Are Retro Video Games Useless?

Are Retro Video Games Useless?

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– [JAMES] Are retro video games…useless? First, a bit of background on today’s question. A few weeks ago, another YouTuber, Smash JT, made a video called “Retro Video Games Are Useless”, and essentially the TL;DW version of that video is him talking about how he lives on the American west coast now and whenever he goes and visits his parents in Boston, which is on the east coast of the U.S., he always sees his old video game collection and tries to bring some of it back with him but he’s realized lately that retro video game collecting doesn’t exactly make him happy anymore and he’s debating if he should just sell off his collection. So, you know, this video clearly resonated with a lot of people and I’ve been seeing seeing, I guess, the closest thing that modern YouTube has to response videos to his video, and it’s been interesting to me because for me, personally, this video has come at a really interesting time. But, before I go any further, hi! Welcome to Stuff We Play! My name is James and I am a weird and retro formerly bearded man on the internet who recently took a break of from You-uh, of YouTube-wait… a break from YouTube, I should say, for about a month. I should also mention, this is an off the cuff video. I took that break because I got engaged and I have a wonderful fiancé and we were travelling and whatnot and now I’m back and here to talk about weird and retro goodness, moreso the retro side of things today. See, I like to show off weird hardware and games and such, but, what many may not have noticed, or maybe I just haven’t talked about it, is that in the past year I’ve sold off about half of my game collection. Half of my Canadian game collection. I, too, have parents down in the U.S. and I’m currently in Canada and have been living here for a few years now, and whenever I go to see them, I bring an empty checked bag and dedicate it just to putting stuff from down there into it. So, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that well, it’s kind of been the Marie Kondo thing, y’know? A lot of those games just don’t spark joy. I know that’s an old reference but it applies here. Y’know, all the actualy games I’ve collected aren’t really making me happy or whatnot and I’ve realized that but before we go on any further, it’s been a couple of minutes and I should probably give you a definitive answer on the question in this videos’ title. In general, are retro video games useless? And the answer is… no! From a historical standpoint, retro games are important because, like all forms of art- and yes, video games are art, I think that debate has been long since settled- they kind of tell us a lot about society. You know, video games tell you a lot about the people who made them and kind of the society that made the people who made them like that. And not only that, but what’s interesting about video games compared to, like, say music or paintings or even movies – unless we’re talking about movies with high amounts of CGI in them – is that video games are very much so limited by the hardware they’re made for. So, retro games are important to look at because they all really show you what people had to work with back when they were made. Retro games are like little mini time capsules and that’s why I find them even though I’m not collecting anymore, that’s why I still, as the weird history buff that I am, I find them all so fascinating. But also, I think that’s also why I gravitate towards weird, obscure pieces of gaming history so much. Retro video games are important because they’re history pieces and they tell you a lot about the people who made them and whatnot and not only that, though, but I also think that it’s important for people who want to learn about games to kind of play them. Y’know, to just kind of get an idea of what retro games are like, because they are much simpler than the games people are accustomed to today. With that said, going into the retro game collecting side of things, which is the stuff that Smash JT’s video mainly touched on and I think a lot of people disliked that video based on the title alone because that he wasn’t talking about retro video games in general, he was just talking about retro video game collecting, but, there are many different ways to play retro games nowadays. There are, of course, dubiously legal methods, such as emulation. We’ve all done it. In fact, there’s even official emulation methods, y’know, your Nintendo Switch Online NES games app, your Virtual Consoles, your Mega Man Legacy Collections, your Castlevania collections, all those sorts of things. So, these things have made retro games more accesible than ever before which is nice as well because as time goes on, more and more beloved older pieces of tech are either going to need maintenance to keep working or are just going to stop working altogether. So, when I started collecting, I was a teenager and it was just something that was fun and cheap to do. It’s why if you watch my Pokémon channel, you’ll notice that I love Pokémon card collecting because that’s fun and cheap to do. So back then, I remember going to various flea markets with my friends and finding, like, NES consoles for $5 USD, Genesis consoles for $10, I think there’s literally a video on this channel that I did back in 2016 or 2017 where we went to this flea market out in rural Texas and that was because we all were down in Texas at the time and we actually bought a NES for $5! It was dirty as hell but it worked and had all the cords and it had a copy of Tetris inside! So, while I’m sure it’s still possible to find deals like that nowadays, they aren’t nearly as prevalent, like, at that same flea market, there was a guy who was selling PS2 games for 25 cents each, or 10 cents each if they didn’t have the case! I’ve come to a point