The Digital-only Toybox

As some of you know, I work for an independent studio which is making the move from browser-based games to mobile and PC downloads. It didn’t take me long to realise that, contrary to the way I imagined things in childhood, my first game credits are actually for digital rather than boxed titles.

Probably fewer of you are aware that back at the beginning of the year, I set out to try and play 30 games in 2013. Thus far this has not panned out well, and in all honesty I’ll be lucky to meet a goal of 10 games. However, the reason I did this was because I’ve built up quite a large number of digital-release games through Steam, Good Old Games and Humble Bundle. In fact, the last boxed game I bought was StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm – purely because it was a collector’s edition. That was back in March.

My games collection and my career have both moved with the industryi.e. away from boxed titles, and while that makes for exciting career opportunities I find myself in something of an identity crisis as a long-time collector of video games. Not only do some of my favourite games of the past few years not have a physical presence upon my shelf – there to be admired and shown off – but they can’t even form a part of my gaming setup. Granted, this is more of a reflection on ‘indie’ games rather than the mainstream, which is still going strong. All the same, I’m saddened by the thought I cannot see Johann Sebastian Joust on my shelf, or invite my friends ’round to play Tenya Wanya Teens.

"Tenya Wanya Teens" at Gamecamp 6

“Tenya Wanya Teens” at Gamecamp 6

Some games are becoming very transient experiences – in some cases, even restricted to the realm of exhibition rather than being part of a medium which was once known for being accessible, on demand. With games like Joust this is transience is arguably part of the appeal as well as its core mechanics, and there’s no denying that its appearance at events like Wild Rumpus makes those days out all the more memorable. Still, as someone who grew up showing my admiration and enjoyment of games by lurking in games shops and watching eBay for imported copies, I find that my shelves of Sonic games in particular have taken on a deeper, somewhat unpleasant new level of nostalgia.

As an aside, this is – coincidentally – the 22nd anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog being released on SEGA Megadrive in the U.S. “Happy birthday” to the character who ignited my love of video games!