A new year means a new me – well, apparently.

As a collector this often projects onto my hobby: the games I want to get and new consoles to delve into. One thing I frequently tell myself is that I am going to actually play more games this year rather than just acquire them. This became more prevalent once I moved, highlighting how much of my collection I’ve failed to even pop into cartridge ports and disk trays.

It’s actually quite shameful in many ways, with a room full of expensive disks and pieces of plastic collecting dust. As I saw the boxes move into my loft, all 12 of them, I realised just how much I’ve moved from being someone who passionately adores gaming and collecting to that of a hoarder. This drilled further into my skull when I peered at current game of the year lists. Lists comprised of games I actually own but have no opinion on. Because I hadn’t played them.

The problem

Burnout is a problem, and it sucks the soul out of an enjoyable, albeit expensive, hobby. I realised I had this issue when eventually finding one of my ‘holy grails’ failed to fill me with the joy it should have. Instead, I stuck it into a box protector and left it on a shelf.

Collecting burnout is something you have to admit to yourself, however trivial it may seem. Collecting teeters between the thin line of hobby and hoarding, with the pinch of passion gravitating it towards the former. The latter is nothing more than throwing cash at arbitrary items that are eventually worth little sentimental value.

Without further ado, we will push through the burnout and rekindle the collecting flame.

Quality over quantity

The old adage ‘less is more’ applies more than ever with game collecting. The urge to collect for quantity can be tempting, more so for those new to the hobby. The idea of collecting, however, is to procure a library of the games you love, rather than just having a large amount of items.

This does deviate from person to person, and some collectors may find solace in amassing full sets or subsets. This can be seen as collecting for quality rather than quantity, since the intrinsic value is found in accomplishing such a feat as a full set. It’s important to personally identify whether you want to collect large quantities of games for an actual reason besides owning a lot of stuff.

New collectors may want to start with quality collecting. Get the games and trinkets you know you want or are truly interested in. New collectors, from experience, at least, tend to buy large lots of items to fill space (what I call ‘power buying’). This may cleanse the sparsity from your shelves, but over time this space becomes paramount and becomes the first notch turning up the collecting burnout. If you are buying large lots or bundles of games, play them. Find out which ones you like and sell the ones you don’t or see no personal value in, and use that money to buy things you enjoy.

A quality collection looks better and it can be personally fulfilling. I have one shelf set up to my refined handheld collection, and I genuinely adore it; all of my favourite games and franchises lined up in some sort of bizarre shrine. If I compare that to my collection of current gen or PS3 titles, I don’t have the same feelings of joy. There are just a load of games that I haven’t played, and those facets of my collection reiterate this.


Bad attitudes and habits

Bad attitudes can develop in any hobby, and game collecting is no different. I’ve been subject to these habits over the past few years, so here are some of the ones I see most often:

  • ‘I might play it later on’

The first on the list is the personal mantra that these games on your shelves may be played later on. Be true to yourself: are you genuinely going to play that game in the next year or so? In smaller collections it may be more likely that you’ll play these games in a given time scale, in larger collections it’s likely that you’ll never even play those games.

The idea here is to push this out of your brain and get rid (or don’t buy) games you don’t see yourself immediately playing. My personal rule is that if I won’t play that game in two months, I am getting rid of it. That game can wait until my mind makes me actively seek it out to play as I know my interest is there. This also makes playing and owning these games significantly more satisfying.

There are a few clauses that effect this. Rare games can be cut from this culling if getting the game again is a hassle. The same can be said if you bought it for a genuine bargain (such as getting Mega Man X for buttons). The last clause is if you are filling a personal collecting goal, such as a complete set or sub set.

  • ‘It’s cheap though’

I am terrible for this. Often I will wander into my nearest second hand store and see PS1 games for next to nothing, titles I don’t even want. Ten minutes later I’m out the door with a bag full of games that I will never play and will take up precious space.

To prevent this, follow a couple of checks: A) Do I really want to play this game? B) Is this price only a small percentage from its going rate? C) Are these games notably good?

