I'm a fan of the British author, Nick Hornby. His style is very approachable for all readers, it's humorous and has a nice way of making the reader reflect upon his/her own life. If you're not a reader, you may still be familiar with his works through their screenplays. Some of Hornby's more well-known adaptations include About a Boy
, Fever Pitch
(sadly Americanized to replace soccer with baseball...), and my personal favorite, High Fidelity
. High Fidelity
tracks the diminishing relationship of record store owner, Rob and his girlfriend Laura. After they separate, he reflects on his past relationships to get a better understanding of "what is wrong with him," even going so far as to meet with his old girlfriends to grill them on his hang-ups. What ensues is quite comical and is really worth a viewing if you haven't already seen it. So what does this have to do with gaming you ask? Well, stick with me here a little while longer if you haven't veered from the page already.
Just the other day, I was inserting a few records into my collection alphabetically and happened to think of a scene from the movie in which Rob's friend Dick comes by his apartment to try and get him out and get his mind off the break up. Rob is organizing his hundreds of records and Dick is taking in all of the chaos and trying to determine what kind of "system" he is using. Take a watch, but fair warning, the content is NSFW or kids due to language:
After organizing my records, I went up to my gameroom to put together a new shelf, move some current shelves into their new spots, and offloaded and reloaded all of the games. It's funny, but as I put my hands on these games, I'd spot a particular title in a stack and pause for just a moment to reflect on where I had purchased it, who I had traded with for it, and in some cases, who "gave" it me. Though I wasn't organizing these games "autobiographically," I soon realized that I had unknowingly created and surrounded myself with a good portion of my life's memories in the process of simply collecting.
For me, it's easy to remember about how much I paid for the majority of games that I have, especially those really great finds. Growing up, I spent many a weekend with my grandfather at the flea market near my parent's home. Even today, going there when I visit brings back memories of how he would barter for tools and automobile parts, and how he would buy me 2600 carts and action figures in the mid-80's. The landscape of the flea market has changed from people selling "junk" and cleaning out their homes, to people selling the newest shoe trends and fake designer pocketbooks, but the place has been kind to me over the years and I still make an effort to go back. A few years ago, I grabbed a Bonk's Adventure
(NES) in a stack of four of five random games for $3, and I snagged Godzilla 2
for $20 from a guy who knew the value, but wanted it to go to a good home; the game wasn't even out on the table, but when I told him I collected, he went to his car to get it for me.
Besides the flea market, I have been given carts and systems by generous friends (Hagane
for Super Fami), local store owners (Snow Bros.
), overly generous people on this site (Dragon Fighter
, Recca Summer Carnival
repro, "L'Empereur,"and a Golden Axe
manual to complete my game, to name a few), and my realtor from 4 years ago dropped off a Colecovision and 16 games at my work just a few weeks ago! These items are all special to me, not necessarily because of their value, but because someone gave me something they knew I would really enjoy and that they thought that much of me as a person to do so. It's a good feeling and something that always makes me happy to return the favor.
As most of you know, the older games are dear to me and due to their age, some hold very special memories. If you've seen my "The People of RFGeneration" interview, you may remember the story of my grandmother's love of Grand Prix
on the 2600, or my memories of the Tempest
arcade cab at the old country store near my great-grandparent's place at the lake. I remember my uncle getting the first NES in our family during the Christmas of 1987 and how we played Pro Wrestling
the entire day. I remember him coming home from college and bringing me a copy of Baseball Stars
, which to this day, is still my favorite baseball game across every system. Every time I come across one of these games in the wild, see it on my shelf, or pop it in to play, the memories associated with each of these time capsules of plastic and circuitry take me back. Though these are fantastic memories and hold a dear place in my heart, some video game related memories.....well how shall I put it.....have their own special story.
