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Why collector’s editions lead to existential dread

I have come to the conclusion that, unless it comes with something that actually enhances my experience of the game itself, I won’t be purchasing collector’s/special editions of videogames in the future.

Whilst the standard version cost £40, I bought the collector’s edition of Fallout: New Vegas for £70. It included a hardcover ‘graphic novel’ (a gross exaggeration – it was barely comic-sized), seven poker chips (they feel nice in your hand?), a deck of playing cards (never used), the fabled platinum chip (shiny hunk of metal) and a making of DVD; all in a big, space-eating faux-weathered box. I’ll completely concede that this was definitely aesthetically pleasing and the contents had all been manufactured to a good standard, yet the only thing that gave me any pleasure was the ‘making of’ DVD and a few cack-handed, Benny-style flips of the platinum chip. I quite like the idea of in-game items being replicated in the real-word, but it’s not like they serve much purpose once they’ve been gawped at and fingered. For instance, the replica plasma-cutter included in the collector’s edition of Dead Space 2 looked absolutely sick, but it’s not as if there’s some real-life Necromorph shooting-range I can go down and fire it on (damn it!).

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It was loved for days.

Anyhow, did I think that paying £30 extra for the New Vegas collector’s edition would actually give me more pleasure or make me more of a Fallout fan? Possibly, but in reality, all I’d actually done was throw away hard-earned cash whilst being in the midst of an economic depression. So, once the DVD had been watched and assimilated, what then? I was stuck with a box of objects that took up about 600% more space than the game on its own and the sinking feeling of a self-aware idiot.

It was the same with Bioshock, I shelled out nearly double the game’s original price (after buying the standard version already!) just for the collector’s edition, which included a badly-painted and unbalanceable Big Daddy ‘figurine’ (the audacity!), a soundtrack CD and a ‘making of’ DVD. Oh yeah, and that slight feeling of prestige that I was somehow superior to The Great Unwashed who had only purchased the standard version. Perhaps that’s what gamers are really interested in gaining when purchasing collector’s edition – a sense of one-upmanship and gamier-than-thou over fellow gamers.

I understand the appeal of collector’s edition; you get to own the game and more – you become part of an elite group numbering mere tens of thousands, worldwide. However, presently for me, once the initial buzz of having acquired these fabled boxes of rare artefacts has dissipated, it’s soon replaced with a void. An expanding black-hole that sucks in and devours what was once a sense of consumerist fulfilment. I’m struck with the realisation that my very existence is unfathomable, incalculable and incredible, and I’m partially using it to acquire useless hunks of plastic. The black-hole communicates in otherwordly tones, but, quite clearly, it says: ‘Hey…moron, you could’ve bought another actual game with the money you just flung into the ether.’ I’m subsequently left with a hoard of futile objects that I’ll have to spend valuable time trying to shift on eBay or throwing away and getting hit by a wave of landfill-guilt.

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I mean, would it really have been too much to ask for a fully-rotational, highly-detailed action-figure with a motorised drill, fully-submersible diving-suit and colour-changing LED-fitted helmet???

So, what would someone such as myself, whose opinion doesn’t matter, actually want in a collector’s/special edition? As previously stated, in-depth ‘making of’ DVDs are great, especially if they offer true behind-the-scenes information that isn’t available anywhere else. A book detailing early artwork and designs is always welcome, the beautiful, short but informative book included in the collector’s edition of Unreal Tournament III is a prime example of one. Another option is additional in-game content – that is special, digitally collectible. I don’t mean entire levels or chapters, or even characters – unique weapons, armour and other unlockables all give me extra-gaming pleasure (geekiest thing I’ve ever written) and are items I’d consider worth paying extra money for. Collector’s edition in-game content doesn’t take up real-world space (obviously), changes your gaming experience from those who don’t own it and just makes more practical sense.

After all, what did you actually do with that Big Daddy figurine besides look at it pitifully and then hide it away somewhere? I accidently smashed mine, and then fondly remembered how much better the groaning, diving-suit clad warriors looked in the actual game – which was all I actually wanted in the first place. When I’m buying a game, all I actually want/need is the experience of playing it itself. If I go to a games shop and then get duped into paying an extra £30 just because the collector’s edition has some shiny items in it, then it’s clearly me that’s ‘special’, not the edition of the game.

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2009. Get in touch on Twitter @p_etew.

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