The second of these checks has stopped me from spending money on crap. Often I may see a game for £1, which is tempting; I mean, it’s only a quid, right? But it’ll sit on a shelf and do nothing. The game will probably be bad. To top that off, I might be able to get that game for a few pounds more online. The best way around this is to just check your phone for the going rate and reviews of the game, only taking the gamble if the game speaks to your interests.

  • ‘This might be worth x amount soon!’

Ah, the collector’s fallacy (I just made that term up by the way, but it should stick). Collector’s fallacy is where curating a collection is more about their lasting value over their personal value. Sometimes this pertains to the notion that games are going to be worth their weight in gold. Sadly, few games (especially anything after PS1 era) go up in value. If you factor in inflation, many ‘valuable’ games will technically lose value after a certain amount of time. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that copy of Persona 4 is going to be worth millions.

The second is the assumption that prices will go up in the short term. Unless you have good speculative eyes, I wouldn’t hold your breath; you may as well sell up and buy something you enjoy.

Obviously, this is a bit deterministic, but it is true in a lot of cases. Many collectors I know hold onto games under the pretence that they are going to make bank. It’s just precious space that is getting eaten up as a result, and the value increase is often minimal at best. Only keep the stuff you are adamant is worth the time and space.

  • ‘It’s too hard to get again’

Rarity is a large factor in collecting anything. It’s a badge of exclusivity that can be used in boasting and winning insignificant pissing contests.

Finding a rare item can come coupled with the urge to hold onto it for its limited numbers. In current gaming, Limited Run Games play to this. It’s the idea that getting rid of such an item will make it impossible to get further down the line.

The above is only true in select cases, and a majority of the time you will see that game again. Multiple times. I’ve fallen into this trap more than I’d like, splashing cash on stuff I didn’t even want out of the fear that my only chance is in that moment. Then I would see the subject of the transaction months down the line, cheaper and in better condition.

My most recent ‘rare af’ find was Frogger Beyond for Nintendo Gamecube – a game that has hit the eBay listings twice in the last three years. I was more than tempted to keep the game, especially since I love the console. Instead, I played the game and realised it was mediocre at best, leading to me selling the game to another collector. But, through every moment of that sale I was contemplating withdrawing. I mean, I’ll never see it again, will I? Nope, I still haven’t seen that game re-emerge, and I don’t care – the money from that game bought me a PS4.

Fun fact – this was also the reason I stopped collecting Pokemon Cards.

  • ‘It’s not worth selling because it holds no value’

When cutting a chunk out of a collection, it’s common to avoid selling up because some of the games/items are worth little. I found this when clearing my PS2 and PS3 collection, seeing me faced with a trade-off between a full shelf and getting a quid per game.

What tipped me over the edge was when I realised just how valuable space is when collecting, especially if you’re limited to a small room like I am. The other value is that I didn’t end up becoming ‘spoiled for choice’ through a large amount of games I had little interest in playing.  This is the real value in selling off unwanted games, or foregoing any shelf fillers. Doing this also killed the burnout for a while, and I was enjoying games once again.

  • ‘X person has a bigger collection than me’.

Sadly, dick measuring contests exist within game collecting. Before I go on, there is nothing wrong with a bit of bragging here and there, nor is it wrong to show off what you have.

Despite this, these daft bouts of one-upmanship permeate the scene, especially on Facebook groups and forums. It’s all about showing off large amounts of games, which results in some collectors succumbing to their own envy, which further ends in power-buying.

Just ignore this jealousy and concentrate on what you have. Enjoy the games you have now and be proud of the collection you’re building bit by bit. Lest you hit eBay up and buy hundreds of NES games to outdo someone in the realm of hoarding video games.

The Solutions

  • Play the damn games

A cure for burnout is to play your games. Have a glance at your collection and see what grabs your eye. A little flick may see you uncovering a few interesting titles clamouring to be loaded into a console.

I do this often, and I discover titles I didn’t even realise I would end up enjoying as much I have. To take this further, pull out 3 – 5 games (don’t overdo it) and pledge to solely play through them.

