Judging from a recent survey on MobyGames, members of the first category are few in number, which makes sense if you think about it: We collect old games because the games and the systems they run on are a part of our childhood (or adulthood, depending on what part of our lives happened to co-exist with the dawn of the home computer age), and as that old technology is phased out, we become nostalgic for the "good old days". It's a neat irony: We grew up playing hunt-the-treasures on a 48K computer, now we're playing a real-life treasure hunt, only this time around those same games are the treasure.
Whether we're replaying our old favorites on an obsolete (but nonetheless priceless) machine, or seeking out titles we never got a chance to play before they went out of print, the fact is games were created to be played, and most collectors do just that. There are very few who hoard old games simply because they are "collectible". Most collectors play from their collections regularly, or at least plan to when they have the time and/or the proper, functional hardware.
Of collectors who also play their games, there are a couple of interesting dichotomies:
Depending on how much free space a person has, and what semblance of an actual non-collecting life s/he wants, said person may choose to only collect, or to be the type who collects but also sells on the side.
People of the first persuasion hunt not only for games for their own collections, but for things they know other people are after, even if they themselves aren't. They pass through a thrift shop and scoop up anything that stands a chance of making a few extra bucks. They vigilantly scan eBay listings, looking for large lots at a bargain price, auctions that the non-resellers won't touch because of all the extra baggage accompanying the good stuff. They'll calculate how much each desired piece is worth to them, and how much they could probably get selling off the remainder of the lot individually, then subtract the extra shipping costs to determine how high they should bid.
Crazy? You betcha. But it's easy, it's fun, you can swap the better pieces you get into your personal collection, and reselling helps cover some of the expenses associated with collecting.
Same goes for duplicates: Should you really bid on that Infocom grey with the shelf wear? Because it's really not quite up to your standards, and once you find one that is (and eventually you will), you'll just have to get rid of this one again, and you don't want to go through that for every game you add to your collection. Better to wait for the pristine item you really want than to temporarily settle for less.
Crazy? You betcha. But face it, space is limited, time is limited, it's nice to have a life outside of your collection, and why pay for something you're not going to keep?
Some of us highly prize our pristine, unopened items, considering them more valuable and just plain better collectibles than games that someone else has already opened and touched and done God-knows-what to. These people will keep that beautiful wrapped copy the way it is, thank you very much, and eventually they'll come across an opened one and can play that one then, if they want to. It may take awhile, but it's still far easier to find an already-opened copy than another shrinkwrap... especially when you consider that the disk in the wrap may already be bad, and if they open it and discover this, they're out the shrink with nothing to show for it. To these people, their old games are collectibles first, playthings a close second... even if that means hundreds of other players may never get to see a working copy.
Selfish? You betcha. But it's their collection, they paid their money for it, and no one else has the right to say how it should be used.
Others are of the opinion that the only good reason to collect old games is to play them, not to hoard them and leave them to rot on a shelf. If you're not using that game, someone else would probably jump at the chance to be able to play it. Some of these out-of-print titles are almost impossible to find, and if someone doesn't take some steps to preserve the code, it will eventually be lost forever when the disk media deteriorates. Old games should be free to everyone. Anyone who has them should feel the same way, and is morally obligated to spend their own free time contributing code to a friendly abandonware-house, even at the expense of devaluing their private collection by opening their wrapped packages.
Selfish? You betcha. But it's true, a lot of old games are in danger of becoming lost, and there are a lot of people out there who would love the chance to be able to play them.
The point of all of this is not to make anyone mad, but to offer a little incisive commentary and (hopefully) insight on behaviors I've noticed within the collecting community. And to let you know that I really do understand both sides, even though I ultimately have to choose one.
Believe it or not, I don't enjoy turning away the dozens of people who mail me every month asking for free copies of a game. I don't get a thrill out seeing people frustrated because I won't break open some of my prize shrinkwraps and copy the code for them. But I have to say no because I don't have the time to do it all: sell and auction game packages, answer questions about obscure titles, make scans for all the people who request them, work with my own collection, and copy disks. I figure four out of five is pretty good.
YOIS is not an abandonware site. That's not what I set out to do when I built these pages. YOIS is a page for collectors of original packages, game historians, and shameless glorification of my own collection. Please don't expect me to provide on-demand zips of "just the code" for you, whether for free or not... Just like you shouldn't go to an abandonware site and expect them to have the actual game package ready to ship to you.
The fact is, there are lots of vintage game enthusiasts out there, and we're all a strange lot: Maybe a bit crazy, maybe a bit selfish, each in our own way. But we're all fans of old-school gaming. And that's gotta count for more than whatever petty differences we might have.
Okay, enough preachy, sentimental crap...
Going Postal (Again)
Everybody who regularly buys through the Internet should this by now, but as of January 7th of this year, new postal rates are in effect. Yes, the U.S. Postal Service continues its proud tradition of charging customers more for providing the same service as before.
Priority Mail is now $3.50 for under one pound, $3.95 for up to two pounds (I'll be rounding this up to $4.00, easier to do the math, feel free to do the same when you sell to me), and an additional $1.20 for every pound after that. Most single games will qualify for the $3.95 rate, and some of the smaller and lighter ones will make the $3.50. Insurance is now a minimum of $1.10 for $50 coverage.
