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Alphabetically or Chronologically?

Andrew Hayward | 27 Mar 2012 09:00
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By all accounts, I was a messy kid. Every step from the doorway of my bedroom to the bed itself elicited a crunch as I trampled some toy, magazine, or odd article of clothing - but that changed when I started amassing games as a teenager. I still let papers, magazines, and dishes pile high with some regularity, but I can't think of a time since childhood in which my game collection has been disorganized or tucked away, save for an in-progress move.

"I first of all have tremendous respect for games. The boxes and discs house memories and experiences that have made me who I am today."

Nowadays, everything sits on orderly shelves, sorted by platform and alphabetically by title, with exceptions made only for chronology (franchises stay together). Moreover, the games are near-perfectly aligned on the shelves, and even a slight nudge forward or back by a pet or visiting child tends to trigger an immediate adjustment from me. It's an obsession.

That trait may not run in all gamers, but many - whether irregular buyers or die-hard collectors - tend to follow similar routines, devoting ample attention and space to their prized possessions, with self-made sorting systems devised to keep things in order. So I spoke with a smattering of organized gamers, both average fans and those with careers tied to the industry, to discover what drives their habits and try to pinpoint where they originated.

Erin Fan works behind the scenes on several console and mobile games as a PR account executive, and describes the games she owns for current platforms as a "compact, well-sorted collection of games of diverse genres and consoles tucked neatly in a drawer under my TV and game platforms." While a relatively small at-hand collection - her older games are stored in boxes - she stresses the personal import of keeping them alphabetically organized by system.

"I first of all have tremendous respect for games. The boxes and discs house memories and experiences that have made me who I am today," explains the 23-year-old San Franciscan. But her system has a practical purpose, as well. "Of course, like everybody else, I love to be able to find a game quickly and easily and I hate losing things." Fan traces some of her organizational direction to her upbringing in a family that kept things well sorted and labeled at home, and her tendency to label and color-code belongings as a young student.

Freelance game critic and aspiring author Britton Peele similarly keeps his latest console releases sorted in drawers beneath the TV, along with handheld games stored on separate shelves. His collection is notably larger, spanning more than 1000 physical releases, and says his habits date back to his youth, as well. "I've always been this way about most things. I likely get it from my mother, who is also very organized," he notes. "Legend has it that even as a toddler, I would make sure my diapers were stacked up neatly."

The 23-year-old Dallas-based writer has a couple of oddball rarities - like Mattel's ill-fated HyperScan system and a binder full of Game Boy Advance e-Reader game cards, but his modern titles all follow the same system. "In the rare instances of a direct sequel not being located next to its predecessor on the shelf, for example, I might group all the Phoenix Wright games under 'A' for 'Ace Attorney' so they can also be next to Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney," he explains. "The other exception is order of release. The Professor Layton games are organized together by the order in which they came out, not alphabetical order."

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