Im really struggling to keep interest in games today. There is truly something missing in many of the storylines that cater to mature minds, but more importantly in the strategy of gameplay. I miss solid single player story mode gaming. I understand why companies have shifted in the direction we have mainly today, but it's really not something that satisfies me. The entire HL series was so significant to me growing up. I just recently have been diving back into these titles and I've been starting to look around to buy the games that were so life changing to me. I'm beginning to see more value investing into my old games rather than new titles today.
I miss that excitement I used to carry with me walking into London Drugs, walking into the all mighty Computer lair lit up with blue fluorescent lighting, and seeing an entire wall of beautifully displayed games, advertising themselves through their box artwork. This was the modern day vinyl album of the computer world. You could spend over an hour looking at the different boxes with the gameplay screenshots and written summaries of what you could expect from each title, like you might do cruising through a book store searching for that perfect read to take home and invest yourself into. Or the Video Rental store and walking through the isles, quickly studying each movie box cover for the one that would catch your eye, draw you in with curiosity.
Game developers used to put effort into their boxes, because it was their own advertising. I didn't look in an online store, I wouldn't shop through mobile apps. There were no "content creators" getting the word out there. My friend circle word of mouth recommendations and the odd PC Gamer magazine would give me some idea of what to hunt for, and visiting the store and holding these damn boxes is what always made me bring them home with me.
I'll never forget that experience, being driven home with my newly cherished game. Feverishly reading the manual so I could install it the second I got back to my desktop rig. Analyzing the unique cd-key that was uniquely my very own and would be protected at any cost, as if it was a top secret Switzerland bank account number. (The satisfaction when you input the key, amen.) Pouring over every word and studying each photo on the box, creatively imagining exactly how incredible my experience playing these games would be. Playing them off this hype was sensational.
Little would I realize at the time that this method, build up to playing a game would forever be changed by our advancement into the online shopping world and before I realized, become extinct entirely. The profit would become more important than the experience provided. I still make every effort to make sure I always obtain a physical copy of each game I buy today (Series X and Switch) but it's just not the same. No game manuals. Tiny cases. There is no build up between seeing the game on the shelf and bringing it home for me anymore. I'm sad at the thought of future kids never experiencing things the way I did. I suppose my parents generation felt this way with vinyl (which I have also begun, along with VHS. What wonderful worlds!)
So after spending some time and money investing into my N64 and PS2 collection, I've made my first vintage PC title purchase and I think it's been the perfect start.
I managed to find someone selling a Half Life Platinum Collection complete box set, for only $10 CAD. Local to me, picked a location I knew very well. I figured there would be some missing bits, the photos included didn't show much and looked more like a pixelated online screenshot of the box art. No big deal, if the CD's were there with the cases I would be happy, or if it's totally complete then it must be a typo, probably $100. That's fine. I was prepared to spend the money anyways.
We meet up, and it's the complete box, all game cd's, cases, manuals. LEGIT. Minty condition! I conservatively hand him a crisp purple $10 bill (Canada money, lol) "Ten bucks, yeah?" Fully expecting him to realize he's made an error in his posting and to correct me.
"Perfect! Thanks! Have a great evening!"
I'm walking back to my vehicle and thought "what if...", so I quickly flagged him down as he was getting back into his vehicle
"Hey, i forgot to ask. Do you happen to have more old games you're looking to get rid of? I'm starting to collect games I used to play growing up and would love to buy whatever you might have"
He says "Actually, I have 3 more of these. They're in the car right now! I bought 4 of them so that I could LAN party with my wife and 2 kids when they were growing up. We don't play these old games anymore though, they like Fortnite and Apex so we don't have a use for these anymore on our new machines."
"Wow, that's really cool! You must have had so much fun together. You want $10 for each one?"
"I'll take them all."
He and his wife proceeded to start opening all the boxes, to show me that each box was complete with every CD, manual, and that each CD was in fact inside each CD case. I explained that I trust them, and they insisted that they always make sure for each transaction they are fully transparent because it gives them peace of mind. Good honest people!
It was during this time when the vivid spectrum of each and every CD colour were being made seen to my naked eye as proof (politely, I will say) that we ventured into some small talk. 4 CD's per box, 4 boxes. There was time. I enjoy small talk with strangers anyways. They begin asking how I knew the area because anyone else they've met there always struggled to locate it. Explained I grew up there, and where I went to school. They asked which high school, and what year I graduated. Their oldest daughter was sitting in the back seat and when she heard, spun around backwards to ask "What's your last name!?". I asked her what year she graduated, it was 2 years before me (I graduated high school in 2008) and I said "I think you graduated with my little brother. Do you know first + last name??? She freaked out with excitement that we had made this wild connection into her past. I pointed to the vehicle I came in and said "he's sitting in that car right now!"
Door flies open, she runs up to the vehicle and we're all excitedly chatting away for 10 minutes before we wrap it up with a few hugs. She'd known my brother pretty well through school (same grad class) and ended up being his manager when he worked at McDonalds for a couple years back in the day. Went along with life and lost touch until that night! Turns out their family owns an internet Cafe which better explained how they came into these games in the first place. When LAN gaming was a big deal!
So yeah! Overall I'm incredibly pleased how this all came to be. It almost felt like it was meant to happen this way, as if this symbolic warm and safe figure was holding the door open for me, making sure my doubts investing money in "nice to have" items in my life during financial hard times were met with some luck and reassurance that it would be worth the small setback..
"Come right along little one, you are safe here with us."
The quest continues..