To Collect, Or Not To Collect? That is the Question…
My girlfriend is obsessed with the BioShock series. As I write this she is replaying BioShock 2 for the second time, having finished replaying her third stint of BioShock 1 a couple of weeks ago. After that I am sure she will move onto BioShock Infinite, and from there, knowing her, she will probably start with number one again. She has played it on Xbox 360, Steam, and (currently) PS4. The smart light in our bedroom is set to blue, where she is playing it, to add additional “atmosphere” to the game.
What this means is that we have a shelf in our current home, something I have been informed will be a glass display cabinet in our new place, dedicated to the game series. On it we have the art book, copies of the Lutece coin from Infinite, Pop Vinyls of everyone from Booker DeWitt to the Big Daddies from the first two games, and a lot more. At the back of the shelf we have my contribution – BioShock Infinite: Siege of Columbia.
Yes, there is a board game of the video game.
We’ve never played it.
When pressed for an answer as to why, if you were to ask me as a board gamer but non-BioShock obsessive, my answer would be that I don’t know. When writing about games I often forget that it exists and so never even consider mentioning it or even playing it. When I ask Beth, my other half, why we haven’t played it, her response would probably be that it is firstly in an awkward place (she’s quite pragmatic like that) before giving the answer that it’s meant to be more of a collectable than a traditional board game.
That point, the idea that a game is not meant to be played, is an odd one, and one I didn’t understand for quite a while when first getting into the board game hobby. Back in 2014, when I first started playing board games in a way that led (in due course) to the creation of this blog, the idea that board games weren’t always meant to be played seemed like a complete waste of money.
That being said, as I have grown older/wiser/fatter I have begun to understand the enjoyment of collecting games as well as just playing them.
Collectable games are not a new concept. Ever since the first collectable card games (I’m going to mention Magic the Gathering from 1993 here, and Pokémon from 1999, even though Baseball cards from around 1904 are often considered the precursor) the notion of a collectable game has existed. Games have also had expansion packs, which add additional aspects to a game, making it feel larger and more complete. That being said, as this Renaissance of ours continues to grow and we continue to see different types of gamer come out into the board game sphere, we are beginning to see more and more board games being bought for collections.
This is partly where two concepts come into effect. The first is as old as museums and memorabilia are. We, as a species, like to collect. We like to have items, objects, or artefacts that we are proud to call our own. We like things we can relate to. We like things that mean something more to us. This is one of the reasons, I believe, that themed games do so well. We have a Back to the Future game because we both love Back to the Future. It is a movie that we have a lot of fond memories associated with, including meeting Christopher Lloyd and it being the first poster in our first flat together. Some people love Dark Souls, or The X-Files and so own the board games. Thus, people buy board games they can associate with, to live in their own collection of items that say something about them.
Slightly more abstract, we also like to complete things. This is a notion I believe affects gamers to an incredible degree because it is a part of what our hobby is about. As well as the many social benefits of board games, there is a completionist aspect. We like to play games because we like to solve puzzles. No one does a jigsaw puzzle because they want to leave one piece out – just like no one plays an Exit game because they want to stay trapped in a room. We like things finished, and collecting is a part of that.
This leads us back to BioShock. We have BioShock Infinite: Siege of Columbia because it is a part of a collection. As the predominant board game collector in our house, it is a part of my collection, but lives on the outskirts of the periphery, in the side-vision of themed game goodness. That being said, it forms a larger part of Beth’s collection. It is a part of the BioShock shelf and all about that game that she has grown to love over the past five years.
This does not mean that I do not collect games. I own three versions of Munchkin for instance, have more copies of Fluxx than any reasonable person should own, and buy D&D books faster than I can play through them. Have I bought any of those specifically for the collection? Well, yes, probably.
Firefly Fluxx is something I bought purely for collectable purposes. I have expansions to The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game purely because I love the characters in the Dresden world and love the tie in with the book. They are things I just own because I wanted them as part of a collection.
Most of the people who read this blog will have what they consider a board game collection. That may be like a friend of mine who has recently got into the hobby and owns 4 games, or it may be owning shelves upon shelves upon shelves, having loved and adored the hobby for many years. I wonder how many of us out there buy games because they need to be a part of our collection, or part of a collection we own beyond just having games, rather than for the games themselves.
To bring this article to a point – sometimes we collect games because we like what they are internally. We add a game to our collection because it is a type of game, type of theme, or includes types of mechanic we like. The collectable is within the box, the essence of what makes that game that game. Other times we add a game to our collection because they are the collectable in their own right. They are representative of the thing we love. They are our BioShock Infinite: Siege of Columbia.
So, with that in mind, and drawing this ramble to a close – what is your take on collecting games? Do you have games in your collection that form a specific collection? Do you collect games of a specific theme or of a specific type? Let me know in the comments below.