where I’ve realized that I want to collect games that I not only know that I’ll actually play, but more than anything else, games that I’ll actually play and either really really like or stuff that you just can’t emulate, like Sega Saturn stuff, but even then we’re starting to get remakes and ports of Saturn games to consoles like the Nintendo Switch. So, I had all of these games that I wasn’t playing and I was looking at my backlog and I was kind of getting a little bit anxious just looking at my game backlog! In fact, that’s why I’m even taking well, why I’m making myself take a break from buying any new games for the next few months. That’s just so I can get through my backlog and, for those wondering, I’m playing both Miitopia and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age right now. They’re excellent, excellent games but that’s besides the point! So as well I realized that there were a lot of things I didn’t need as well, even if they were games I really liked. If a game was both on Genesis and SNES, I’d play both, figure out which version I liked more, even if doing so was only for a few minutes, and then sell off the other version. I’ve gone from over 800 games to about 400-something, maybe 500. And even then, a lot of the ones I kept came in as either gifts from friends or some as channel donations and stuff like that. Back when I was really big into collecting, it wasn’t that actual games that were making me happy but the physical act of collecting. However, the thing is that over time, collecting got more expensive and I was getting, just, more and more games that I wasn’t playing and I eventually realized that it had stopped being fun. Now, let me give an anecdote. When I was a little kid (and up until I moved away at 18), my Dad and I collected toy trains. And I don’t mean like modern model trains, I mean like old model toy trains made by, like, Lionel and American Flyer all from back in the pre-World War II era of the 1900s. Tinplate trains! We loved collecting trains together, but, y’know, over time that started to get more expensive and whatnot and finally I moved out of the house and even though my Dad still has all of those trains and whatnot and the memories with them, and there’s some that we’d never sell either because we love them or think they’re especially awesome, most have really gone up in value over time and, well, my parents are retired now. So, it didn’t really hit me as hard as I thought it would when, a couple of months ago, my Dad called me up and he was like, y’know, “I’m think about selling off a lot of the trains.” To be fair, tinplate train collecting is even crazier than game collecting and some of those train sets are worth tens of thousands of dollars now, even though we only paid a few hundred for them and he taught me how to, like, wire and whatnot so they’ve all been restored to working condition. I feel the same way about games. If it’s not a game I actively want to play, then I don’t need it unless it’s something that can be a restoration piece, because something I’d love to do on the channel (video-wise) because it’s something I really love doing in my free time is restoring consoles, or if it’s just something really weird! The more I think of it, I’m not really a game collector at heart; I’m a weird, old tech enthusiast. I love owning console like the Game Wave, stuff that people don’t really talk about but that I find fascinating because there’s so much hidden stuff and history in them! I don’t know. I’m kind of rambling! So…are retro video games useless? Well, to recap everything, I’m not a retro game collector. I used to collect. I don’t really collect games much anymore but I do love retrogaming hardware and I guess I am technically a retro hardware collector because I love well, both playing with old consoles and seeing them all as time capsules and also, y’know, not only restoring them but also upgrading, and not only consoles but computers, too! Like, I have a Commodore Amiga off to the left side of my studio since that’s the only space I had to set it up. I realized that I’m not much of a retro video game collector, I still have a little bit of a collection, either stuff that I feel I’ll either use for videos here or or, if it fits into certain categories, on the Pokémon channel, or just stuff that I’ll actually enjoy. Now, some of you are asking, what about “me”? Do I think that it’s useless or worthless for YOU to collect or play retro video games? Well, the funny thing about that is to be 100% blunt, I’m just a guy on the internet and I’ve just been doing kind of this nice sit-down ramble response thing to Smash JT’s video and I can’t answer that for you. You have to answer that for yourself. But, with that said, if you want to talk through this or let me know your thoughts on this, please let me know down in the comment section below or, if you do your own video on this topic because, please, do so, as I think it’s really great to start a discussion like this on YouTube, then either link it to me on Twitter (@StuffWePlay) or on the official Stuff We Play Discord server. But anyways, I’m rambling a little bit. Also, I’m horribly addicted to Miitopia right now, so I’m probably going to go play more of that once I’m done recording. So with that, thank you all very much for watching, there’s 2 more AOF documentaries coming and, like my most requested video ever, a proper PlayStation Vita buying guide along with a couple of potential collabs, all coming very soon! It’s good to be back! This was a fun, off the cuff ramble video. So before I ramble on more, thank you very much for watching, if you feel so inclined, support us – rather, support me on Patreon. I’m not going to use the royal “us”. But y’know, support me on Patreon, go join people like Justin Chipman and The Golden Bolt, this has been fun, join us on Discord and whatnot, stay classy, and I’ll see you… next time!

