I forgot to mention that I also bought a Gameboy color somewhere in 1999 or 2000. And a Game Boy Advance when it came out. But since I would prefer to play the home system instead of handheld games, I did not had much more than 4 or 5 games for each of those handhelds.
Back to 2004... University was a good thing, yet something that killed me inside as well. I am a very pessimistic person, I always think I'm behind the others so I usually try to work even more to catch up with them. I know now that it's all psychological... But the truth is I worked so hard to succeed in the University that I placed my social life behind and I wore myself out even before starting a real job. I will never be back to what I was. My rhythm was very high. It took me years to realize that. I always thought I needed to work more or I wouldn't make it. How stupid I was... By the time I made it to the 4th grade, I had spent many nights without sleeping and some of those were totally unnecessary. I did every class at the first attempt, never left anything undone. But was it worth it? Many depressions and almost a break down due to excessive dedication took away a small part of my life in the first 4 years. My personality was changed, my head was a complete mess. I drifted away from some people I loved... Took me some time to recover from all that...
But it was in that 4th year when I also found out a few things to boost my collection a little further... Ebay and internet sites to start with. I actually started using Ebay one year before, but only to purchase a few items and not to collect more seriously. I found myself buying the older games for PS1 and even for Master System and Saturn that I missed or couldn't afford before for just a few pounds each. I was in heaven! I also found out some games and limited editions that I had never seen before. I had to get the most important ones! I also started to visit second hand stores and found a lot of great things. Money was short because I did not have a job, but thanks to all those great sources I managed to buy several games every month for pretty cheap prices! That's when I started to collect. But I was so worried about the condition of the games I bought... I just wanted mint and complete games just like every other game I had. My quality standards were very high I must say, but unfortunately, quality had a price I couldn't easily pay.
Little by little I started to buy the special editions I was missing thanks to ebay. First, I only bought editions of the games I really wanted... but sooner than I expected, I started to move on to the other editions of games that I didn't really want but were still worth getting. Suddenly, I heard about press kits for the first time ever and got my first two thanks to my friend Luis Barros. I owe you a lot for those two editions my friend. That day was special: it was just the beginning of the next step in my collection.
By visiting 2nd hand stores I also found some other consoles I never thought of collecting such as Mega Drive, SNES, N64, Dreamcast and most of the systems I never had the chance to own... and some of those I found were as good as new, including their boxes in mint condition. It took me a while but little by little I started to move on to other systems instead of just focusing on the ones that marked my childhood. I met other collectors who had impressive collections listed in forums, including some who dedicated their collections to a single system or a single company. I started to learn a lot and felt more and more interested in raising the number of systems in my collection.
I was totally messed up and realized I was finally going to fail at one class - the final and most important of all, but I had no more energy to do it even if I wanted - and I didn't give up until the very ending, but eventually I was forced to give up. It was one of the toughest decisions in my life. When I realized I was putting too much effort in university, I decided to finally take it lighter and start practicing some sports - martial arts mainly, something soft preferably. I went to practice taekwondo. The next year, 2006, I was repeating that class I failed while starting my internship and had some extra time to play games and to search for the titles I wanted. I started to feel my social life coming back to me after 5 years straight.
That's when my collection started to grow seriously. I graduated by the end of 2007 and found a job soon after, already in 2008. I can't quite say when I started collecting... maybe in 2004? Maybe when I got my Saturn? Have I always been a collector? In a certain way, yes, but I only consider myself a real collector since 2004! When I finally accepted the fact that I loved games and wanted to collect them.