Nintendo Life: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Heidi stopXwhispering: My name is Heidi, I was born in 1984 and I'm from Sweden. I grew up in Sweden, but lived abroad during my college years - in the UK, Germany and Japan. Now I'm back in Sweden.
When did you get into gaming?
I always loved video games as a kid, but never got any. I used to play games every chance I got, at friend's places or at my cousin's. Most of my friends had the NES or Sega Mega Drive. The first thing I ever played on though was an orange Donkey Kong Game & Watch.
When did you decide to start building a retro gaming collection, and what was the first machine you started collecting for?
It all started with me fooling my dad into buying me a PlayStation 2 for Christmas when I was around 18 or 19. I told him it was a very specific DVD player that I needed! He bought it and after that I started buying games for it with every penny I had. I also treated myself to an Xbox, and not much later I found the online auction sites that had all the old games I always wanted as a kid. I then started buying everything I never got! I worked for 3 years before going off to college, and still living at home gave me the advantage of buying even more games at that time. So I started buying NES, SNES, Sega Master System, Mega Drive and N64, and that's when I also discovered the Virtual Boy on eBay. I had never seen or heard of one before, and the system intrigued me. I would say that's the first thing I really collected for; I bought everything I could find related to the Virtual Boy. Today I have every game released for it, except for two very obscure Japanese titles.
I never really decided to start building a retro game collection, I just never stopped buying things I was curious to play!
What's the single most expensive item in your collection?
Hard to say. My Sega Blast City arcade cabinet was expensive to buy, but when it comes to games the most money I've spent on a single title was Space Invaders for Virtual Boy, but the most valuable would probably be a mint condition, still sealed Zelda: A Link to the Past for the SNES. That one was a gift from a friend, and I wouldn't dream of getting rid of it. I wouldn't open it either - I usually don't buy sealed games, because I want to actually play them, but I have another copy of the game that is playable!
It's hard to choose, but what would you say are the most treasured items in your collection?
Apart from the ones mentioned above, I treasure a lot of things, and I love most of my games equally. The only thing I don't care too much about are sports games, strategy and simulation games, RPGs and anything that is text-heavy in Japanese. Even though I've studied the language for several years I'm not fluent and it slows me down reading it in games - I want action! I do however treasure all my platform, action, shoot'em up and puzzle games very very much. I treasure all my obscure consoles like the Virtual Boy collection, my Vectrex collection, all my old computers like C64, ZX Spectrum and Amiga stuff, and so on..
What makes retro games so appealing to you personally? Is it nostalgia, gameplay or something else?
A little bit nostalgia since I loved playing as a kid, but I didn't get to experience that many games. Friends usually just had the common games - Ice Climber, Super Mario Bros., and so on. For me, I just love retro games since there are so many great titles! People back then had limited space on cartridges and cassettes to store a game, so they had to make the game fun by adding real feeling to it. Whether it be the feeling of when you control your character, how he/she/it jumps or how they placed the enemies to make it difficult, or how they told the story. Most games can be cleared under an hour, but it takes practice and skill to be able to beat them, and I enjoy that. Compared to new games where they just add 150 hours of leveling up to be able to advance in the game, that's not "spelglädje" as we say in Sweden - it roughly translates to "game-joy" and basically defines how enjoyable it is to play a game. Retro games are filled with "spelglädje" for me!
Would you say you have a certain affinity for Nintendo games and products?
I'm sorry to disappoint you guys at Nintendo Life, but I love Nintendo and Sega equally! They both have their share of awesomeness! I won't get into Sega (or PC Engine or Neo Geo or all the other things I love) here though, but what I can say about Nintendo is that they will always have a special place in my heart. From their product design (like the beautiful gold and red Famicom) to their amazing game franchises, they've done so many things right. Ever since I got into collecting Japanese games, Nintendo has become even more dear to me. I absolutely love the Famicom and the games it has to offer. Compared to the mere 210 titles we got released here in Sweden for the NES - and the 700 something in North America - Japan got around 1054 games for the Famicom. It's been a blast exploring all these titles you've never heard of before. I have over 900 unique Famicom games so far.
What's the next retro collecting challenge for you personally? Are you ever worried that eventually, you'll run out of options?
The only thing that bugs me is that retro collecting has become so popular all over the world. I started collecting in Sweden about 13 years ago, and back then it was cheap, but Swedes were soon to join the retro gaming bandwagon and prices went up. Then I turned to NTSC games from the US which were a lot cheaper - you could find NES cartridges for $1, but soon that changed, too. That's when I started collecting Japanese games. Now all westerners are into that too so it's getting hard to get good deals on retro games. That's why I've lately been buying a lot of old computer stuff, that hasn't caught on as much yet - like ZX Spectrum, Atari and Commodore - but I bet that will change soon, too.
The only difficulty I have is that my game room is getting full, and I don't want to get rid of stuff. I have a lot of game nights and friends coming over, and even if there are some games that I don't enjoy myself, there could be others that do, and I want there to be games for everyone in my game room. It's basically like a museum, except you can touch everything! Games are made to be played!
Do you play modern-day consoles as well? What's the balance between retro and modern?
I have all the new gen systems as well, including Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U and a 3DS. I prefer my 3DS to my PS Vita, but I prefer my Xbox One before the Wii U. I think a lot of the NIntendo games have grown a bit too child-friendly lately - too many tutorials and not enough challenging gameplay. I don't have a lot of spare time to sit and play through big games like Skyrim, Fallout and other big titles that take hundreds of hours to finish, so I tend to turn to multiplayer games where I can combine hanging out with my friends - IRL or online - or short games like the ones on Xbox Live Arcade that are usually inspired by retro games, like Super Meat Boy, Castle Crashers, Ori & The Blind Forest and so on. Also I love the achievement hunting on Xbox!
What's the retro gaming scene like where you're from? Do you have regular meets with other like-minded players?
There's a huge number of retro gamers in Sweden. The Nintendo culture is especially strong here; Sweden was the first country in Europe to receive the Nintendo Entertainment System. A company called Bergsala had personal contacts with Nintendo in Japan and got the rights to distribute all over Scandinavia. They started their own Club Nintendo here in Sweden, way before NIntendo even had a Club Nintendo, and a lot of kids grew up loving Mario and Zelda. That's why we have a higher percentage of nostalgic Nintendo-generation grown-ups here today I think! Just in Sweden there's at least five annual Retro Gaming conventions spread out over the country, and I attend all of them if I can. It's a good place to meet like-minded people and trade or buy games. I also host a lot of gatherings myself in my game room. Apart from that, there are of course loads of dedicated forums and such online.
Where can our readers keep abreast of your collection?
There's my blog, my Instagram, my Twitter and my YouTube channel. Those are all for my personal retro gaming collection - I run a site with my best friends where we post about newer games as well called Geeky Gals - that has an Instagram account too.
Do you have a final message for the readers of Nintendo Life?
You're never too old to play games! And for God's sake, if you have kids, let them play video games! Otherwise they might turn out as obsessed as me!
Thanks to Heidi for giving up her free time to speak with us and for sharing exclusive shots of her collection!