by a desire for escapism. I really enjoy immersing myself in a story, getting lost in a world. While It would be insensitive and inappropriate to say my desire to experience a few random encounters bares any comparison to someone struggling with a chemical or psychological addiction, many experts flag the genre.