Nostalgia in a BoxGAMING
As a PC gamer, it feels strange to admit that the last time I went to an actual games retailer was over 5 years ago. These days, buying games online is simply quicker, more convenient and often less expensive; yet there was a time when I would visit these stores every couple of weeks, sometimes only to browse the latest releases. The shelves at home, apart from my favorite books, were always filled with neatly displayed game boxes. But a lot has changed since then.
Steam has somewhat revolutionized the way we look at video games. Right now, one click of a button is all it takes to get a newly released title into your (virtual) hands, but back in the day, installing a new game felt almost like a ritual. You had to go to a store, find what you were looking for, pay for it, bring it home, peel off that plastic wrap and then discover what treasures someone decided to hide inside the box…
Of course, sometimes the contents were a bit disappointing – a bunch of discs and maybe a pamphlet. But other times you could strike gold and find a printed manual with dozens of pages, full of artwork and (particularly with RPGs) some insights into the game’s lore and characters. Things like maps and posters – stuff you’d now see in pricey collector’s editions – were also occasionally included, as were announcements about upcoming projects from the studio.
While waiting for the game to install (which took much longer than it does today), you could browse through the ephemera to learn more about the game before playing it and get ready for the experience ahead.
If we look back even further, to the 90s, we’d find games shipped in giant cardboard boxes. Inside you’d often find any number of extras, from a gaming magazine to a card with a number you could call in the US if you got stuck at any point in the game. DRM consisted of looking up specific words in the paper manual when the game asked you to – it was tedious, but it was part and parcel of the experience.
A lot of people want to somehow retain this feeling of having a physical collection of games on their shelves. Rising to this occasion, the website steamgamecovers.com,which uploads print-out covers of your favorite Steam games for DVD cases, jewel cases and backup discs, is updated regularly. There’s also indiebox.com, which lets you purchase collector’s editions of many indie games which otherwise could only be bought online.
Nowadays, game boxes are still quite easy to find, though they hardly ever contain more than a disc with the game and an informational pamphlet. I’ve even come across boxes that had nothing more than a code to activate the game on Steam. While I won’t argue it doesn’t make sense, it’s a sad state of affairs compared to how things looked in the early 2000s. With VG24/7 reporting last year that digital sales accounted for no less than 74% of all US games sales in 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised if standard game boxes completely disappeared at some point in the future.
Of course, we’re still going to have collector’s editions to… well, collect… though they occupy much more space and are often really expensive (Legendary Edition of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, I’m looking at you and you $800 price tag). You can buy a few of those, but they come in different shapes and sizes and are hardly going to fit on one shelf.
The convenience of digital downloads aside, do you have any nostalgia for classic game boxes, and do you ever buy collector’s editions of games?