Video games paid the bills
Growing up in the Netherlands, Sjoerd Rutten was a kid who always found a way to entertain himself. One afternoon he decided to go to his cousin’s house and play together; when he got there, his cousin was playing with something that young Sjoerd had never seen before. “When I walked in the door, my cousin was playing an action video game on the old Commodore 64.” said Rutten. “I loved the concept and I loved the graphics. That was my earliest impression of video games.” Sjoerd left his cousin’s house that day with a new love in his life. A love that would build countless memories, breed a new hobby, and help provide him an avenue into his future.
Shortly after seeing video games for the first time, Sjoerd quickly learned what it was like to have a game system of his own when his uncle showed up at his house to give him an old PC to keep. “It had a very small hard drive but it did have some games on it so we put it up in our attic and before you know it, I was playing games like Prince of Persia and Secret Agent. That’s when my interest really started to intensify.” said Rutten. Little by little, Sjoerd continued to get games from family and friends growing his PC and new Game Boy collection. “That’s when I started playing games like Carmageddon, Tomb Raider and lots of popular Nintendo games like Super Mario Land.”
In high school, Sjoerd did plenty of chores around the house so he could make money to buy video games. At school he and his friends were quickly becoming fascinated with newly released first shooter games. “At that time games like Quake and Grand Theft Auto were really popular and we used to play them all the time.” said Rutten. Sjoerd fully enjoyed his video games but his mind wasn’t set on building a bigger collection. Instead he was focused on going to college with the hopes of becoming a doctor.
Following high school, Rutten applied for and was accepted into Maastricht University in the Netherlands. There he entered the Health Sciences program, taking required courses, and biding his time to be selected for the medical program. While in school, his interest in video games never waned. One day his curiosity led him to take a trip to a nearby flea market that changed his whole video game life. “I was thinking about all of those fun video games that I always wanted when I was a kid but never got. That day at the market I bought a whole box of old Nintendo games for a great deal and started looking through them.” said Sjoerd. Rutten reached into the box, put his favorite games in one pile, put the ones he didn’t want in the other pile, and then began researching all of them. That’s when he realized that the games he didn’t want were actually valuable and could be sold to make good money.
After leaving the flea market Sjoerd sold his first game, Nintendo’s Chip n’ Dale 2. His desire to buy and resell video games accelerated behind his determination to make money for himself while making his way through what ended up being ten years of college; four years of general studies and six years of medicine. “I did a lot of reading, I did a lot of research, and around my studying I did all of my buying and selling simply to make money for me to live on and also so I could buy whatever I wanted to buy.” said Rutten. “Yes, it took up a lot of my time but those ten years of buying and reselling video games is how I was able to support myself through school.” During that time Sjoerd also started a YouTube Channel as Dr. Retro (which now has over 12,000 subscribers) so that he could share his passion for video games and also show people all of the cool stuff that he had. “My channel is most known for unboxing videos of rare items, video game finds and collection overview videos called ‘Let’s Play’ which is a gaming and vlogging style video.
Despite buying and selling the majority of his collection, Rutten still has over 3,500 video games that he’s decided to keep. Each game that remains in his collection falls under a criteria that he created with three important elements to look for. ”For me the most important thing is that a video game is GOOD. Good means games that I like a lot and that the general public likes a lot.” continued Sjoerd. ”Games like Super Mario Brothers, Sonic, FIFA Soccer and really any shooter/role-play strategy game is what I consider good.”
In addition to seeing the good in a game, Sjoerd’s next must for his collection is RARE. ”I’m so intrigued by rare because it means that these games have a special story behind them.” said Rutten. ”My rare items include old Nintendo games like the Stadium Events, Action 52, and I even have commemorative discs that were given only to PlayStation employees to celebrate a company event or accomplishment.”
Finally the last element of Sjoerd’s criteria is OBSCURE. ”To me obscure means horribly bad graphics, horribly bad voiceovers, only released in certain countries and just horribly bad altogether.” said Rutten. ”I have a game called Que Pasa el Neng that was only released on Spanish TV. Most people aren’t looking for games with bad features but I love those obscurities.”
Today Sjoerd Rutten is 30 years old and in the final stages of becoming a primary care physician in the Netherlands. Though he collects more casually now, his days of buying and reselling games is not something he'll soon forget. “Making money to support myself was only part of that phase. When I look back, that period of my life taught me how to be self-sufficient and it taught me how to learn and use basic business values. I’ll always be grateful for that time in my life,” said Rutten. When asked what his all time favorite video game is Sjoerd quickly said Little Big Adventure 2, which fittingly enough is one of the first games he played in his attic over two decades ago when a little boy from the Netherlands was about to set sail on his own little big adventure through the world of collecting, buying, and selling video games.