My Introduction to Video Games
I’m about to be 38 years old. Why am I telling you that? Well, I feel like it helps provide a perspective into why collecting retro and even modern video games are so interesting to me. I won an NES in 1986 or 1987 (I’m not sure which) from a little league baseball raffle. Basically, if you sold over 500 candy bars, you got your name into a drawing for the NES and a copy of the game simply titled “Baseball”. My dad was a driver for UPS and basically did all the work for me by selling the candy bars while he was on his route. Low and behold, they drew my name. Until that day I wasn’t even aware of the NES and my only exposure to video games was playing my uncle’s Atari 2600 while at my grandparent’s house. Winning that NES changed my life forever!
I didn’t fall in love with video games immediately though. I vaguely remember thinking the NES was cool after I spent some time with it, but being I was somewhere around 6 years old, my attention span was short and I had many other interests. I can remember receiving a handful of games that Christmas from various family members and I’d be lying if I said I remembered exactly which ones I received. I feel like that started my obsession though. Now I had options other than Super Mario Bros and Baseball! Still, my time with the NES was limited because it was connected to the living room TV and my family had shows to watch at certain times and rented VHS tape that had to be viewed by a certain day before they were due back at the rental store. That too was soon to change.
The following year my grandparents and parents all chipped in to buy me a TV for my birthday. I didn’t grow up as part of a family with lots of money and TVs seemed like a much bigger purchase back then than they do these days so it was a huge deal to have my own TV in my room. I’m not sure of the size, but if I had to guess I would say it was maybe a 19-inch screen. It had 2 knobs protruding from the wood grain on the right side; one for VHF channels and one for VHF channels. There was also a small switch to allow toggling between VHF and UHF. The rear of the TV had the 2 screws sticking out for you to connect various things. I remember my dad got me what was called an RF modulator to simplify connecting things to the TV allowing for RCA and coaxial connections to be made much more easily. Now that I could play NES without dealing with the schedules of my other family members, I became hooked!
I’ll spare you the details of the next few years, but in summation, I kept acquiring new games through various methods and my love for video games continued to flourish. My dad would sometimes say things like “If you score a goal today at your soccer game, I’ll buy you a new game.” My mom would approach things differently; setting goals such as “If you have straight A’s on this report card we can go buy another NES game.” Regardless, I was motivated and it really helped that I was a good student. I can’t honestly say I earned a ton of games through the sports-related goals my dad would set for me, but I only made a couple of B’s the entirety of going to school so I got a lot of games that way. When I had friends over, we played NES games. When the weekend hit and the weather wasn’t nice enough to play outside, I locked myself into my bedroom and played more video games. As my love grew, so did my collection of games.
From Casual Gamer to Obsessed
There came a point around the age of 9 or 10 where two very important things happened; my uncle gave me an Apple IIC, and I got a Sega Genesis. The Apple was a big deal because it came with a large plastic container full of 5.25" disks, most of which were games. It also came with a stack of magazines that each had the BASIC code for at least 1 game. I remember sitting in front of that computer on the weekend for what seemed like hours; meticulously typing each numbered line of code, saving the game to a blank disc, then crossing my fingers as I tried to run the game. This was my introduction to writing code as I later gained a basic understanding of what I was typing and began making changes to the code. This was also another platform for which I could play video games. Meanwhile, the Genesis collection grew through the usual means and slowly won my affection over my NES.
At some point, I got a GameBoy. It was always a second-class citizen to me as I much preferred a home console over a tiny, pea green screen. The GameBoy got me through some road trips and long stints in waiting rooms though and for that, I very much appreciated having it.
The “Dark” Period
Things didn’t really change for a few years. I kept acquiring games, kept inviting friends over to play them with me, and continued to view video games as one of the great things in life. Then high school hit and suddenly I was more interested in playing guitar and girls. Video games took a back seat except for the random times I was at a friend’s house and we would throw down on some GoldenEye or Micro Machines on the N64. The Genesis remained the last video game console of my childhood. I still enjoyed playing video games, I was just caring a little less about them.
