Sunday, April 28, 2013

Loss of Identity and Discovery of The Cover Project

At some point in the past month I did a complete 180 in regards to my approaches to handling my ridiculously large media collection. Prior to this point I'd been obsessing with downsizing the whole thing; stuffing games and movies into a CD binder, buying a 25-game case for my DS cards, even transcribing my books for use on e-readers so they wouldn't be occupying shelf space anymore! I ran into a conundrum when it came to the comics though, and that put me into a bit of a funk. Defeated by one of the things I love most. Oh, cruel irony.

There was something more to that depression, though. Something deeper than just having that cruddy feeling when you realize your perfectly plotted plans can't be carried out. Something that made me stop and just kind of stare at the walls for a few hours, trying to figure it all out. And then I came to understand something: I had been staring at the walls for hours, you see, because I suddenly found that there was little else to stare at. In my quest to make myself tidy and neat I had hidden away that with which I had previously identified myself and that with which I had constructed my life around. In ways more than just a metaphor I had shoved myself into a disc binder. Without my collections gazing back at me in the dead of night I was nothing but a husk of a human being.

I became grouchy, irritable, unpleasant. Not once did I ever think that actually putting away the piles of books and games and movies would be a bad thing for me. In my mind it could only be a good thing. But at that moment I think I came to understand something about myself that I hadn't before. It's no secret that I have always taken great pride and my collections and I have a deep desire for obscure JRPGs which borders on sexual fantasy. But I thought I enjoyed having these items on display solely for the benefit of looking cool in front of my friend. Solely to be "That Guy" who had not just a copy of Earthbound, but a copy of A Link to the Past complete in the box (to which I must tip my hat and give a bow to friend Trevor, who has refused to enlighten me as to just how much that particular gift put him out). That guy with each generation of Nintendo handheld, two Sega Game Gears, and each of those Sonic the Hedgehog LCD games McDonald's gave out to promote Sonic Heroes.

Sitting alone, staring at my white walls, I came to understand that as much as I enjoyed being "That Guy", I had put all of these things on display in my room because I enjoyed looking at them myself. I realized that I didn't actually care a whole heaping lot about who else saw what I had, but that it mattered a great deal if I could see what I had. I can't say why. Call it materialism, call it addiction, call it narcissism. Those are all probably valid answers. But it makes me genuinely happy when I glance over at my PS2 shelf or my DS shelf or my manga collection. It's kind of the same amount of joy one has when they discover their library has a graphic novels section lined wall to wall with Justice League and Hellboy. But I think there's more to it than that.

I've always liked the artistry of commercialism, if that makes any sense. I love to drink up the vibrant colors of inserts, instruction manuals, strategy guides. As a child I had a strategy guide for each game I owned, several for the original Pokémon games, and I would read them over and over again like story books. I did the same thing with instruction manuals, and I owned the manual for Super Mario Land 2 a whole decade before I'd ever got hold of the game (to be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure where I even got my copy of it. I suppose it must have been at a yard sale or a gift from my uncle...). Bunny Mario was more like mythological figure to me than a cool-if-useless power-up from a tangible video game. Hell, even today I have a binder full of trading cards, and even full of used up gift cards, simply because I like to look at them. I don't play with them, I don't trade them, I don't sell them or even look at their worth on Amazon. The cards are simply works of art to me, and it makes me happy to unzip that binder sometimes and look at them. I'm trying to find a blank sticker album for similar reasons. Those things were everywhere in the 90's, but now I can't find one without dinosaurs drawn on every page and predesignated sticker spots. A rant for another post.

Anyways, I came to realize that I enjoyed looking at the array of titles and colors on my shelves. It brought me joy seeing them there, and I discovered that fond memories of the games could be conjured just be gazing upon them. No matter how crummy I'm feeling, if I happen to look up and spot the very distinct orange spine of WarioWare: Touched!, I'm going to feel better. Perhaps there is a nostalgic element to all of this that would explain it all. I like these games and movies out, I like them displayed and readily available, it makes me happy to look at them because maybe the sight of them reminds me of how much fun they have brought me.

