What's strange about the collecting circuit is some collectors rarely even play the games they covet. "The backlog is the only major downside to collecting," says Ryan Underwood, a programmer with over 1,100 games. "Between new games and the old stuff I hunt down, I don't think I've played a single game, uninterrupted, since I was in grade school." However, it's just the opposite for others. Take Woody Ciskowski, who owns 220 Super Nintendo games, for example. "I never sell games and rarely rent them, just because I never know when I'll want to play them again," he says. "Sometimes I have cravings that only Rock 'n Roll Racing can satisfy."
Aside from the different motives to collect, collectors do share one thing in common: at least one heart-wrenching trade they wish they could take back. When I was 14, I sold my pristine copy of Shigesato Itoi's immortal EarthBound for $20, which I later spent on Pearl Jam's Vitalogy. I often wonder which factor, the price or what I purchased with my cash, will send me to the deepest pits of hell when I die. My efforts to atone for this crime became the root of what has become the most expensive habit of my adult life.
And now, almost every major release sports a collectors' or limited edition of some sort; publishers seem to have caught onto the fact that a lot of us will pay for scarcity. Not content to simply release an aluminum tin variant of their upcoming blockbuster Halo 3, Bungie created three individual versions, all of which are expensive and certain to drive true completionists to Lovecraftian madness.
It's a market we ourselves have created - a few $120 copies of Suikoden II here, some $90 copies of Rez there, and suddenly we've become the architects of our own financial crisis. That's the burden of the collector. But if it comes down to a flawless first print of Valkyrie Profile or making rent for the month, well, the choice is obvious, isn't it?