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I used to be a collector. My videogame collection was mighty, but my most prized possessions were neither the games themselves, nor the consoles to play them on, but rather those trinkets and baubles that were gaming-related. A Halo ammo bag. A plush Samba de Amigo. A Samus Aran action figure, complete with two heads: one with helmet, one without. A Capcom pillowcase with "dream" characters on one side and "nightmare" games on the other. I carefully combed swap meets and auctions, gradually adding more and more treasure to my trove, but none of it quite took away the pain of the flashlight that got away.
I spotted it on a vendor's table at a retro gaming convention, and instantly recognized it for the prize that it was: A old-fashioned silver flashlight festooned with the GameCube logo on the lens, designed to promote that console's launch title, Luigi's Mansion. A brief conversation with the seller confirmed that he didn't know - or really care - what it was, he just wanted his $25. I stood. I stared. I considered my bank account and did the math. As rare as the flashlight was, I had limited funds and obtaining the kind of games I usually found at these shows - Dreamcast and Saturn imports, mostly - tended to run up a pretty big bill. I'd see what else the show had to offer and come back.
A quick once-over of the hall revealed a few reasonably-priced items on my wish list, a few that were hopelessly out of my range, and some that just slightly too expensive to be immediate purchases. As I mentally weighed pros and cons, I found myself returning again and again to that one crappy little table in the corner that had the overpriced flashlight. I asked the seller if he'd come down on the price. He refused. $25 was clearly too much; I should just walk away. And I did ... only to keep returning to stare at the damn thing.
After many hours of agonizing over what should've been a simple choice, I finally decided to just pay the asking price, overinflated as it was. I was literally steps away from the table when I saw the vendor selling it to someone else. I'd hesitated too long, and I'd lost.
I recently had to abandon most of my collection when I moved from a house in Pennsylvania to a one-room apartment in North Carolina, and though I saw that as a tragedy at the time, eventually I've found I don't really miss it all that much. I don't really collect gaming stuff nearly as diligently as I used to - the horde that once defined me is long gone. But if I ever see that flashlight, you'd better believe I'm grabbing it, no matter how much it costs.
This week's issue of The Escapist examines our innate desire to collect things, whether they're achievement points, replica swords or t-shirts for our avatars. Chris Davies gets into the psychology of collecting with "I Want it All," Brendan Main gathers us around the campfire for a "Ghost-Type Story," Murray Chu writes about a lucky Team Fortress 2 player who did the unthinkable, and in "Toy Story," Tracey John pulls back the curtain on how videogame toys get made.
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