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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.

Part of the Bioshock shelf

Part of the Bioshock shelf

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.

Card Binder

Pokemon Cards

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.

The Fluxx collection.

The Fluxx 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.

33 Comments »

  1. Nice topic and article. I think some games are made to be both to be played and to have as a collectible. A perfect example is Warhammer. You buy the kits or metal miniatures unpainted. Then after you have purchased or collected you build an Army. Then you paint them to use them to be in a game. Later on you can have them displayed as a collectible is some sort of display case. I started playing Total War Warhammer on the PC and then started picking up some miniatures here and there from the tabletop game. After a few months I gathered enough miniatures to create a High Elf Army. Now it is waiting to get painted and then displayed. Hopefully one day I will use it in a game, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ahh good shout with Warhammer. That is a great collectable game and can be great on tabletop. So did you discover the Total War version before the tabletop game? Have you played the tabletop version yet? It’s actually that which helped get me into gaming 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I knew about Warhammer about the time it came out. I played D&D as a kid. I purchased 40K Space Marines about 30 years ago. But my friends start getting away from games. The only one we still played was Axis & Allies.

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  2. I will never but a board game just to collect it, that’s beyond silly (and I’ve collected many many different things over the years, I consider myself a reformed collector). In fact I will get rid of games I don’t play anymore (sacrilege!) Board games aren’t especially small, and buying more and more shelves just to brag about how many games you have is more than a bit sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve got quite a lot of games, including ones I intend to play but haven’t yet done, but even then, there can be a large collection of supplements and such. CMoN and others prey on the whole FOMO thing, and honestly the knowledge that I can’t get All Of The Things has been a reason I’ve entirely skipped getting boardgames that were originally Kickstarters.

    As for the Bioshock thing – I get it. Sometimes a game is not a game, but an object. Think of books. I’ve got a trio of leatherbound copies of the three LotR books that were originally my brother’s. I’ve also still got the dog-eared and falling apart original copy that he gave to me when I was in primary school that I read back at the time. I also have the 3-volumes that I bought when I was a young adult to have “my own” copy that wasn’t falling apart. When/if I read the story again, it’ll be that copy, because the other two are now *objects* more than they are books for reading. Those specific copies of that story are objects that mean more to me as objects that represent something else rather than the simple utilitarian object that is a book.

    But people collect all sorts of things. Calling someone else’s collection “sad” is an ignorant and needlessly judgemental thing to do. After all, who gives a hoot what other people do that gives them pleasure as long as it does not hurt anyone else? There’s also that saying about glass houses, and we all have those – anyone who thinks they’re beyond reproach has more than a little bit of learning to do. Even when someone collects something I can’t personally fathom, I just go with “ok cool, whatever – you do you”.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I get the Kickstarter thing. You raise a really great and understandable point there – if it’s a game I like then I will invest for all of the things (as you brilliantly put it haha) but otherwise the Kickstarter exclusives don’t generally make me want a game any more and can even put me off like they do you.

      Leather bound LOTR is amazing! You raise another awesome point there mate – how the things we love surpass being their original purpose and become precious collectables of our lives 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah. Knowing that I *can* get all of the things even if I don’t buy them all at once is much nicer than knowing that I will never be able to do so, shy of paying stupid eBay money and getting lucky…

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  4. We are still Hunters and Gatherers in our core, I guess? People collect the craziest stuff and to call that sad or being judgemental is just a negative sentiment and most often coming from people who are driven by envy, jealousy or plain judgmental negative thoughts. Azazel worded it very nicely in my opinion. My mantra would be, play what you dig and collect what you want, nobody cares in the end and we only take our memories we make or get from them with us in the end. Nice post Luke.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you for another great article. I would love to be able to collect games, but just don’t have the space or the money, so I cycle through my games, selling ones I no longer play to afford to buy new ones. I also don’t like the idea of CCG, because it seems to be all about who has the most money to buy the best deck. Mind you, I have never played a CCG, so can’t say for certain if that’s true. However, I do like the idea of games like KeyForge, where everyone gets a unique deck, but can’t buy new cards to buff it up, or Mystic Vale, where everyone starts with the same deck and builds is up as they play. So, no, collecting games isn’t for me – unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dude – I totally get that. CCGs are something I have a love/hate relationship with. I am yet to find one that I find a true affinity with (I thought it could be Star Wars: Destiny for a while, but have stopped playing so much now) and they can be such time/money drains. That being said – I love collecting cards and trying to complete collections. It’s always nice seeing what new things can be brought to the table with the new release. That’s why I think I prefer the LCG format that Fantasy Flight do over the CCG – Living Card Games have set releases making them more cash efficient whilst also allowing that excitement of opening something new 🙂

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  6. I’ve got a couple of games which I’ve “collected” or bought for the sole reason of them being hard to get in Australia. Then other’s I’ve bought because I’m a fan of the series – Bioshock: Siege of Colombia being one.

