Do You Smell Your Video Games?

Here’s a fun fact about me: I was born without a sense of smell. Here’s a fun fact I learned today: people like to smell their physical video games. Help me square these two facts, readers.


While browsing reddit today, I came across a thread about someone surprising their wife with a video game. A commenter suggested the OP install the game for their spouse, to which the OP replied that their wife likes to be the first one to open the game so they can smell it.

This idea confused me. As someone without a sense of smell, I tend to forget that smells exist outside of what I’ve dubbed “smell events”—when people hold their noses when walking in front of trash cans, fan the air above good food toward their face, or otherwise performatively smell things. It never occurred to me that video games boxes or discs would have a distinct smell, the way people say books or cars do. Once my surprise at this (admittingly unsurprising to the smelling public) fact subsided, I wondered what games smell like and why someone would enjoy it.

I enlisted my colleague Ethan, who looked through our unopened games like he was considering a bottle of wine before choosing to unwrap Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet for the Xbox One. He said it smelled like new plastic and lamented the absence of the manual, which he said imparts its own distinct smell. Gita weighed in to agree that the smell of a new game makes her feel “nostalgic.” Fahey said that he asks about smells when he buys games off eBay. Our EiC Stephen said he buys his games digitally and went back to doing things that weren’t shoving game boxes in people’s faces.

So tell me, readers: Do you smell your video games? Do you like it? Bonus points if you can describe the smell, and even more bonus points if you can describe it without using smell words, which is one of my favorite ways to torment smelling people. Thanks in advance for your indulgence.



Smells are associated with memory. The memory of receiving a video game (most of which have a very distinct plastic packaging smell, while the manual also has a specific sort of printed, plasticy paper smell) is always a happy one as a child. You are literally receiving a physical piece of fun and it has a smell distinct from normal toys. Thus, video games literally smell like fun. And happy childhood memories.

Mystery completely solved.