**triangles are e-veel and the froo-its of the dev-eel**
Like many of you, I still have some of the games that I grew up with, and like most of you.....regrettably, not all of them. I still have my copy of Data East's Tag Team Wrestling
(NES), which I traded my Appetite for Destruction
cassette for in the 5th grade. For several years, I regretted that trade. However, in a twist of fate, my decision had inadvertently saved that tape from dire ostracism. For around the same time, my newly energized, Christian, Southern mom had taken a bible study class on America's Youth and Satanism, it wasn't long before my other Guns & Roses and Def Leppard (because triangular lettering was a sign of the devil...I seriously didn't make this up) cassettes suddenly vanished from my grey CaseLogic carrying case. Years later, I found these cassettes in a wicker basket on top of the refrigerator (along with some sweet flea market acquired throwing stars). Nice, just when no one listened to cassettes anymore..... It turned out, I got the better end of the deal, since "wrasslin'" was a post-church staple in our household and cassette tapes were going the way of the Donner Party. I thought about these events the other night and just chuckled. I can't wait for the day to tell my kids about their "Mee Maw" and her wacky exploits of '88.
As I was moving my games around the other day, I noticed that my copy of The Adventure of Link
had the words, "R & M Video" neatly scratched into its surface. For some, coming across such an item may be a deterrent to buying it and they may even shake their head and mumble, "What a shame...," but not me. You see, the name of the video store on this cart holds a special significance for me. Growing up, I went to church and played soccer with the store owner's son and spent many a weekend and summer day over at his house playing all of the store's games he brought home. His dad even let him play the new games for two weeks before he put them out! It was every kids dream to know a guy who had access to hundreds of games and whose parents were always kind and welcoming of us hanging out. He and I attended middle school, high school, and even college together, and though his dad closed the store down sometime along the way, we still spent many an evening in college gaming together. Shortly after college, I heard from my parents that his dad had passed away at a somewhat early age. This game is special to me and a reminder not only of those carefree days as a kid, but also of a family who I spent a great deal of time with growing up, especially the kindhearted father.
I really began "collecting" around 7-8 years ago when I noticed that I was going to the flea market and yard sales every weekend to find games and new hardware. Around that time, I bought games from a lady in her 50's who charged $3 each for NES games and $5 for SNES titles. As I was moving my games, I spotted copies of Palamedes
and Kickle Cubicle
, two games I had purchased from her and knew very little about at the time. This was a time when I was sort of veering off the path of buying the big hitters and "good" games I knew about, and was unknowingly setting myself up for working toward a complete NES set. About 3 years ago, I didn't see the lady at the flea market anymore and asked a co-worker, who just happened to own a booth beside of her to sell his antiques, where she was. He told me that she had given up her spot and was dealing with some very unfortunate personal and health issues. As I held these stacks in my hands, I thought about this lady and how kind she had always been to me. After only a few visits, each weekend of course, she knew my name and even knocked some cost off of her already nicely priced items. Within a few weeks of her departure, the video games at the flea market dried up and as a result, I don't make the trip there much anymore. I'll always remember her fondly for her smile, her kindness to my kids, and that Bubble Bobble 2
cart she treasured and always talked about having at home.
These games and consoles are not only entertainment to us, but sometimes represent pieces of our personal history. I find myself sometimes just heading up to my gameroom not to play games, but to just to relax and surround myself with these memories. As I type this article, I'm sitting in my gameroom with my laptop on the desk where my old 2600 sits, waiting to be played. I like to share these relics with my kids, who think it's all cool and exciting now, but will probably soon move on to bigger and shinier things. However, I like to think that one day, they will look back at these things with a similar fondness and say, "Man, our dad use to spend hours up here playing these old games with us. [excitedly] Do you remember playing that one? What's that system called again? Do you think it still works? Let's try it out!" Just thinking about moments like that make me realize the history that I am currently creating with them and puts a big smile on my face.
These are just a few stories that my collection holds, there are many, many more within it. What "autobiographical" pieces are you fond of in your collection?
A bit off topic sorry.
Fever Pitch is an excellent book even though he supports my most hated team (I'm not saying it LOL), I understood that going from no interest in the sport as a kid to playing a big part of my life now. I haven't felt the feeling with my team for winning the title yet but I know how he felt in 1989 from actually watching the game and that goal that won it. There was a UK version of the film and about soccer starring Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmell.
