Murphy’s Law applied to Video Game Collecting

Ah, Murphy’s Law. It rules every aspect of our universe. In its simplest form it can be stated like this:

“If anything can go wrong, it will.”

More comprehensively,

“Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way.”

Nobody’s exempt from Murphy’s Law. Everybody’s got their story about how a quick and simple problem turned into an eternal and impossible one, or how something that was very unlikely to happen, happened – with disastrous consequences. Study hard for a test, and the teacher won’t show up.

Murphy’s Law has been applied into almost every field of  science and knowledge, like electronics, aerospace engineering, etc. Inspired by a recent thread on Famicom World, I’m going to use my personal experience to apply Murphy’s Law into one of my favorite hobbies: Video Game Collecting.

This list can be considered a work in progress – it’ll grow as long as ideas keep coming into my mind, and probably with other people’s suggestions.

Flea Market Finds:

  • The amount of money you’re carrying is inversely proportional to the rarity of your finds. When you’re poor, all sorts of interesting stuff will pop up that you badly want but can’t afford. When you’ve got the money to spend, all you find is crap.
  • The more prepared you are for the big stuff, the more it will evade you. You’ll find a cheap and awesome arcade machine when your car is at the shop.
  • If you’re looking for a particular game, it will evade you as much as possible, even if it’s a common one. If you look harder, you might never find it.
  • If you manage to find that game you’re looking for, it’ll be in terrible condition, ridiculously expensive, or both.
  • If you decide not to get it because of the condition/price factor, Murphy will take notice and make your quest even harder. Your chances of finding that game again will be smaller than before, making you regret your decision of letting that opportunity go. Try returning the next day, and the seller/game won’t be there anymore.
  • OK, so you’ve decided to buy the game anyway. After all, you’ve been looking for it for months on end with no luck, and this opportunity may never repeat itself. Happiness ensues, you finally got it, even if you’ve paid a pretty penny for it or the condition wasn’t up to your standards. Now that hard-to-find game appears everywhere, at a lower price and better condition, just to taunt you. You regret your decision.
  • Don’t want the Player’s Choice/Million Seller/Greatest Hits edition? It’ll be everywhere you look. Want it? It’ll be nowhere to be found.
  • You’ll never notice blatant faults on the spot. You’ll always notice them long after you could’ve used them as a way to lowball the price.
  • Think too much about buying something and when you come back to get it, you’ll find out that somebody else snagged it while you were making up your mind.
  • Think too little (aka being an impulse buyer) and you’ll run out of money just when the really interesting stuff starts to show up.
  • Found something that one of your friends has been looking for? If you tell your friend with the hopes that he’ll be able to snag it, he won’t. If you buy it for him, you’ll find out that he already got it.
  • If you come across a rare and valuable system, it’ll be missing critical hookups, like non-standard AV cables.
  • Getting games for a system that you don’t own as an excuse to get it rarely works.
  • Handheld systems will be missing their battery covers.
  • Nintendo 64 systems will be missing their RAM Expansion cover.

Hardware Issues

  • You’ve found a cartridge so mint that it seems like it was never ever used. Even the edge connector looks as shiny and pristine as it can be. Surprise! It doesn’t work! But the dirtiest, most abused cartridges work perfectly!
  • If you live in a 220V country and you come across a gaming system from the US (110V), even if the seller assures you that it’s working, it has been plugged straight into the wall, causing the destruction of its power supply.
  • Old CD-based systems will have a weak laser diode. You might get lucky and a good cleaning followed by a laser power adjustment could be all that’s needed to restore it into working condition. Most of the time you’ll only get a little bit of extra life out of it, forcing you to get a replacement laser pickup assembly, which of course, costs an arm and a leg.
  • Came across a faulty system, like a Game Gear with no sound or poor screen contrast? You’ve probably got it because you remember reading on the internets about that particular failure and how easy it is to fix. You try the aforementioned fix, but to no avail. You soon discover that it’s got a unique failure mode that you’ve never seen before and nobody on the Internet seems to know about it. It soon ends up in your junk box because it cannot be fixed.
  • The dreaded Atari Jaguar’s Red Screen Of Death is never a cartridge connection problem!
  • If you can do a component-level diagnosis of a dead system, you’ll find that the faulty parts are always the exotic, hard to replace chips, like the custom CPU or audio ASIC. The common-as-dirt glue logic chips almost never fail.
  • If you don’t know the polarity of a given system, the first one you try will be the opposite – usually with disastrous results. Try reversing your initial choice and Murphy’s Law still applies.
  • When you think that the problem might be as easy as a blown fuse and therefore quickly solved, you’ll end up with a full-fledged extremely difficult problem. In these cases the fuse is always fine and all the voltages appear to be correct.
  • Cables will be frayed in the non-replaceable end of the plug (e.g. the Multi AV Out plug in Nintendo cables instead of the RCA jacks).
  • Old computers will have stuck or dead keys. If the key’s stuck, a unique piece like a very precise spring will be missing and irreplaceable. If the key doesn’t register, you might think that it could just be dirty, but you’ll find that the membrane has been damaged, making for a complicated repair.
  • Your favorite game cartridge with a maxed out save file (e.g. your beloved RPG that you’ve been playing since you were 7) will have a dead battery by the time you want to make sure if the save file is still  there. On the other hand, that crappy sports game will keep useless scores and stats for 20+ years.
  • Doing a mod? You’ll be able to get every material except for one very critical piece. Replacements won’t work correctly.

Game Playing Issues:

  • Disc Read Errors/freezes will always happen on a very important part of the game, far away from any save points.

7 Responses to “Murphy’s Law applied to Video Game Collecting”

  1. satoshimatrix Says:

    My theory is that Murphy’s law is karma based. Try to do good deeds in life and maybe Murphy will leave you alone more often. It seems to work at least somewhat. Maybe.

  2. Matej Horvat Says:

    This list is absolutely true.

  3. Zim_256 Says:

    I LOL’d so hard while reading this, it’s SOOO true, it happens so often…

    Bought a HP M21 digital camera to perform a easy faulty-power-button fix and it was so messed that it had to gone to the junk box, the thing was reading the power button correcly, the magnetic power sensor was working allright, the voltages are all correct and the damn thing keep soft resetting itself and wouldn’t start. I paid some nice u$s 20 for a rare TFT-LCD display that has interlaced pixels (RGB, RGB, RGB – BGR, BGR, BGR) and i don’t even know if it works because the digicam never started. And some stepping motor and a 4MP CCD that i will never use. 😦 If it wasn’t my camera i can assure you that the easy fix coud made it work.

    I’ve got a free non-working A4 scanner and it was the most easy fix ever, the motor driver IC and some caps was burnt, replaced those and it worked but is parallel port and no computer has that port anymore. Gone to the junk box.


  4. some_german Says:

    holy shit. so much truth!

  5. Tetche May Cagalawan Says:

    Murphy’s Law is really true. Do not wish to get the thing if you know it is wrong. We should keep in mind that there are more things that we prioritize than the things that we want to buy. Like the video game, do not attempt to buy if you know that it is wrong. Use your money on the important things. It’s better to live without that. As we observe in our community, many people are thief because of the things that they want to have. Stop being a materialistic.

    Be contented of what you have rather than doing bad things to get of what you want.

  6. GermanP Says:

    Another one: The expansion port cover will be missing in the Sega Genesis Model 1 you bought. All others will have it.

  7. Wyatt8740 Says:

    I know what you mean. I knew a shop once where earthbound showed up regularly, saved up some money, and by the time I had enough, the store had closed. The liquidation sale went on without me because I didn’t learn it had closed down until about a month after it did so.

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