The Broke Gamer

The Broke Gamer
The Mysteries of the Bin

Brendan Main | 12 Apr 2011 13:16
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Because it only takes one score to kindle someone's rummaging spirit, to forever beckon them to the bin. Maybe it's something you recognize, but had no idea you'd ever come across a copy, much less for that price and in such crummy company. Maybe it's something obscure and innocuous, that you simply grab on a whim - and upon playing it, you realize it's not just good, it's great, and boggle at how easily you could have skipped right on by it. Or perhaps it's as simple as finding a title for 15 bucks, and remembering when it was sixty, and feeling those precious forty-five dollars still sitting in your wallet when you ring it through. One score, big or little, can be enough to convince you that the bin is worth a second look, that it's not just knockoffs and shovelware - that there's gold in them thar hills.

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Every now and then you find a scrap of something. Sometimes it's strictly a money thing - a cracked copy of The Misadventures of Tron Bonne or Valkyrie Profile, or a mint cartridge of Star Fox: Super Weekend. Sometimes it's a question of quality, like finding Grim Fandango sandwiched in among the Learn Spanish Easy CD-ROMs. And sometimes, it's to give an underdog a chance - maybe Sword Lord 7 is a misunderstood gem. Maybe it's a masterpiece! Or maybe it sucks, and you're down five bucks. And, really, what's five bucks? A box of Kleenex and a bad burrito.

I remember my own first find, the one that made me a bin-rooting believer. The funny thing is, it wasn't even a videogame. I was traveling across Ontario to begin my first year at University, and my family had stopped for lunch in a small town we'd never been to before. Beside the diner there was a second-hand store. From the appearance, it could have sold anything. The front stoop was adorned with deer antlers, wind chimes, and weathered old Muskoka chairs. I had a minute, and I was curious so I poked on in. As it turned out, it was a bookstore, specializing in European classics. The walls were lined with Balzac, Dickens, Dostoevsky, and the bored-looking proprietor was idly flipping through a worn softcover copy of Notes from Underground. I approached the man, and since I am a gentleman of discerning style and elegant taste, I asked him: "Got any comic books?"

I remember he wrinkled his nose, and said, "Whenever we get any, we put them in the bin in the back." I had a look for myself, and it was pretty slim pickings - the only book that hadn't been torn to shreds from neglect was a curious trade paperback with a night skyline and a shattered window on the cover. I took it to the guy at the counter, and he nodded, and said, "Yeah, I had a look at that one. It's about a blue man with his penis out." I bought it for a dollar.

And of course, that comic was a mutilated copy of Watchmen, and that blue penis rocked my world. Engrossed in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's seminal comics masterpiece, I entertained two thoughts. The first was a nagging sense of injustice - through what mistake could something like this end up in a pile of trash in the back, instead of out front where it belonged? If that store is dedicated to great literature, then here was one that slipped through the cracks.

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