    Which by the way is a game I really enjoy, but have a hard time getting to the table because there are a fair amount of rules, and the game is PURE CHAOS. However, the connection of Bioshock runs deep, and talks to me like no other game has.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I woooould but also because I’m biased as heck when it comes to bioshock. Also you need to be in the right mindset, as although a competitive game, shit happens all the time and things (Booker and Elizabeth) will ruin your game.

        Also there’s a high chance of you randomly losing units when on the Skyrail. So again, you need to be comfortable in losing for no reason lol.

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  7. As always, enjoyed the post Luke! I could well believe that I could collect board games that I wouldn’t play, given the chance! I’ll maybe think about doing that after I’ve finished painting all the wargames figures I shouldn’t have bought!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the article!

    What a topic though. One that can have a lot of emotional baggage for some people. I have the collecting bug. However, mine comes from video games. At a young age I traded in a bunch of prized SNES games to get a Playstation and Final Fantasy 7. I always regretted it and ever since I’ve very rarely sold of a video game. Now I have hundreds of titles over numerous systems. Most are still in working order. However, there’s been a big trend in video games with digital copies becoming much easier and common to de-clutter and simplify things. I totally relate to this feeling. I’ve been to the point of having too much in too small of a space. And I’m past the point of wanting to get a bigger house for objects. I actually downsized to be out in the country. So if anything, I find myself getting away from the collector’s mentality. Though it’s a real mental effort.

    Funny enough, your story reminded me of how I picked up a copy of the Buffy board game for my wife who’s a huge fan of the game. She cracked it open to read through everything but we have never played it (yet). However I told her to skip on the Monolopy and Munchkin versions of Warhammer 40K for me, despite being a fan. I just don’t want them sitting around anymore.

    And I want to say that I’m not just writing this rambling paragraph to say why not to collect or that it’s wrong. I think it’s wonderful your girlfriend is a Bioshock fan and has a collection shelf of related merchandising. I’m just relating my own winding relationship with collecting.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences Mike. Firstly, that’s awesome – I also broadened my collecting net with video games and can relate to the games everywhere problem. I think it is a mentality, and one I have managed to ween myself down to just boardgames now. I do try to play all, but there is definitely a collection growing.

      We’ve been curious about Buffy. Are you talking about the Co-op game? We worked our way through the whole series in around 2015 and getting into board gaming just prior to that means it has always been on the list 🙂 if you do play it, please let me know what it is like.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a painful kind of memory. I can sympathize as I sold my original RT-era Imperial Guard/Imperial Army/Squat army to buy my first Amiga computer (off my sister’s then-husband(!)
      The Amiga was worth it in many ways, but I’ll obviously never get all those models back. And now I think of what a douche that guy was…

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  9. As a person of Yankee descent, I have a collection that is greatly tempered by practicality first and storage second. In other words, I buy games (RPG or board) that I expect to use first. I hang onto most of those and don’t buy a lot of extra. Rarely I’ll buy something “collectible”. Draconomicon comes to mind. It was a beautiful book so worth adding to the collection. However I loathe spending money on a game that I’m unlikely to use. Ironically what this has meant is that parts of my collection have become valuable. Magic the Gathering cards that I acquired when it first came out, I tried it, said “too much money to win” and stopped playing. I’ve actually sold select cards and made back more than I put into that game even adjusted for inflation. Had I lots of space and lots of spare cash? I might well collect more for the sake of collecting. That said displaying meaningful memorabilia is a great sign that living the geek life is not just okay, it’s downright cool finally.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I get that on two accounts. Firstly, yeah, storage is a real problem. It’s a good point about buying for use first, and it’s a mantra that, bar a few exceptions, works well for keeping a concise collection on limited storage. Secondly, I completely get your “too much money to win”. That’s one of the reasons I try to stay away from CCGs – they just aren’t cost efficient in my eyes. Give me a game I can theoretically play 200 times without changing it, rather than a game where the next release may make the current release redundant and cost a load more just to get the new competitive cards. Thanks for the comment Bill!

      Liked by 1 person

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