MetalFRO's Blog

Posted on Jan 7th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under wish book, Sears, video games, catalog,

The Sears 1991 Wish Book. The stuff dreams are made of.

Sometimes, a fond old memory can come rushing back to the forefront of your mind with such force that, you get a similar endorphin rush experiencing that memory as you did when it was happening to you the first time. Good memories of a departed loved one spring to mind, and you're instantly transported back in time to a happy memory of you and them, and you get that warm, safe feeling that makes you smile. Perhaps you had a favorite sports personality as a kid, and meeting them to sign a baseball or take a photo with them was a highlight. Years later, you find that baseball in a box in your parents' basement, or come across that photo in an old album, and the memories come rushing back, giving you that same big smile you had when it first happened. For me, I have very fond memories of lying on the floor of my grandparent's living room, next to my younger brother, quietly perusing the Sears and JC Penney catalogs my grandparents received in the mail.

In conversation with Addicted, after recording the latest Shoot the Core-cast episode (*shameless self-promotion*), we got to talking about the unfortunate closing down of a couple game stores in my area, which led to further discussion about many Sears stores closing across the nation. Indeed, the story here in my city is closing, along with another in the nearby city, and the store in the large community I spent the most time in as a kid may also not be long for this world. And while I haven't made it a habit to shop there in many years, I still feel a minor sense of loss in the downfall of Sears, like Toys 'R Us before it, because it was a fixture in my life for so long. I used to shop there as a kid with my mom, picking out school clothes, or with my parents on a weekend, checking out this or that, while we were killing time in the mall, waiting for the theater to be ready to seat us for the movie we were seeing. The impending death of many mainstay retail chains is a symbolic reminder of my own mortality, and as I'm entering mid-life, it can be sobering.

I could never imagine so many beautiful Game Boy games at one time!

Rather than being an article bemoaning my getting old, or waxing philosophical about some nebulous mid-life crisis, I thought it would be fun to extrapolate on some good childhood memories about Sears. Specifically, to explore the Sears Wish Book catalogs that were always present at the home of my grandparents. Sitting or lying on the floor of their small farmhouse in rural America, and a good 40 miles from the nearest Sears store, my younger brother and I used to read the Sears Wish Book catalogs, along with the JC Penney catalogs, as if they were prophetic writings, somehow knowing that we would be lucky enough to one day own all of the fun toys, board games, computer stuff, and bicycles documented within. But most of all, I was salivating over the video games.

For me, in the early 90's, it was all about the video games. Sure, I still wanted giant Nerf guns and was always eyeing a new bicycle, but gaming was king. By 1991, I had a Game Boy, and was already lusting after my next gaming acquisition. The Sears & Roebuck Corporation would likely have been quite pleased to fulfill my every childhood gaming desire, with the help of my parents and their bank account, of course. Thumbing through the pages of the Wish Book, I got to see game boxes, consoles, accessories, and screen shots of games I could only dream of, or things I might have played in fleeting moments at a friend's house, only to wish I had one of my very own.

It's been a minute or two since anyone has seen M.U.S.H.A. at this price point.

The Game Boy games were always on my mind, of course, because I still had Nintedo's little gray box of wonder at that point, but I always had my eyes on other things. I had played the Sega Genesis at a school friend's house, so that was fresh in my memory. My obstacle there was the lone family TV: my parents wouldn't allow me to have a home console, because they said (rightly so) that I would monopolize the TV. I had to be patient, and wait until my opportunity would present itself. I needed to stay the course, and find a window where I could somehow, some way, acquire a TV of my very own, so I could achieve what my friends already had: my own console to play at home. Heavy foreshadowing implied, of course.

The other handheld game system I wanted at the time was the Atari Lynx. That magical contraption was the stuff of wonder to a younger version of me. How was it that Atari, whose previous game system I had played, the 2600, with its primitive graphics and sound, put the power of the NES (and then some!) in the palm of my hands? Or, rather, in a very bulky, but still reasonably portable package, that would kinda sorta fit in my hands? This was wondrous to me as a kid, and I marveled at the screenshots of the Lynx games that I would no doubt get to play someday. Spoiler alert: I still don't own a Lynx, despite still very much having the desire to do so. I just haven't made it a priority.

I frequently returned to the Atari Lynx page in the Wish Book.
Many dreams of playing Ninja Gaiden on the go were had.

The other pipe dream I had was to own a TurboGrafx 16. I had already seen screenshots, and read game reviews in Video Games & Computer Entertainment. I had heard from my younger brother, who was lucky enough to play one at a friend's house, that it was pretty cool. And while the games all looked cool on the page, I never got to see one in person. Unfortunately, the Sears location nearest us didn't carry them in-store. Neither did the local Kay-Bee Toys, much to my chagrin. I wouldn't realize the dream of owning my own TurboGrafx system until 2 decades later, when I finally purchased one over the internet. Now, I own its Japanese forebear, the PC Engine. It's a much different world than the one I grew up in, it's safe to say.

Ah, the TurboGrafx, in all its glory. The TurboExpress still calls my name.

Through all the many visits to the little farmhouse where my grandparents used to live, the many hours squirreled away playing Game Boy on the floor, tucked in the corner next to my grandpa's rocking chair, or sitting by my arthritis-riddled grandmother, comforting her with my presence, it occurs to me that I also spent much time dreaming of a day when I would have enough money to purchase all the video games I wanted, and would be old enough to play them all the time, without having to worry about other things. This utopia has never come to pass, but the memories of a simpler time persist, and I'm thankful that I can still recall them vividly, and with much fondness. And while my grandparents are all gone at this point, I can think of them and smile, reminding myself what it was like to be a child, with my life ahead of me, and all the silly thoughts I concocted during those days, many involving my beloved pastime of video games.

Many thanks to Addicted, for helping knock loose the memories of the Sears Wish Book, and for the inspiration to write this article.

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This really brings me back. I feel like I was reading this just a couple days ago!
@Addicted: LOL, somehow I think maybe you were Wink
Wow, just wow.  I used to have a stack of these babies back in the late 80's and thumb through them for inspiration, until they were replaced with whatever game magazine I could talk my parents into getting me at the store, like NP, GamePro, or even VG&CE.  Man, those are some great memories.  One of my favorite parts of the old catalogs is the massive variety of stuff you could find in these catalogs.  Oh, and the awesome (and sometimes wildly inaccurate) descriptions of the games.

The Lynx was something of a mixed bag, and I didn't keep one for the same reason as the Nomad; too many batteries and the screen was too janked up.  Of course that is all different now, and getting a 100% working Lynx, better than back in the day (with the Mcwill mod), is no longer a pipe dream.  Super pricey, but awesome.  Fun fact, most of the Lynx games were really good facsimiles of the arcade originals. Roadblasters is a great example, and amazing to see (even the YouTube video) given the day.

I got a T16 for $50, but picked up Dungeon Explorer before it left the shelf.  I didn't appreciate the system very much at the time, though, which is a shame, considering how good the music for Dungeon Explorer still is.  Makes me want to drop the $30 for the card on ebay now, lol. 
wow the memories! I can't even tell you how many 90's Christmases I owe to that catalog. (And JC Penny). These scans are amazing, though. Thank you for sharing.
SO many good memories from the Sears and JC Penney catalog.  I would scan these catalogs and use them for my Christmas list putting on there many, many NES games.  Sometimes change isn't so good.

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