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Building A Game Collection Where Every Piece Has A Story

GameByte had the pleasure of speaking to Thijs Bastiaens, a 27-year-old games collector with one of the most impressive collections we’ve ever seen.

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Credit: Thijs Bastiaens

Over the last few years we’ve seen some amazing games released. From Red Dead Redemption 2 to Marvel’s Spider-Man, we’re truly living in one of the best ages of gaming. It’s also never been easier to find and buy the games you love or are desperate to play, with a huge rise in pre-orders, day-one hype, plus the ease of digital downloads. But for some people, gaming is more than just playing a game, it’s about experiencing it, holding onto it, and never letting it go.

Thijs Bastiaens is one of those people, and he’s the proud owner of one of the most impressive gaming collections you’ll probably ever have the pleasure of seeing.

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Bastiaens took the time to chat to GameByte to talk us through his awe-inspiring collection, going in-depth about just how important collecting is to him – and why.

With a 24-minute-long YouTube tour of his collection available on his YouTube channel, and a confession that a full tour can take up to two hours, I want to know how long Bastiaens has been collecting for, and what got him started.

“It’s a question I get asked a lot and it’s actually in two phases,” Bastiaens tells me. “I’ve been collecting all my life, but really collecting? For a little bit under eight years… some people are like ‘Holy moly, all that in just eight years?!’ But I’m like, eight years is a lot of time if you invest your time into it.”

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For reference, Bastiaens’ collection is seriously, seriously big. He tells me there’s “somewhere between 10 and 11 thousand games,” 12 arcade cabinets and pods, and two-three hundred consoles. “I don’t know the full number and I don’t want to know, I think!” he laughs. 

With more games than I’ll ever manage to play in a lifetime, I have to ask: has he played them all?

“No collector in the world will play – collector in the size that I collect or big collector out there – will play all their games. For example, I have like 300 FIFA games – why would I play 300 FIFA games?!

“I want to have them in my collection, on every console, so I have a full set. I have [for example] FIFA 06 on the Xbox, the PS2, the GameCube so I have it three times. Will I play it three times? No. It’s the same with like a stamp collector. I don’t see a stamp collector licking every stamp, that’s for me, very important.

“Some games I like to have in the collection for a full set, but I’ll never play them. There’s a big difference between me as a collector and as a gamer. I’m a gamer at heart and I’m a collector next to it. I will play the games I want to play and I will collect the others.”

As for how he got started, I’m not too surprised to learn that it was Bastiaens’ love for gaming that inspired him to start the journey, but I’m definitely surprised to hear just how much passion he has for it. His enthusiasm is infectious, and it’s clear that Bastiaens wants nothing more than to bring back the early days of gaming – getting your game guides in magazines, swapping Easter eggs in the schoolyard and heading over to play on the Super Nintendo with your friends on the weekend. 

“I’ve always been a collector of a lot of things, so when it got to gaming and I got my own apartment when I moved back to Belgium, I was bored, I wanted to play,” says Bastiaens.

“Getting the physical disc in your hands meant something, and then I was on a nostalgia trip. I started buying old stuff I’d had [when younger], and then the train starting rolling… Holding something in your hands, looking at it and still having it, that’s a big difference in how you spend money.

“You can buy a 10 euro cocktail and then it’s over and done, or you can buy a 10 euro game that you can spend maybe 50 hours having fun with and have it for 20 more years. For me, that’s a big difference… Look at what the average, say, UK person spends in the pub. For me, [that money’s] in my cabinet and then I make a video. People say ‘holy sh*t, you’ve spent so much money.’ But you spent the same amount of money last weekend, you [just] don’t have anything [to show] for it.”

Bastiaens’ girlfriend of more than ten years has no issues at all with his collection, despite not being too much of a gamer herself.

“She doesn’t care at all about my collection – everyone has or needs a hobby. I just used to have my entire collection in the living room. When we were [buying] a house, one of her rules was a separate room (at least!) for everything. So we did. She has no clue what I have or anything, she just leaves it to ‘us nerds’.”

For Bastiaens, there’s no joy in just doing a quick Google search or eBay browse to find the next addition for his collector cabinets. I ask if there’s anything he wants to get his hands on that’s proved really difficult and he said yes – but not for the reasons you’d think.

“Oh yes. [There’s] tens of thousands of things [I want to get], but then again, it’s not a matter of money it’s the thrill. For my European Nintendo 64 collection I’m missing about six games. I know I can just go to eBay and buy them, but… that’s not what game collecting is for me. I still hope to buy them, and as the years go by it gets harder and harder to find them because there are so many more collectors now…

“One of the most important things I still want to get, that I still really want, is The Last Of Us Collector’s Edition from America. It never came out in Europe, and it’s really really hard to get. The statue alone is like 500-600 euros. But again it’s not about the money, but getting it from someone who really loved it or wants to separate from it, for a decent price. To me, that’s the most important thing. If I can ever get it, that will be awesome. I’ve had offers before, but they were just gold-diggers and that’s not what I’m looking for. You can buy it now for a thousand euros, and that’s not what I want.”

Naturally, I wanted to know which of his items he’s the most proud of having added to his collection, and it was a tough question to answer.

“There’s different things. My The Last Of Us collection, for example the press kit which is something that’s ‘rare.’ It’s not insanely rare but it’s something I’m really proud that I have and that I’m really happy with. But for example I really love the old Pokémon games I played as a kid, or my Neo Geo cabinet.