21 thoughts on “Are Retro Video Games Useless?

  • SPN_ Z3R0 Post author

    Edit:rip Mr.Beard ???-2019

  • PownicMania5000 Post author

    In my opinion, no. Retro games are important to the gaming industry. We got a bunch of stellar games today because of retro, and I think hundreds could be lost and long gone.

  • Rawman Post author

    The question to take the gaming community by storm. In my opinion it's a huge waste of money. I think collecting games is as much as a waste of money as buying digital unless you plan to sell the games one day.

  • dcrediah Post author

    Like you, I seen a lot of YouTube videos on FB and YT about the subject of “does retro game collecting make sense anymore?”
    as much as collecting figures, card games or comics etc “makes sense”. We are weird animals us humans. We like to hold onto nostalgia in a big way. We should just be having fun doing it. As soon as it has lost its “fun”, stop.
    Some people are into emulating, some are into physical media. All that matters is that you are having fun and not putting the hobby ahead of life important things like rent/bills/food etc.
    Just have fun
    I wouldn’t get rid of my games, unless a huge bill came up like medical or sim for my dog
    Good take on the subject

  • Kentantino Post author

    Sadly, this is 50/50 because now with the BS digital games are getting killed.

  • Smash JT Post author

    Dude… Fantastic work on this video. I've been so beyond blown away at how much this 'dilemma' has resonated with the creator community. Had no idea it would get so much attention. You and I have such a similar situation in regards to these retro games and having them in different locations. Thank you so much for doing this. Loved hearing your perspective and what it means to you. This kind of thing is EXACTLY why I LOVE YouTube! Cheers, James!
    Great to see you back on the 'Tube btw. Hope all the festivities went well!

  • Knight1725 Post author

    Retro games uses = Inspiration, innovative ideas, old and new = fun mechanics

  • G to the Next Level Post author

    This was a fantastic take, James. I’ve honestly been thinking about this for a long time and you may have inspired me to speak out and make my own cause I think I realize when my collecting habits kinda shifted. The irony is that I’m actually doing an interview for Racketboy .com about Sega collecting of today while all this is happening.

    Also, I almost bought Jenny a copy of Miitopia a while back when I found one at Target on clearance and I keep kicking myself for not buying it. :p

  • Stuff We Play Post author

    Want to see more from me? Well, I just put out a new episode of the Stuff We Say podcast recently! Check that out here:

  • BladeBlur Post author


  • Midas Magnezone Post author

    I'm all for preservation of retro games, heck even modern games, but I just can't see myself getting into every game ever. There will be stuff on your backlog that you will never play. I try and enjoy the most of whatever game I'm liking so far, but also try and delve into something new and interesting from time to time. I do wish that sometime in the future that I can get real physical copies or some sort of physical memory of games I really like. As for the collecting side, it's really expensive and hard to stay dedicated to it; be it games or cards or whatever. I'll leave that to people who are more passionate about collecting or history museums.

