Nearly all people either know someone who is a pack rat or they are a pack rat themselves. For many, there is a kind of attachment to possessions; giving them up is like losing a part of themselves. The feeling is no different for games. Some players keep games for years after their interest in them has waned. Those players keep the games in a box somewhere, perhaps under a bed, in a closet, or in the crawl space of their home. They may never play those games again, but they cannot part with them. If they were to part with their games, they would not be able to play them again, and that thought, that feeling is simply too powerful for them to handle. I am one of these people, and so are others that I know. In fact, there is a website called the Backloggery that is dedicated to helping to give gamers the motivation that they need to complete their long lists of unfinished games.
Are the games that these people keep always good? Certainly not. One of the games sitting in a large bag of Game Boy games that I own is a game called Spot: The Cool Adventure. It is not so much a platforming game as it is an advertisement for 7up disguised as a platforming game. Most certainly it is not well put together, nor is it engaging. Why, then, keep it?
The answer is that human beings, by their nature, form attachments. They form attachments with other humans because these attachments are advantageous to them in some fashion, be it emotionally or merely biologically. They form attachments with animals for emotional reasons. What many seem to forget when they think about pack rats is that human beings will sometimes form emotional attachments to objects.
There may be many reasons for this. A human may view an object as helpful to them in some way as a tool, and they may find themselves unable to discard the tool for fear that it will become useful again later. A person may have received the object as a gift from another person. In this case, it is possible that the gift’s recipient becomes emotionally attached to the object because they associate the object with the gift giver. This is especially true with keepsakes from loved ones who have passed on. When a loved one is dead, or even if the loved one is simply out of reach, a person will use an object to feel closer to them. They may view it, in the case of a picture or movie, or they may play it, in the case of a game.
Sometimes people form attachments to objects for reasons other than the previously stated two. A person may become attached to a game because was the first game they had ever played. They may become attached to a game because the game touched them in some meaningful way. Perhaps one of the characters in the game reminded them much of themselves, or someone very special to them. Perhaps the plot closely resembled a rough point in their own life, or the lesson that the game seemed to teach was very similar to their own ideals.
Regardless of why a person may become attached to a game, once the attachment is made it is often very powerful. The person may be forced into a situation where they must part with the game, which is likely to be a difficult endeavour. Breaking an emotional attachment is a painful process in which the attached person is almost certain to require much grieving in order to overcome the loss.
While attachment to a loved one has the potential to be healthy for the individual, attachment to an object is almost certain to have more far-reaching negative consequences. Attaching oneself to another person usually provides one with emotional support and more importantly reciprocation. A game can only emotionally support someone in so far as it can distract them from their problems. A relationship with another person also often places one in a position where one feels the need to reciprocate support. One does not get that from an attachment to an object like a game. A person who attaches themselves solely to games may find themselves with very little emotional support and may even find that it difficult to give that support to others.
This, of course, does not mean that a person should immediately pawn off games that they feel are important to them. Rather, a gamer (or anyone who finds themselves emotionally attached to an object) must be aware of the nature of the feelings that they have for the games that are important to them. If they find that the attachment to the game is so powerful that it affects them greatly, such as moving them to tears, they need to be ready to consider that they are forming unhealthy attachments to objects. It may be beneficial to a person in this situation to seek some sort of help. If the attachment is minor, something as simple as discussing the subject with a friend or loved one may be helpful. If the situation is much more severe, it may be extremely advisable for the person to seek long-term psychiatric care.
I once owned a SEGA Genesis system, and on that system I would often play a Madden game with my father. It was our bonding time, because my father and I did not get to spend much time together due to his hectic work schedule. When I was about 14, the SEGA Genesis system refused to work and we were forced to scrap it and sell all of the games that we owned for it. I was very sad because the loss of that game meant the loss of a very special time that I got to spend with my father each week. It was not until a few years later that I was able to find some other significant type of bonding time to spend with him. The game was not very good at all, but it was the fact that the game meant that I could spend time with my father that really cemented it in my psyche as something important.
I invite you, readers, to share stories of your own object-loss heartbreak or that of your friends. Preferably, your stories should be related to games in some way.