@FatherJack: Yes, it is a great book, but the changing it from football to baseball for American audiences was ridiculous and came off as silly. I've been overseas and watched matches in pubs, so I can tell you firsthand that our fanatic spirit for sports doesn't come close.
Great article, man. I think most of us who grew up gaming during the Reagan era have stories like this, associated with playing games, buying or renting games, and similar related experiences. It's always fun to read about someone else's experiences and perspective, because sometimes, the nostalgia factor is just as important, if not more so, than the quality of the game itself. You might have wonderful memories of playing a terrible game, and while you know objectively that it's lousy, you love it anyway. I love stuff like that, and it's part of what makes gaming such a unique medium. Cool to read some of your memories about gaming, and the people that impacted you as a young gamer.
Banana, great story!
I am always interested in how gamers/collectors came to be, and also the memories along the way.
I am hoping more people on RFGen keep doing these types of stories.
Good read. I especially liked the part about coming across old rental carts and being happy about it. For me, coming across any local cart that has a "Superior Video" sticker on it, makes me truly happy, as I did a majority of my NES rentals from that place.
You're speaking my language here, SB. When I buy a game online, I typically forget its origin. No matter the deal or the excitement, the details of the transaction fade away. I just received pretty good deals on two NES carts from the same ebay seller, but despite the deal, despite the fact that one game was briefly lost in the mail, I won't remember most of it in a few months.
Maybe it's the impersonal nature of the transaction. I never see the real person sending out the games. In most cases, you never communicate with them. I don't know where the seller got the games, why they priced it the way they did. There's no story, only product.
Meanwhile, I remember haggling with flea market resellers to save a few bucks on Jordan vs. Bird and Bases Loaded 3. I remember plucking a copy of Power Blade with a faded top label out of a local reseller shop for half price during the holidays. I remember "saving" games from that shop after the owner discovered Price Charting, wondering that games like Swat Kats, The Uninvited, and a nice, complete copy of Maniac Mansion had been floating around my neighborhood before coming to rest in that lowly, shady resale shop.
They're not all good experiences, either. There's a local metal recycling operation that also does resale, and they are the worst when it comes to video games. And not just high prices, either. After purchasing about a half dozen Atari 2600 games at $3 a piece, I returned to the shop to find the prices raised to $5 a piece, despite the stack clearly showing that I was the only one who had purchased 2600 games in the last several years, at least. Also, the owners openly take the best video game stuff that comes in an put it on ebay. Sure, it's their business and they can do what brings the money in, but it won't be my money any time soon.
Collecting video games isn't just hoarding plastic. It's experiential. It's the stories that come from the hunt. And sometimes, money doesn't even come into play. Flipping through a flea market stack of games, I saw a silver label Metroid with a Nintendo-branded name tag sticker with the name "Tyler" childishly scrawled on it. How that game got from Tyler to the flea market sparks the imagination and adds context to why we're out there.
I'm glad that a few of you have enjoyed the article. It was one of those pieces that was rather fun to write.
I think I feel pretty strongly about all of my collection, although I will admit to occasionally forgetting about stuff I buy in bulk. Even digital stuff, believe it or not. The one exception is stuff that is given to me. I treasure those items above all others because of the emotional connections. It's so strong that even if I were to sell off my collection, I wouldn't be able to do so with the gifts.
Many of my article here reference how I feel the same way, 'naner. The memories attached to gaming are worth far more than the collection to me. Great write-up, and thanks for sharing!
Also, everyone knows about the spiritual energies derived from typography and font design. That's why I only write in spheres. Incidentally, As much as I enjoy Def Leopard's eighties-infused rock and inspirational drummer, I can't listen to them anymore without thinking about an ex-fiancée and how they were her favorite and all the times we listened together. Still gets me a little inside, especially (and naturally) 'Love Bites.'
Apparently it's not just games that spring up an autobiography...