A pristine boxed copy of King's Quest VI on the PC at a car boot sale.

These quieter summer months mean I am catching up on a pile of games that I have yet to play. Many of them bought second hand – titles that I missed the first time around that I am just getting around to.

But I have noticed that as each summer approaches, the availability of exciting second hand games has reduced dramatically. My appetite for second hand titles hasn’t gone – but there aren’t as many to be found anywhere other than the internet, or so it seems.

The lost art of second hand games

The days of picking up a genuine bargain at Car Boot sales, garage sales and flea markets have long gone. Internet auctioning sites seem to mean that every game in even the most casual gamers collection can be looked up and sold on at a premium. Most of the old avenues for retro titles seem to be favoured by dealers wanting to resell in-demand titles on, moving focus away from people who buy games to actually play them.

Even specialist game shops are guilty of this, many only buy in games and consoles from the previous generation or newer, because doing otherwise is no longer profitable. As a result we’re losing a lot of gaming history from our high streets, as even the smaller chains and independents are starting to become extremely picky about what they buy in.

A stack of games including; Sonic Chaos, Castle of Illusion, Kurushi and Frequency.

The quality of what’s on offer

Most larger game shops don’t seem to take any pride in the work they do anymore – and this isn’t a pop at the hardworking sales staff of most video games shops, but the senior managers who force them to tow the company line which is a shame as it often takes all the personality out of the shopping experience.

Taking the quality of the stock itself as a major example. The condition that some stores are prepared to sell games and consoles in is laughable at times, and further perpetuates dwindling sales as customers feel less inclined to part with their cash.

  • Conveniently misplaced collectors items

    If the game requires an addon to play it then they should be included when sold on. Case in point: Animal Crossing on the Gamecube which came with a free memory card because your town data would use up an entire card – except if you bought it second hand it seems.

  • Labels in inappropriate places

    Sticky labels that can’t be easily removed really bother me, especially on old cardboard boxes when the box art starts to peel away. Also why write on the games in permanent marker or put labels on the manual?

  • No manual

    I’m not asking for the plastic wrapper to still be in there, or even the special edition art cards that were originally bundled with the game, but is a lot to ask that the manual should be in there, especially as it is the thing that tells you how to play the game – if it’s not included then you should be charged less.

  • Scratches on discs

    If the game is scratched it shouldn’t be allowed to be traded in. Some shops will buy in discs of any condition and use a cleaning machine to remove the top layer of the disc making it playable – but the vast majority don’t, and won’t show you the condition of the disc unless you specfically ask.

  • Dirty stock

    Sticky game boxes, or something just ingrained with dirt. Things do get dirty, but selling things on from the shop in that condition is equally disgusting. Everything bought in should be cleaned completely with a cleaning product and clean cloth. Discs, boxes, consoles and pads. The customers will thank you for it.

The inside of the Frequency box, with the manual damaged by a sticker.

Why not head online?

It’s becoming harder to track down something out of the ordinary in game shops, or any other location other than online. The removal of older titles from the shelves mean that all shops start to become the same bland sea of branding and empty cases. Older titles are resigned to discount bins or dark corners of the store – or worse museum pieces behind glass with inflated prices that you have to specifically ask to view.

You start to see the same copies of games on each routine visit to the store. Older games should be preserved and bought, not left to languish in a store purely to serve as padding for an otherwise dull shop. Heading online to find your desired title is becoming a requirement for more and more gamers, as smaller shops start to put their rarer stock on ebay – but there are a couple of reasons why this is equally undesirable.

  • You end up paying a premium

    If like me you like to collect things based on recommendation you’ll often find that the games spoken about most highly are becoming increasingly more difficult to acquire at a reasonable price. At least the internet gives you the often of always finding a copy of something though.

  • The thrill of the chase

    The enjoyment I get from finding a copy of of a game I have been after for an long time outsides of the wild of the internet is an experience in itself. Shopping online takes all the fun out of my hobby – which is finding a title or console I have not seen in absolutely ages.

Don’t forget about the pleasure of finding something worth playing nearer to home, often the expectation of trying to find a game you’ve been after for a while matches the enjoyment you get from actually playing it, and in doing so you’ll be supporting the network of independent game shops who particularly need support during this recession.

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