“This town will never die”

Our host Narz brings you a breakdown of everything happening in gaming, introducing you to rising stars in the industry and special guests on every episode of this collaboration with Complex Networks.

In this episode of The Power Up, Jennifer “Narz” Vargas made a pilgrimage to VideoGamesNewYork (VGNY).

VGNY is a physical video game store located in the East Village and an institution in New York. The independent store is famous for its impressive inventory that includes rare and imported titles that are hard to find elsewhere.

Narz remembers a time when getting the last big game meant camping outside a store. But today, virtually all video games, from blockbusters to indie titles, can be downloaded from online stores.

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And mobile games have yet another flexible function: they can be played anywhere. Games like Among Us, PUBG Mobile, and Pokémon Go undermine a sub-industry within games that has generated over $63 billion in profits.

With the skyrocketing popularity of mobile games, faster internet connections and expanding hard drive space, it looks like copies of physical games will become relics of the past.

So how does a store like VideoGamesNewYork adapt and survive in these times?

“The physicality of it,” VGNY director Daniel Mastin told The Power Up. “You know, the medium itself is something people are looking for. You know, where digital things come and go, but actually owning them, owning a physical copy that no one can take from you is very important.

Mastin was referring to the tenuous concept of ownership that modern gamers have with the products they purchase. Consumers don’t actually own the games they buy from digital stores. It’s more accurate to say that they simply have a license to play them, a license that platforms can revoke for any number of reasons.

But if you own an N64 and a Super Mario 64 cartridge, it’s up to you. Nintendo cannot remove the cartridge from you and you will not lose your ability to play it if it is removed from the digital market.

Preserving this heritage is why VGNY is not just a store. It is also a manufacturer.

“A store like this, we’ve gone into real production,” Mastin said. “So now we’re actually helping to produce games on physical media for future generations.”

VGNY is also a kind of video game museum. The store is full of rare and valuable gaming finds, such as signed items from legendary designers such as Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid, Death Stranding) and Shigeru Miyamoto (basically everything you love from Nintendo). Many of these pieces have no price tag and are displayed for cultural purposes.

Next, Narz took to the streets to tell New Yorkers about their favorite mobile games. They referred to a wide list of games ranging from PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and BitLife.

As for what they wanted to see transferred to mobile, their desires were equally diverse. Some of the titles mentioned were FIFA, Spider-Man, and Super Smash Bros.

After playing Nintendo Switch games with pedestrians, Narz concluded The Power Up with some heartfelt words to say about life in New York during the pandemic.

“This city will never die,” Narz said. “No hurricane or pandemic will ever stop us from beating. With ambition, perseverance and a good dose of mobile gaming, nothing can stop us.

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If you liked this piece, check out when The Power Up spoke to Latinx in Gaming about what diversity in gaming means both in representation and behind the scenes.

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