It was probably my senior year when I decided that selling my entire collection of video games was a good idea. My parents were having a garage sale and told my sister and me that if we put things in the sale, we could keep the money we made. I needed money for dates, gas was up to $.98 a gallon at the time which had me irate, and $4.75 per hour stocking shelves at the local grocery store wasn’t allowing me to spend money the way I wanted. I got rid of it all!
The Rebirth of the Gamer Within
Fast forward to my stint at college and my unofficial roommate (basically a good friend that crashed on the couch for free) had a Sony PlayStation. My actual roommate had a Sega Master System. When we weren’t partying or didn’t feel like going to class, these systems got used heavily. I beat Final Fantasy VII during this period and gained an appreciation for the Master System and its library. Still, I didn’t own any video games.
A few years later I moved to Austin, TX with what is now my wife to further pursue my music career. I had joined a metal band while in college and we quickly felt like we had outgrown our hometown area and needed to move to a bigger market to hopefully “make it” in the music biz. My mother bought my wife a Nintendo GameCube which was sort of my doing. I might have told my mom that was a good idea. My thought process was that by getting a GameCube I might get my wife into video games and, I would FINALLY have a video game system under my roof again! I wanted to play video games again, and I wanted my wife to love video games as much as I did. She did eventually gain love and respect for video games, but it is nowhere near the love and respect I possess. I also convinced my mom to give me her old PS2 around this time. She bought it to be used as a DVD player and the price of standalone DVD players had come down at this point. Finally, I was acquiring video games again!
Years passed and video games slowly became a bigger part of my life. I would invite friends over to play Guitar Hero and have some drinks, I would periodically grab a handful of old games to take to GameStop and trade in for a new game or two, and I regularly killed time playing video games again. It was nice. I got into video games enough that I had to have a PS3 near launch. A coworker had a PSP for sale and I jumped on it. Slowly my collection was growing, but I still didn’t view it as collecting. I was merely enjoying video games as much as I could.
Kids Change Everything
When I found out my wife was pregnant, I knew that the habit of buying videos games regularly was about to end. I did immediately have the thought “I can’t wait until the kiddo is old enough to play video games with me!” I didn’t really get a lot of new games or consoles the first few years of parenthood. I did, at one point, happen into a lucky deal with a coworker of my wife’s that had an old NES in PERFECT condition and 18 games they wanted to unload for a whopping $100. I didn’t even hesitate to grab that up!
Once my son was about 4, we got a Wii. They had been out for a few years already so I got a used on one the cheap and introduced my son to video games. The simplicity of some of the Wii games really made it easy for my kiddo to enjoy playing them. Suddenly playing video games was a family activity we all seemed to enjoy. This led to the decision to buy a Wii U as a Christmas gift for the household a couple of years later.
My collection kept growing as I was no longer selling off games or trading them in for new ones. I had a handful of PS2 and GameCube games that survived several moves too. Once I got my first “good paying” developer job, my amazing wife decided it was time for me to have a current-gen console and got me the PS4 Pro for Christmas the year that the Pro model was released. My love for video games was now shared with my wife and son and we regularly played games together.
From “Gamer” to “Collector”
Finally, a couple of years ago, I felt a deep nostalgia for the older games and consoles. I was not only interested in getting an NES and a Genesis like I had growing up, but I thought about the consoles I completely missed out on such as the Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, and more. I occasionally found myself on eBay picking up a new console or game. Then we discovered a local retro games shops called Game Over Videogames. Before we knew it, we were taking at least a couple of trips a month to GameOver to pick up something new-to-us.
This was the point I decided I wanted to be a “collector”. I enjoyed tracking down old games and consoles, trying to find the best deal, repairing these old items to work like new once again, and ultimately, playing these older games. I was hooked! It occurred to me that real collectors don’t pay retail, so I looked for good eBay lots, went to flea markets, and scoured Craiglist to find the best deals possible. Over the past 2 years I’ve gained about 250 more games and my console collection now totals 26. My love for collecting continues to grow stronger as the size of my collection swells. My son has even started a collection of his own now and probably has to be one of the few 10 years olds around that asked for a PS2 of his own even though he already has his own Switch, 3DS, and gaming PC. We’re now a family of gamers and I’ve become a passionate collector over the years. It was a long journey for me to get to this point, but now I’m excited about the years of collecting ahead of me!