    But great video! It's interesting to hear you're still into videos games but not into collecting as you once were before. Looking forward to more! And congratulations on your engagement!

  • Marx Post author

    You thought that by saying "retro video games are useless" you can just forget about the fact that you still haven't done a Knuckles Chaotix review.
    Right? W R O N G .

    Jokes aside, great video. And yeah, retro game collecting is important for preservation, in my opinion. Everything should be preserved. It's also really fun to play retro games.

  • Braden Hogan Post author

    I kind of worry about the preservation of video games. You can’t just play old games. You have to buy every old console and then they stop working and you have all these old consoles. And then you have the collections on modern consoles but those come with their own problems and it’s never the same as playing it on original hardware. If I want to catch up on the history of cinema, I have a Blu-Ray/DVD player that can play almost any notable film throughout the history of the medium. I can watch 2001: A Space Odyssey with the same setup that I watch The Godfather or John Wick. I can’t play Super Mario Bros and Red Dead Redemption on the same console. And I can’t play many old arcade games that made gaming a big deal in the past. Just forget playing any game with a trackball or spinner, your only hope is for an original cabinet to maintain or Arcade1up to make something for you and that’ll cost you an arm and a leg. Point is, gaming has a great and fun history in pop culture and people who weren’t there will never get to experience it as it was even if they wanted to. I can go back and watch all the Star Wars movies and be caught up with that cultural phenomenon relatively easy but to play all the Sonic games, you’ll need several different consoles – and so you’re encouraged to just accept whatever is popular this week and not care about the art of the medium and how it got from point A to point B

  • Cake Pie Muffin Post author

    Say sike right now

  • Michael F. Post author

    I miss my retro game collection. I had a much bigger collection in 2003. In 99-2000, gameStop (Known in california as Funcoland) had nes, snes, genesis cartridges as low as 15 cents usd. I bought a ton. Then my late mother made me give them to my niece in 03. I still have some what of a collection but not as big as the one I had in 03. by then they weren't really catering to retro games anymore.

    I got a n64 at a good will in south carolina for $2USD plus $1USD for the controller. They sold it cheap because they had no games or tvs to test if it worked or not. But It did. so that was a steal!

    I Play most of my retro games via the download shops on the wii, 3ds, switch, xbox store, But I still enjoy owning a physical copy.

    Plus, with a game genie, you can unlock a glitched up "Hidden Palace Zone" On Sonic 2. I'm dying to do that and i suck at using emulators.

  • toonamivhs 2 0 Post author

    I've never considered myself a collector. (I have about 500 games across about 10 systems) I only buy games I will play (or games I have an interest im playing. )
    I'm not a fan of the collecting scene.

  • Robert Hornibrook Post author

    I wouldn't say useless, just kinda evolving. Me personally, I set out to collect the games I would play and are nigh difficult to emulate (like you said the Saturn and my good ole Laseractive). At some point I think everyone who has collected retro games at some point prune out their collection of duplicates and stuff they don't play. I hear the joke that its a 401k plan, but there is some truth to that if you can't play these games on modern hardware or are legitimately rare. One thing is for certain, I don't see this hobby dying out soon and as time goes on we will probably see more and more restoration videos (which I love, thanks 8-bit guy) and hopefully less VGA grading. Anyway, great video as always, and I look forward to seeing more!

  • The ramble man Post author

    i may be too young to remember the retro console but they do have a part in gaming by showing what gaming was like back in the day

  • Scott Stelter Post author

    You look like Q from Impractical Jokers…

  • mtshark7 Post author

    Awesome video James!

  • Peter von Feldt Post author

    I collect games, retro or not i will play them. However my retro collection is limited to my mini NES and mini snes, mini Neo-Geo and the like. I collect mostly for the switch anymore.

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