So I decided to buy a better shelving situation instead of a better way to hide who I am. I found these sharp-looking bookcases at Walmart real cheap, fifteen bucks, and discovered that I actually really like putting them together. I mean, they're cheap and they probably won't last if I toss them around, everything is pre-measured and cut and it comes with the tools, it's not anywhere near actually building a real bookcase. But there's something... therapeutic about tightening the screws into place. To be honest, I'm afraid I might be a little addicted to assembling the darn things.

Now I had these shelves all set up for my DS games, and they looked really spiffy. Made me happy. Enter Maranda's Game Boy Advance SP. Back in February I had traded my DS Lite to her in exchange for a GBASP after waking up one morning and deciding that I absolutely needed a 3DS (I blame Fennekin). It was a fair trade, I thought, and she agreed. The DSL could play her GBA games, I bought her a copy of Soul Silver to sweeten the deal, and whatever older games she had were all Pokémon and could be played just fine in the Game Boy Towers of the Pokémon Stadium games. On my end I got a 3DS to play my old DS games on, and an SP which could handle all of my Game Boy games.

Of course, I've had a difficult time keeping track of exactly what Game Boy games I own. I can name just about every other game I have on all my recent consoles, but I suddenly realized that, with a few exceptions, I was hopelessly clueless as to what I actually owned on cartridge based (and, to an extent, PC) systems. And, more sadly, which cartridge games I had owned but had been lost at some point (I found my old PKMN games in the attic just last week, thankfully, but I can't find Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories or a collection which includes Pong, both of which I have the boxes for in my closet, complete with manuals and all other papers. I also had a copy of Moon Patrol for the GBA that I played to death yet can't locate anywhere). Why is this? I wondered. Why can I not remember which of these games I have?

It hit me then that the reason I couldn't keep track of those games was because I couldn't visualize them. The GBA games were all sharing space hidden within mostly unrelated DS cases, and the other consoles were all shoved into drawers until I had use of them. Immediately I knew of a crude solution for the GBA games, simply getting them their own DS cases and taping a name to the spine. What, though, of GBC, and GB, and Game Gear titles? Or Drill Dozer, which is much too large to fit in the DS cases due to its rumble pack?

I then came across The Cover Project which is the holy grail of everything good about the gaming community. Not only did they offer solutions and tutorials for fitting the larger handheld games in the DS cases, but they also offered community-made or adapted inserts which could be printed out and used to make them not look like ass with masking tape and flea market labels. Granted, they don't have every game for every type of case, but they have a lot.

Now, I'm a bit of a tinkerer, I always have been. Ever since I was little I was always trying to figure out how to combine the best aspects of two almost unrelated things into one. I later discovered why building the chair into the table was a terrible, awful, leg-cramping idea, but I still believe that root beer and fruit punch are a delicious combination. I call it "fruit beer". It'll probably show up in one of my books now.

So with that in mind, you should know, I immediately had at it. Took a bit of messing with my printer, wasted four or five ink cartridges and twenty sheets of legal-sized paper to finally get it all right, but after that I was on my way to casing and displaying pretty much my entire game library. I actually talked about this a little bit earlier this week in my review of Sonic the Hedgehog Game Gear. While this project is going to be ridiculously expensive and time consuming, I'll admit that it's awoken something within me. It's fun; I love doing it. I love every aspect of it all, even when I'm cutting my thumb open with a box cutter and swearing because I accidentally fucked up a nearly irreplaceable pre-recycled-plastic DS case. This hobby has made me the happiest I've been in a very long time.

See, not only am I coming up with my own solutions for fitting games into cases, but I'm making my own inserts too, to fill in the games that TCP doesn't have. I'm not a master art designer, actually I'm quite shitty with visual mediums, but it's fun for me and there's something so very satisfying about holding the finished product and sliding it onto a case. I'll be sharing my covers in other posts, just for like-minded people who also have a few blanks to fill in, and I think tomorrow I'll write up a review of what, exactly, I did to that DS case to make it all work.

I look forward to sharing this all in the future, and I hope somebody will be able to make some use of it.

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