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Accumulating such a sizeable and pristine collection fulfilled childhood fantasies. "Part of it for me was replicating that feeling I has as a child looking through the store displays. The 'World of Nintendo' retail displays were always awe-inspiring and, like any other kid, I had the dream of winning the Toys 'R' Us toy run and just loading up on as many games as possible," says Lin. "There are a few scenes in the movie Cloak and Dagger that take place in a game shop. It's that type of experience that I try to replicate in my own little way. It's basically a shop of every game I've ever wanted with a built-in museum of things that I never even knew about."
"I'm content with my collection as it stands now, and am happiest when people spot something they love - and the memories come flooding back."
Lin's perspective shifted due to a couple of personal events, however. "The biggest change in the collection happened last year, pretty much right after I finished the NES [complete set]. I was moving into a new place and NES/SNES games alone took up an entire wall of bookcases," he notes. "Perhaps it was a 'there were no worlds left to conquer' moment, but I really started to take a closer look at everything and began to do some editing in my head. There was a lot of staring at boxes and wondering if I would ever actually play any of it."
"It was during that time in mid-2011 that I was diagnosed with cancer, and my perception of the collection changed pretty dramatically," admits the 36-year-old Lin, who is now cancer-free. "During the downtime I was able to really take stock of what was there, and basically sold off or traded off everything that I didn't want." Most of his Atari set and hundreds of NES and Super Nintendo games were purged, along with many of his Saturn games. One item he parted with - a Nintendo World Championship Grey cartridge - was donated to the Child's Play charity auction dinner, and raised $11,500 on its own.
Even after scaling down his collection a bit, Lin stresses the importance of easy navigation via skilled organization. "I guess everyone has a 'system' where they have a general awareness of where things might be, but I would rather that anyone can find a game, even if they've never seen my collection before," he says. "I enjoy watching visitors look through the collection and point out titles they loved when they were younger. When they come across something unusual it's also a great opportunity to tell a little story and provide some history about the item."
"I'm content with my collection as it stands now, and am happiest when people spot something they love - and the memories come flooding back," says Lin, who plans on someday donating his games to videogame and computer history museums.
Lin's comments home in on an important consideration in all of this: the memories we associate with these experiences, the interactive nature of which helps create an extraordinarily strong bond with these games. If it was simply a matter of owning games for eventual use, more of us would keep them boxed up in storage or away from view - but many of us choose to honor them by not only keeping them organized, but also actively presenting them within our living spaces. Regardless of background or collection size or intent, it's a common thread that runs through so much of the community.
Andrew Hayward is a freelance writer and editor who has written about games, apps, tech, and toys for more than 30 publications. Follow him on Twitter (@ahaywa).