Like any other successful piece of technology, new and advanced consoles and games are being produced and sold to eager markets, each promising to be better than the other. Gaming has come a long way from its humble beginnings lining up blocks, catching a ball with a pixelized bar, and being chased by handkerchiefs with eyes while you're trying to collect balls. Games produced these days are literally works of art in terms of graphics, sometimes exceeding those showcaed in big budget movies. The vast open worlds in these games take the player on a journey that would astound any storyteller; yet some people still crave for the simpler and charming aesthetic of older vintage, retro games.
One of these people is Josiah Fagaragan, a retro game collector, who believes that just because games these days are amazing, we shouldn't discount the classics. These games provide a medium for old-school players to relive their childhood. "Number one kasi is nostalgia," Fagaragan says. The reason na gusto ko siya is because the experience of playing those particular games really stands out."
Even with the more advanced graphics and arguably more complicated gameplay some of today's modern games have, old gamers like Josiah will probably never outgrow the love they had for games they grew up with. "I started playing games when I was four so na-expose ako sa interactive media," he says. "Na-fascinate ako sa kanya nung mga panahon na yun. Dati pahiram-hiram lang ako sa mga kapitbahay namin so pangarap ko talagang magkaroon ng sarili kong copy nung game. And then nung tumanda ako at nagkaroon ako ng job, kaya ko na bumili ng sarili kong game."
The kids who used to love these old games are grown up now so it's not surprising that the demand for these types of nostalgia-inducing titles has suddenly risen. Communities have gotten together for the sole purpose of keeping these old games alive. "Actually, kapag naghahanap ako ng games I usually head over to a Facebook group called 'Retro Gamers & Collectors Philippines (RGCP)' so centralized talaga siya ng mga retro enthusiasts na mga katulad ko," Fagaragan says. "Feeling ko nung una, parang ako lang yung collector pero may mas matanda pa pala sa'kin na mas well-versed pa sa hobby ko. So lalo na akong na-encourage mag-collect pa through that group."
The demand for these vintage games have gotten so huge that even big gaming companies like Sony have started remastering and remaking classic titles. "I think this was brought about by older players that crave for nostalgic experiences," says Fagaragan. "I remember playing the newest remake of Crash Bandicoot, sobrang natuwa ako kasi parang feeling ko bata ulit ako except ngayon yung game nasa HD format. I can actually see yung details nung characters and yung world."
Gaming companies are not only making bank from old-school gamers through these reimagined games, they literally just have to make physical copies of old games and they're almost always guaranteed profit. As Fagaragan puts it, "What most retro gamers like myself like to collect these days are physical copies of digitally released games. There are games that are usually just available on Steam. Usually, mga 50,000 copies or so lang yung ilalabas nila tapos o-order ka online nang paunahan. If popular yung game, halos palaging mga 30 minutes pa lang from when they release the orders, ubos na lagi yung copies. Ganun ka in-demand sa mga game collectors ang mga games."
Collectors like Fagaragan value physical copies of games to a premium for several reasons. "I'm still not really sold when it comes to digital-based games kasi if Steam decides to stop selling the game then it's lost forever. True, you can buy these games at a cheaper price but iba talaga para sa aming mga collectors yung pakiramdam to have proof of supporting games that we really enjoy."
Even though you can start your collection without much capital by buying just a few games and an old console, the prices of games of hardcore collectors like Josiah and his friends can definitely cost you an arm and a limb. "My collection is kind of small in comparison to the really old gamers in the group, but it's growing well. Hindi ko na mabilang (yung ginastos ko) eh. Siguro, aabot siya ng hundred [thousands], ganun."
But even Fagaragan is in awe of what other vintage gamers collect. "I primarily collect PlayStation games," he says. "The rare ones costs thousands, but I have to admit that the rarest most premium items come from Nintendo, particularly from the Nintendo World Championship series."
"The silver cartridges were given to the finalists and the excess were destroyed, and even rarer gold cartridges were given out as promotional material for the publication of Nintendo Power, Nintendo's news and strategy magazine," explains Fagaragan. "The average price for silver cartridges are $1,000 online, and for the gold cartridges, parang downpayment na ng bahay at lupa kung tutuusin. Last time I heard, a member of our group got his for $100,000."
The contents of these cartridges weren't all that different from their normal versions, but gamers like Fagaragan value them because of the history they carry. "Apart from the fact that they look really cool and are really rare, these are competition versions of the games, which have set time and score limits that when hit automatically end the game. They have special commands, for example, yung player two yung pipindot para mag-start yung game ng Player 1 kasi pang-competition talaga siya. Three games usually nakalagay dun, parang Super Mario tapos paunahan kayo makaipon ng 50 coins, tapos Rad Racer, pabilisan makarating sa finish line tapos Tetris sa score. Sila kasi yung mga sikat na games nung '90s.”
Gaming has made giant leaps in terms of the technological advances in the industry and most gamers welcome these changes with open arms, including Fagaragan. But, just because the future looks bright, it doesn’t mean we have to forget where all this came from.
"One of the reasons why I collect games in the first place is because I want to preserve this history," he says. "Nakikita ko yung pamangkin ko playing Call of Duty, Watch Dogs, and Dark Souls 3 on his PS4, yet sometimes he still sneaks into my room to ask if I can set up my old Nintendo FamiCom so he can play Super Mario. That gives me hope that the games that I love so much will probably never truly go away. Babalik-balikan mo talaga."