  • Set yourself a time limit to play a game

If you are struggling to get through your backlog, set yourself a limited amount of time to finish. I set aside two – three days for most games, which does drive me to get them done before the bell tolls.

Struggling? Play the hard mode version and put the game up for auction on eBay and force yourself to play it before then.

  • Finish games you are half way through

Being fickle and aloof, there are so many games I have played for hours and just left aside because my attention span is lacking. These are what I often prioritise when burning a backlog. It may take time to grow accustomed to the game once again, but finishing such a game can be fulfilling.

  • Sell your stuff

Look at your collection. I bet there are games you’ve finished, have no interest in, or just want to see go. Get rid of these. Make money, make space.

There are four stages I class these games in. 1) Games I genuinely have no interest in owning (typically sports and shooters) 2) Games I’ve completed and enjoyed but don’t see myself playing again for a long time. 3) Games I have some weird sentimental bond with but genuinely don’t use. 4) Games that I won’t part with.

The first class is easy to get through, so start pulling those games out. The second can be difficult, but be brutal and just get rid of those games. You may think you’ll go back to get the platinum trophy or replay in hard mode, but chances are you won’t. If you ever want to replay it badly, just rebuy the game later on. I always say I’ll come back to these games, and once I sold them off, I only ended up rebuying three games. 3 / 74 games.

If you are ready to sell, split them into two piles. Games that are worth a significant value on their own and those that aren’t. Sell the former individually and the latter as a lot or bundle. Trading is an effective means of accomplishing this also.

  • Don’t buy anything new until you finish x amount of games

This. This is the bane of my wallet and my fickle need to get the newest games. Buying more games, especially with a sizeable backlog, does not help a burnout in the slightest. In fact, you will end up back at square one.

Solving this is easy to do but hard to accomplish. You need to make it so that you can only buy a game every time you have finished X number of backlogged games. This becomes brutal when you know there are games coming out that you truly want; you will look to clearing the backlog out for these. If you can maintain self-control, this can be the best way to clear through a backlog. I even made a game for this.

Joe’s super fun backlog burning game:

How to playGaming on the Cheap

Work out what your backlog consists of. Assign a numerical value to each category: i.e PS3 games = 1 point. 3DS = 2 points. PS4 = 3 points. Or do it by genre: Shooter = 1 point, Action-adventure = 3 points, RPG = 5 points.

Basically you get points based on what you complete, and then you can spend those points, allowing yourself to buy a new game. So, if I was to complete three PS3 games, I would receive 3 points, which will allow me to buy one PS4 game.

It’s a bit daft, but collectors should know that gamifying anything makes it more likely to stick.

  • Work out what you enjoy

Game collecting is about enjoyment, and if it gets past the point where the hobby becomes a chore or unrewarding, then maybe it is time to re-evaluate. Sit down and ask yourself just what games you enjoy and what aspects of your collection you enjoy most, then strip it down to that.

Two years ago my collection was absurd; it took a room and a half. Despite that, I wasn’t enjoying my collecting anymore, and I found myself bored. Bored and with absolutely no breathing room. As a result, I restructured my habits and realised that my favourite things to collect are JRPGs and Nintendo games. I sold a lot of my collection off to focus on these. My Steam library is still awash with unplayed games (cheers Humble Bundle), but that is a problem for another day.

To my dismay, my burnout is back again, as I left my collection to blossom in ways I didn’t want it to. I’m pruning it down as we speak, which I can feel lifting the burden of my collecting burnout.

  • Collect something else

If you have tried everything but collecting isn’t fulfilling, then maybe it’s time to sell up everything. It could be that you just don’t enjoy collecting as a hobby. I have seen other collectors do this of late; sell up their collections (usually keeping their most beloved ones) and taking up a brand new hobby.

Collecting is what you make it, and I am not going to arrogantly say there is a wrong or right way to do so. What you may deem enjoyable is different to what others will, so aspects of this article may seem opposed to your collecting habits. If you enjoy, then do so. This guide is merely for those in the same boat I was in.

What tips and tricks do you have for reducing burnout? Or have you recently cut down your collection? Make sure to hit us up on social media and send us your pics, tips and tricks.