Collecting keepsakes is an amazing way to bring the love of our games, movies, books and more into our daily lives on a more intimate level. Collectible statues, replicas, and other odds and ends have been a hobby for me for over 30 years – from becoming Commander Shepard with an exact replica of the N7 helmet to harnessing the power of ruining friendships with the Energy Sword of Halo. Over the years, this love of collecting has transcended simply being a hobby and turned into a means of empowerment and, at times, a symbol of safety. It sounds silly, but listen to me.
Disclaimer: The following article contains sensitive topics, including thoughts of self-harm and / or suicide
I started my journey as a hardcore collector with the NES when I was four years old. I was in love with Contra when I was a kid, and my life goal was to find all the collectible and action figures, and make my little kid work to earn money so that an adult could buy for me. Super Mario, F-Zero, Legend of Zelda and so many others presented these worlds that I could fall into and become something bigger than me. Collectibles have given me the chance to bring this power to the real world. The road to the game is paved with epic loot, and bringing this treasure into my daily life has helped me at many pivotal moments over the years.
My home life growing up was tumultuous, filled with homelessness, abuse, abandonment and being forced to grow up far too fast. The times I was at home had some happy times, especially playing Contra III with my mom on the SNES, but those times, looking back, were rare. Because of the way I grew up, making friends was often impossible because I was grounded in myself from a young age that there was no real reason for anyone to want to be in my life – that my presence was an uncomfortable inconvenience to anyone I came into contact with. Despite the efforts to try to overcome this as a child it was difficult and before I knew it these collectibles in my possession have become so much more than pieces of plastic, they have become tokens of strength and even ‘friendship.
In college I was forced to leave my town and change schools because the bullying was so bad that one of my tormentors brought a gun and bragged about “taking out the trash” with it. me after hours. The school was small, 250 students at each grade under its roof, and the answer to the evidence that a gun had been brought was not to reprimand the person who had brought it, but to tell me to leave so as not to cause future problems. “Go from there and be immediately pushed into an unfamiliar place with no time to process (you have to keep in mind that children always learn who they are, treatment takes time and not everyone has the tools to doing it) was difficult, to say the least. But I had my games, I had my collection, and I had my focus which has been a catalyst for some of my most valuable friendships to date on shared hobbies.
Through these trials, the game has become my haven of peace, a chance to become someone other than me in a world other than here. I could be who I wanted to be; a hero without limits, or an adventurer without excuses. Every collector’s item from a beloved game has become a little solace derived from those games to take with me to the real world. They weren’t just a decorative thing that was pretty to look at, they became so much more than that. One collector’s item, in particular, has become a commemorative way of even celebrating being alive.
When I was 22, I joined the military a little later than most. I joined for different reasons: to escape my family life, to support a friend who was going through a premature “midlife crisis” when she decided to join me, and because I wanted to discover more aspects of me. -even. I might also have had the illusion that I could be the next Master Chief, but we’re going to gloss over that.
When I dispatched to my very first duty station aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-sized transporter that housed more than 6,500 sailors, marines and even a team of seals; it was a massive culture shock. I went from being very lonely and reserved to being surrounded by thousands of other people up close at all times of the day. Seriously, you couldn’t even use the toilet (also called the “head”) on your own! It was crazy adjusting to that, but I had a few little Halo and Star Wars action figures that gave me a bit of familiarity.
I remember one particular moment in my deployment that will stay with me forever. I worked on the Air Dale flight deck and transferred to the night crew mid-deployment, which meant over 30 hours of standby to ensure flight operations were supported. This happened shortly after the announcement of our extended deployment, news that left much of the crew demoralized to the point that we even had a few flight mates commit suicide. I will always remember that night: it was 2:00 a.m. and I gazed at the stars atop the flight deck in an extraordinarily rare moment of pure loneliness. There was no one on the bridge; there was only the expansive night sky that embraced every place the sky met the sea. It was beautiful and it should have been peaceful. With nothing but the night sky and the lull of the waves crashing against the hull, all I could think of was how defeated and hollow I felt. Despite my meditative environment in the midst of the ongoing chaos, I had that moment where I questioned every decision I ever made and had a moment of weakness where the only logical step was to simply not no longer be here.
I remember standing on the edge of the ship just over the catch net designed to prevent people from falling by mistake. I remember specifically positioning myself on the prop because I didn’t want anything to go wrong. And I remember being completely calm as I got ready to jump. I rolled my eyes once more and had the most geeky, nerdiest, unabashed “fan out” moment when I randomly thought about one of my gaming franchises. favorites: Mass Effect. I remember thinking, “I can’t do this anymore, I’m not meant for this” and, I’m not kidding, I had a moment where I was like, “Tough, kid. What would Commander Shepard do ?! They wouldn’t cry on a deserted flight deck at 2 a.m., that’s right. “And boy, that was the pep talk of the century.
Shepard wouldn’t take that last step away from a second chance. They united a galaxy, they overcame indescribable obstacles and they were a larger than life person under the veneer. They weren’t real either, but the notion of that character was enough to pull me out of the haze and the ledge. When we finally returned to the United States, the first thing I did was purchase a Mass Effect statue, a collector’s item that has been at the center of every place I have lived since I arrived. left the service to remind me that I did it and that I am going to continue doing it.
Since then, my collection has grown enormously. From full armor replicas to stunning 1: 1 scale statues, every addition to my collection reminds me that there is more beyond my bubble. Life is unlimited. It’s filled with villains and heroes. It’s filled with difficult times and moments of triumph. Life is not always the sun and the roses, but it is life and we only have it for a short period of time. We are stronger than we think, and I am the first to ignore my own strengths. As silly as it sounds, being a dedicated collector reminds me of this strength and allows me new ways to thank the creators of these universes for their incredible vision and their stories that have positively impacted my own daily life.
And you? Do you like collectibles? Do you have a personal story attached to one of your favorite pieces? Sound off in the comments section below! And thanks for reading!