The world of retro video game collecting is extraordinarily vast and becoming more and more popular every year. Collecting video games is hard work and it sure is expensive. Tens of thousands of collectible gaming-related products are released every year, and so it can certainly be overwhelming for anyone brave enough and/or passionate enough to take on the hobby.
Collectors usually narrow their search to games holding characteristics they enjoy, such as being published for a specific video game console, being of a certain genre, or featuring a specific character. I’ve sat down with one collector who’s recently been making the rounds on several podcasts and blogs. Her real name is Heidi, but some of you may know her by her gaming name, Stopxwhispering. She’s been collecting since she was 18 years old and her collection is one of the most impressive in all of Europe.
Rick: Welcome and thank you for taking the time to sit down and speak to me. So, Heidi, you have one of the most impressive video game collections I’ve ever seen. At what age did you start playing video games?
Heidi: The first game I ever played was Game & Watch when I was around five years old, but I didn’t actually own any video games when I was a kid. I played games when I was visiting my friends or my cousins, and they usually had the NES or the Sega Mega Drive or the Sega Master System. So that is what I grew up playing occasionally when I was visiting my friends. I didn’t start collecting until I was around 18 or 19 years old and started earning money of my own. And since then, I just never really stopped.
Rick: What would you say is the game that really turned it around for you? In other words, the game that just won you over and helped transition you from being a casual game to an obsessive collector?
Heidi: I don’t think I can name one game. I love a lot of games equally. When I was a kid I played the original Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, Metroid and Tetris and I loved all these games equally as a kid. I just love video games in general. It didn’t matter if you put me in front a bad game. I even loved playing Alex Kidd, you know, the one built into the Sega Master System along with Sonic and Castle of Illusion. All these Sega games that I played as a kid won me over, and so I can’t pinpoint just one.
Rick: You said you started your collection at around age 18. What was your first purchase?
Heidi: I was given a Playstation 2 for Christmas. I fooled my dad into buying me the system by convincing him it was a very “particular” DVD player. Not long after he bought it he realized he actually gave me a video game system, and I think he regrets the decision deeply. After that, I started buying every game for that system. I bought Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, Final Fantasy 10 and many of the other great games released on that system. After I bought the Xbox as well and added games like Halo and Wolfenstein to my collection. And not long after I figured out that you can buy all these older systems online that I never had a chance to own as a kid such as the NES and Super NES. So that is what I started doing. I started buying everything that I didn’t have a kid but always wanted, including portable systems like the Game Boy. In fact, I never really considered myself a collector until I found the Virtual Boy. I really fell in love with that system because it was never released here in Sweden and was so obscure. That’s when it all changed I guess.
Rick: What would you say is the best game you have for the Virtual Boy?
Heidi: Vertical Force is my favourite. It has an awesome soundtrack and it’s just a fun shooter with layers that you allow you to move up and down in various directions because of the 3D.
Rick: Now, I’ve been to Sweeden and I stayed mostly in Gothenburg, but I couldn’t find any cool retro video game shops while I was there. You mentioned you buy a lot of games online but are there any places in Sweden that you could recommend in case any of our readers travel there in the near future?
Heidi: In Gothenburg they actually have a retro gaming convention that has been running for about six years now. It is actually one of the conventions that really kicked off the big movement of retro gaming here in Sweden. Right now we have so many collectors trading games on social media, and several more conventions have popped up since, including one in Västerås. It isn’t far from Stockholm, and has been going on for over ten years, I think. It’s called Retro Gathering and has become so popular they now do it twice a year.
Rick: What would you say is your favourite Nintendo game of all time, and your favourite Nintendo console?
Heidi: I hate these questions because I can never pick just one. I have over 5300 games and it is impossible to pick just one game that is the absolute best. There is no such thing. There are so many great games that are great in different ways. I, for example, love many different genres. You cannot compare a platformer with a shooter or a puzzle game because they are so different and good to play on different occasions. Sometimes you want to play a shooter and sometimes you want to play a puzzler. So I can’t pick just one game. I started collecting NES games, but my biggest collection right now is actually games for the Famicom. I have over 900 unique cartridges for that system.
Rick: We have an ongoing debate here at Goomba Stomp as to what is the best console. Half of our writers think it is the Super NES and half of our writers think it is the N64. Where do you stand when it comes to Nintendo consoles?
