Come on baby turn that frown upside down
Tell me why you ain’t been around
What is it brings you down?
We worked the hardest to be the smartest
And the big big whoredom scared me
Come on baby I ain’t convinced it ain’t so bad as you paint it
There’s plenty more heads of hair for us out there
We’ll strike it rich, a monster switch
But the big big whoredom scares me
-“The Big Big Whoredom”
They Might Be Giants
Then: the Early Years
*Taps microphone, feedback roars…*
“Hello, my name is Chuck… and I’m a cheap game whore.”
Audience claps politely
Admitting you have a problem is the first step, and this is my admission. I cannot say no to cheap games. It doesn’t matter if it is a game I would have paid full price for normally or if it’s a game I’d barely rent, if I see a game at a low enough price, chances are I’ll buy it. Sometimes, this has netted me some great great games to add to my collection, like the generally loathed Grand Theft Auto, which I love playing after work so I can blow off some steam. This also leads me to buying games that are fun and all, but hardly warrant a place in the permanent collection. Beach Spikers, I’m so looking at you right now.
In my case, my obsession with cheap games goes back to the late 80’s, the NES Golden Age. I would scour the Amarillo Flea Market on Saturday morning for below market priced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures. I’d buy up a few dozen and sell them to another booth, owned by this crazy old Texan who wanted to corner the TMNT market. So my brother and I would spend our whole allowance on Ninja Turtles, sell them to this guy, and use that money to buy more Ninja Turtles to sell to him. We would generate about $25- 35 in a few hours. With that income, we would buy Choose- Your- Own- Adventure paperbacks, comics, nachos, and, if we were lucky, extremely cheap NES games. (Do any of you remember the science fiction themed CYA books? Not the time travel ones, but the ones with stories about robots and stuff. Man, those were sweet.) Usually, the cheap NES games were loose cartridges of games like Gradius and Adventure Island or obviously stolen in box games with the original Wal- Mart price tag still on and a much cheaper price written on a piece of tape right below it.
Back then, the only time I EVER got a new NES game was if it was my birthday and MAYBE Christmas (my family was funny about Christmas. Halloween was, and is, more our style.) I got Metal Gear for my 10th birthday, and an Acclaim wireless controller the next year. I don’t fault my parents for buying things like food and clothes instead of NES games, but the desire to own as many games as possible planted itself in my mind around this time and would not leave.
*Cue the Playstation era footage*
Once I had a steady, if shitty, income coming in from my servitude to Ron’s IGA’s dairy department, a Sony Playstation, and the kind of spare time you get from being a largely apathetic college student, cheap game whoredom overtook my common sense. Whether it was a pile like Panzer General or a shiny beacon of goodness like Crash Bandicoot 2, the cheap game disease had manifested itself in me strongly. Think about it: if you own a Playstation, there are HUNDREDS of games to be had for under $30. If you poke around enough, you can find stuff for under $10. TEN BUCKS? How am I supposed to not buy Skullmonkeys and Silhouette Mirage for $10? Seriously, my Playstation collection is almost an embarrassment of riches, and I can scarcely believe that anyone owns less than 50 PS1 games. From Metal Slug X to the shockingly fun Poy Poy, my poor PS1 has seen more action than Nina Hartley. (For non- porn watchers, that is a whole lot of action…)
If the Playstation wasn’t bad enough, then came the Dreamcast. I have ONE domestic game for the Dreamcast, and TWO imports, that I paid anything near full retail for. But come on, aren’t Skies of Arcadia, REZ, and Ikaruga worth the money? The Dreamcast is the cheap gamer’s heaven, a system with nary an expensive game to be seen and dozens of easily available, and kick ass, games sitting on the shelves of your local GameStop. Hell, even a game I made fun of my friend Erik for 6 months for owning is worth the $10 I blew on it. Yes, I just defended JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in public.
Is there a cure for the cheap game whoredom? I hope not. Besides, while you were reading this, I probably just bought another cheap game…