The plus side is, "book rate" has been expanded to "media rate", meaning I can ship a domestic box for less and not have to fib about the contents and then hope the counter person doesn't notice that that package seems awfully light for its size if it's supposed to be full of books (not to mention that prominent "Magnetic Media - Do Not X-Ray" in black magic marker). Delivery is slower with this method, but the savings may be worth the extra wait.
Unfortunately the news isn't as good on the international front. The USPS's "small packet" rate has been done away with entirely, and everything is now either letter rate, or standard air. The good news is, really light packages can scrape a letter rate, and actually cost less than they did before. The bad news is that just about everything heavier will be more expensive to ship. Plan on around $10 for a single-game package. I'm still willing to share the shipping costs on larger lots.
While we're on the subject of charging more money for the same service, anyone who sells on feeBay -- excuse me, eBay -- is encouraged, if you haven't already done so, to head over to The Auction Guild and sign up to receive their TAGnotes newsletter. eBay has been making a lot of changes lately, and they don't always do the best job of keeping us informed. TAGnotes does.
eBay's latest is changing how users can access each others' e-mail addresses: Pretty soon sellers will only be able to contact all their bidders before the auction closes; after the close they will only have access to the winning bidder's address. Bidders will only be able to contact sellers through an internal e-mail sent through eBay's system... which they claim they will not read, but I for one have my doubts.
eBay says the point of this is primarily to eliminate spam from e-mail harvesting, but also to cut down on business transacted outside of eBay using contact information obtained from eBay. eBay apparently feels they have exclusive rights to all the information posted to their site and deserve some sort of commission whenever anyone uses it. Which may sound reasonable until you apply it to other situations.
Suppose I were to say, "Okay, new policy for the YOIS waiting list: If you have something someone else is looking for, you mail me and pay me a fee, then I'll let you work out your trade. Oh, and if you ever work a deal with them again, you have to pay me again too. Because, I mean, after all, you're using information you got from my site, so I should get paid for that." Essentially what eBay is doing is claiming they own not only the information posted to their site, but all future uses of it as well. This on top of the fact that eBay has just raised listing fees. It's good old-fashioned greed, plain and simple.
eBay claims that unsolicited commercial e-mail is the biggest complaint they receive. I don't know who all these people complaining are, but the fact is a lot of collectors I've dealt with seem to like being given a second chance to purchase a rare item: Nothing sucks worse than being sniped two seconds before a close. Nor do most sellers seem to mind being offerred a chance to immediately make another sale.
So if you want to get around eBay's new "features", here's my advice:
Finally, I want all YOIS visitors to know that, despite what eBay says, I am completely cool with anyone contacting me after one of my auctions has closed. To, you know, ask if I'll sell to you if the original deal falls through. Or to see if maybe I have another copy that maybe I'll auction soon (or better yet, not auction but sell direct). I don't mind, and to demonstrate that I'll be putting direct e-mail links in all my eBay auction descriptions from now on. So there, Pierre and Meg.
P.S. Feel free to use that joke-name, "feeBay", if you want. I also like Harry Brown's version, he calls 'em "ePay". B-)
Yahoo! Auctions: "Oh, the humanity!"
Yes, Virginia, There Is a PC Quarterstaff
Okay, I admit I'm inexcusably late for the Christmas reference... And no, this is not an early repeat of my shameful April Fool's column of a couple years back.
Jeremy Kapp has put together an easy-to-use Quarterstaff pack using the Basilisk2 Macintosh emulator, and an auto-installer to eliminate the screwy setup problems you might otherwise experience. This means PC owners can now play this little-known gem from Infocom without relying on a Mac friend. I've tried it, and it works great!
Jeremy has told me he'll send these out to anyone who wants one, for postage and the cost of a CD-R. E-mail him (not me!) for details.
New This Update
The "Thanks for Not Pissing Me Off" free shipping offer has ended, but I'm pleased to say it ended due to the major site update, and not because somebody bugged me and ruined it for everyone. Pester-mails are down a significant percentage. I'll definitely see about doing this again. Thanks again to everyone for your patience.
With this update you're looking at not quite 70 new pages of scans and info on items from my personal collection, lots of new free info and pics. However, I've decided to hold off on the long-awaited Shoppekeeper pictures until I have a few other pics of collectors to post alongside them. So if enough of you really want to see what the mysterious C.E. looks like (it's worth it: I've lost weight lately), consider sending over your own mug shot. Something you don't mind if the rest of the collecting community sees (nothin' naughty, for those of you with no shame).
I think I've been doing okay at keeping the small stuff -- sale lists, waiting list -- up to date. As far as trades go, I've added a butt-load of titles to my want list, so hopefully there will now be something you can offer that I don't already have. Right now I'm particularly looking for promotional / point-of-purchase boxes. These are oversized boxes or large cardboard stand-ups given to retail stores by companies to promote new releases. If anybody has any, I will eagerly trade for them, or consider buying outright. Business software promos as well as games, but PC only: no Nintendo, PlayStation, etc.
In sales, I'm pleased to announce the Shoppe's first-ever unopened InvisiClues... and an actual Starcross saucer! Plus some complete greys, folios, and lots of miscellaneous in the other I-F and non-IF categories.
But hurry! Because there are two types of Shoppe customers: Those who are reading this, and those who skipped the column and went straight to the for-sale pages.
Shameless? You betcha.