“It’s not particularly about what’s the highest value, it’s what means the most to me… For me, the most fun is to get it the cheapest, not because I’m a cheapskate, but because of the thrill of the hunt. That’s what game collecting is about so it’s pretty hard.”

Unfortunately, the demand for rare games and collectables has seen a huge spike over the years. Whether it’s an unopened box of generation one Pokémon cards, or a still-sealed early-release of Super Mario Bros. on the NES, there’s huge amounts of money being thrown around online in the hopes of completing a collection. This isn’t necessarily a good thing – especially not for Bastiaens.

“It used to be very different, the collecting community. It used to be going to another collector and buying stuff, going to markets, garage sales. You go there, see something you like and buy it for like a euro or a pound whatever. Now it’s more like window shopping.

“People put very expensive items up on the internet and people start bidding on [them]. It’s a completely different world so, for me personally, I used to go to all the websites like local newspapers and people who put up ads like ‘I have this old stuff in my garage, come buy it or come take it’ or whatever. That’s how I started collecting and then that’s how I started building my collection too. Now for the items I’m missing I try to buy from collectors.

“I tend to never buy from eBay, because that’s window shopping. That’s not the same as game collecting in my opinion… What’s the fun in just clicking ‘buy’? That’s not collecting is it.”

As for how much people are willing to pay for rarer games and gaming items, the numbers get pretty eye-watering.

“There are very expensive games. For example, the most famous one in my community is Metal Slug One on the Neo Geo AES, it’s around 10-15k euros… It’s a very expensive game so you know there’s going to be fakes. There are entire websites dedicated so you can send pictures of the motherboard of the game, and they will help you to find if it’s a real one or not. That really bothers me, or frightens me, that just there are so many fakes.”

Now that almost every triple-A game on the market will release with a collector’s edition, I want to know which collectibles Bastiaens finds the most impressive.

“Ubisoft actually makes really cool collectible editions. They’re really good at that, but [their games are] sadly the opposite side of the coin. The editions are good, the statues are awesome, but the games are not up to speed.

“The Witcher 3 had an awesome collector’s edition. It was the first one on the PS4 that actually [was around] the 150 euro mark. Now collector’s editions can go for like three, four, 500 euros. They kind of set a bench mark. It was a really awesome statue, really heavy, I really respect that.”

With such an impressive collection on his hands, what does Bastiaens plan to do with it all? Well, he wants to share it with other gamers, of course!

“I have this building in my backyard and it’s two floors, I think you can see it in my video…the bottom floor has two areas: one where I do my podcast and LAN parties for my friends. Then I have a second area where all my arcades are, demo pods, there’s like, I don’t know, 20-30 TVs hooked up. I’m working on [setting up for] movie nights, for Smash tournaments and all those kinds of things.

“I’ve made a bar…I’m planning on doing openings. For now, I only do private tours for people who contact me. It usually takes one and a half to two hours depending on how interested they are in what parts.

“But I want to do, for example, like a Friday night where everyone can come play on all the TVs. Play co-op, play some matches together, or vs. each other, enjoy old retro games. Because not everyone has the space for it or can afford it.

“I want to bring back the old couch co-op gaming, like you went over to someone’s house, you played some James Bond or some Halo together on the TV. Now you’re all separate in your houses and I really feel the nostalgia of the people who are here in a group and who have fun for hours. ‘We’re coming back because this is fun. We forgot that it’s fun’ and that’s what it’s all about for me, seeing their faces and enjoying it.

“You used to play with your nephew or brother or sister on a two player game on the SNES or on the NES or whatever, the PlayStation 1, 2 or whatever. They can just sit there, play it, and you see their faces and that’s what makes it all worth it.”

Sadly, Bastiaens is more than aware of how negative the gaming community can be at times, and it’s something he desperately wants to see changed.

“I get a lot of hate when I put my collection out there… But for me, it’s very important for the people to know that for us gamers, it’s important to unite instead of go against each other.

“Why is there so much hate in the game community? We’re the biggest business in the world, bigger than movies and music together even. Still, there’s such a huge taboo in the gaming industry. When you open any gaming page, all you see in the comments are people hating on each other. Why? Live and let live.

“Some games are not my thing. I don’t like to play FIFA, but I’m not going to go on a page to say ‘Holy sh*t why are you playing FIFA? You’re such a doofus’. That’s something I never got – especially with the whole Fortnite thing. It drove me crazy! Why hate? There’s no hate, like, why? It’s why I collect so many things: learn to love and appreciate it. It’s something that bothers me a lot, it’s one of my pet peeves.”

For any budding collectors out there, if you truly have a passion for collecting, for gaming and for the thrill of hunting down rare items or scoring a bargain, don’t worry: Bastiaens firmly believes that you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the ride, because that’s just not what collecting is all about.

“It’s not that expensive if you really look at it. Say I spend [X amount] – I skip holidays, we never go out to restaurants, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. It’s like priorities in life. For me, my priorities are my dogs and cats, games, and my house. And a little bit my car… I prioritise my money to spend on my collection. In the beginning, I could only spend [X amount] a month, so I really checked – ‘what can I buy for that amount? What will give me the most bang for my buck?’

“I was always very keen on ‘what should I buy’ vs. ‘what shouldn’t I buy this month?’ I know it looks like I have one million [euros] in my backyard but that’s not the truth. It’s about how I invest it wisely and make the right connections, buying the right games at the right times. That’s way more important to me.”

A huge thank you to Thijs Bastiaens for taking the time to talk with us, and for sharing his collection too! You can find out more about Bastiaens, his collection and his dogs by following him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Twitch. 

Featured Image Credit: Thijs Bastiaens

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