Yesterday, I surveyed my computer to take stock of the MMOs I am playing, or at least have played quasi-recently. I was surprised, and a bit dismayed, to discover that I have 26 installed. There may be more, too, hidden away on removable hard drives or obscure subdirectories. Besides MMOs, my genre of choice, I have several hundred games installed, sitting there, mostly unplayed.
I am reminded of Umberto Eco’s library.
In his book How to Travel With a Salmon: And Other Essays, Eco describes visitors reactions to his vast library — it contained approximately 30,000 volumes and took up most of his house — in a short piece called ‘How to Justify a Private Library.’
Eco writes that these visitors who inevitably asked him whether he had ‘read them all’ were missing the point. Eco’s collection was valuable to him because most of these books were unread.
I first encountered this story of Umberto Eco’s library of unread books in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, where Taleb describes Eco’s collection as an ‘antilibrary’.
There is a clear utility to a library of unread books — it is a research tool.
But what of a game library, or a game ‘antilibrary’, and particularly one dedicated to MMOs? Surely there is little research value to an unplayed game. Yet I continue to collect.
I notice that the less time I have, the greater my collection of games grows. It’s easy to amass large game collections — Steam sales, cheap hard drive space, the rise of the free-to-play business model all play their part.
There is something else, though. I find it hard to prune the collection, even of games that I have not opened for months, even years. Games I have no intention of logging into, or indeed no longer can. Marvel Heroes, though now defunct for the better part of the year, still occupies tens of gigabytes in a dusty corner of my SSD. It should be removed, of course — but it remains. False hope?
Not really. It has to do with possibility. A library of unread books holds the promise of knowledge. A library of unplayed games holds the promise that another life, another world is still accessible, just a click away.
It is an illusion, but a powerful one. And as I get older, as the path of my life narrows with each decision I make, it’s an illusion I cling to more tightly.
What next? Well, Steam lists over 600 games in the MMO category, so I have a few gaps to fill in.
Hey, I’m posting as part of the Blaugust Reborn Festival of Blogging, organized by Belghast over at Tales of the Aggronaut. The event runs throughout August 2018, and there’s still time to join in, if you’d like. There are also tons of great blogs to follow, check out the current listing here.