Heidi: Definitely not the N64. That’s the worst console in my opinion. That is way down on my list. I would pick any console over the N64. I know a lot of people love the Ocarina of Time, but I never really played many of the Zelda games. In fact, I don’t really like the Zelda series. I’ve only tried to beat the original game, and that was when I was older, so I don’t have any nostalgic value for the series since I didn’t play it as a kid growing up. It is just not the type of game my friends would put on when I was visiting because it isn’t the type of game you could play together with friends. So I tried to beat the original Zelda when I was older but I couldn’t figure it out and it frustrated me. I really don’t like RPG’s, so after that I sort of boycotted the Zelda series. I just never played the other games. As for the N64, I just don’t like the look of the games. There’s only one game on the N64 that I actually still play and that is Pokémon Puzzle League because it’s a 2D puzzle game. Apart from that, I can’t stand the graphics of the N64 and I really hate the controller. I’ve always preferred the NES to the Sega Master System but I always preferred the Sega Mega Drive to the Super NES. I’m basing this on game experiences, and I guess I’ve played more games I love on the Mega Drive.
Rick: What is the most valuable game you own?
Heidi: The most valuable game I own is actually a Zelda game, but that was given to me by a friend. It’s A Link to the Past for the Super NES and it is still factory sealed.
Rick: What was the hardest thing for you to track down? Is there a game or console that you really wanted but it took you a very long time to find?
Heidi: I don’t really track things down. I buy whatever I come across if I think it looks interesting. For example, if someone tells me that Magical Chase for PC is an amazing game, I’ll look it up on EBay and wait for an auction to pop up with a decent asking price. Recently I actually did buy Magical Chase and was lucky enough to buy it at a lower-than-normal asking price.
When I do hear about a game that sounds interesting or when I see a game that looks interesting, I don’t do any research on the game. That would spoil the surprise for me. I approach it the same way gamers did before the Internet. I buy a game, pop it in and hope for the best. If it turns out to be a bad game, well that’s a shame, but the next one might be above your expectations, and when it is, you appreciate it more.
Rick: Do you own any current Gen consoles?
Heidi: Yes I have the Wii U, the Xbox One, the Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and the 3DS, so I keep up to date with those things as well.
Rick: So what game are you currently playing?
Heidi: I’m actually playing Minecraft on Xbox One. It’s just so relaxing. I love it!
Rick: Can you offer any advice to someone who wants to start collecting and/or is collecting?
Heidi: Personally I started collecting 13 years ago when everything was pretty cheap. As soon as prices start escalating on European games, I turned to American games and started buying NES games from there. And when those turned expensive years back, I started collecting Japanese games. But now everyone’s buying Japanese games so everything is expensive except for vintage computers like the Commodore 64 and Amiga 500. But if you want to buy games at decent and affordable prices, I would suggest hanging out in forums and making deals with other collectors. There are a lot of groups on Facebook that sell games. Otherwise, you can try sites like Craigslist. And of course, you can find games on EBay but it will always be more expensive on eBay. But I still buy games on EBay simply because it is so convenient.
Rick: As you are aware, Nintendo is getting ready to release their next system codenamed NX. What would you want from this console?
Heidi: I would make it a beefed up NES with just 2d, 8-bit and 16-bit games. I just love those games. There are a lot of games made today that take inspiration from those classics and I love them. I really don’t enjoy how the Wii and the Wii U have so many child-friendly games. I know children need their own systems as well, and a console that won’t expose them to violence but I feel the games are a bit condescending, as if they think kids are dumber than they actually are. Instead of teaching kids how to play the game by actually playing the game like they did back in the day (like in a game like Mega Man), nowadays you get these long and boring tutorials that I find ridiculous and tedious. I just don’t have the patience to button smash through these tutorials. It annoys me. Take for instance Nintendo Land. That game is mostly a tutorial and I can’t stand it.
Rick: I’m a huge cinephile. If you could produce and direct a movie adaptation of a video game, what would you want to adapt?
Heidi: Halo would, of course, work. I think Borderlands would work. I think that would be interesting and really fun, but I think Metroid would be the most interesting to see on the big screen. I would make it a mix between Tomb Raider and Alien. I think that would be awesome!
Rick: Thank you again for speaking to me. Can you tell our readers where they can find you online?