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October 2015 Retro Gaming Article


October 23, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Retro Gaming: if I knew then what I know now

Tax Avoiders for Atari 2600 I remember the day I bought Tax Avoiders for my Atari 2600. I had no knowledge that video games were a business. I knew arcades were awesome and some of those games were available for my Atari. That was the extent of my knowledge back then.

When I saw Tax Avoiders hanging on a rack, I lunged for it and begged my Mom to let me buy it. I'd never heard of this title. I had no idea what it was about. Was it a good game? I didn't know that either. All I knew was it was in my hands and I hadn't seen a new Atari game in... well, a very long time.

This must have been in late 1982 and I vividly remember how excited I was to be buying a brand new Atari game. I was going to go home and play that game like I'd never played a game before. Decades later, I'd have a better grasp on the impending crash of '83 and why it was so hard to find games at the time I found Tax Avoiders.

As it turned out, there were a lot of things I didn't know. Life got busy and many new things came into my world - none of them new game consoles. I experienced Colecovision and Intellivision through friends who hadn't gone the Atari route. It wasn't until the dawn of the NES that I was buying a new game console.

I wasn't a kid anymore, but I was a long way from being a viable adult. Spring Break was on the horizon and while most of my friends were stoked to stumble drunkenly around southern Florida's beaches, I was getting my snowboard in shape for our yearly trek to VT. It wasn't that we didn't like beer and bikini-clad girls - we preferred these wonders in a slope-side hot tub. Those were the days.

Nintendo NES

My Search For A Nintendo NES

My buddy and I were driving to VT for a week of shredding the hills and collapsing in bikini filled hot tubs at night. But we had a side mission. A new company released a game console that was all the rage! At the time, there were only two kinds of people: those who owned a Nintendo Entertainment System and those who did not. Despite a full schedule of manic vacation fun - we were determined to add an NES to the mix.

Stores were sold out. No one had an NES on the shelf or in the stock room. We were young, dumb, and determined. As we headed north on the highway, we hopped off at any exit with a nearby mall. Back then malls had various electronics box stores like Circuity City, game stores like Electronics Boutique, and toy stores like Kay Bee. Some one between home and VT had to have an NES for sale!

We grew tired of getting on and off the highway only to have teenage store clerks laugh at us. No one had Nintendo in stock - no one! What we didn't consider was the real estate reality of malls. They exist in highly populated areas - areas where lots of people shop for things like video game systems.

About two thirds of the way to our slope-side ski lodge, determination had not waned. We were getting an NES - one way or another! Being a good distance from home, all of these malls were unfamiliar to us and they all began to look and feel alike. I don't remember the final mall, but inside it's Kay Bee Toys store I remember dashing to each part of the store where it seemed likely that a game console would be displayed. Nothing. I asked a store clerk and he said he'd go out back and get us one! They had the Nintendo NES! My buddy and I were stopped in our tracks with wide-eyed amazement. We bought an NES and a few games!

I don't recall if we met any girls on that trip, but we rode all day and played Nintendo most of the night. It was a great trip and reignited my desires to play games. In that pre-Internet era, we didn't know about upcoming games or if the games we saw were any good. We used an age old technique - if the box cover was rad, the game had to be great.

Games at Toys R Us That selection process didn't always prove true and often led to atrocious games. I often bought NES games at Toys R Us and remember flipping through their wall-mounted plastic-wrapped game offerings and bringing that paper chit to the register. With receipt in hand, someone in customer service would go "out back" and get the actual game. Great memories and some great games (a few duds).

What I Learned

One day when perusing the NES titles at Toys R Us, I saw the NES Top Loader console. I didn't think too much about it other than it was different looking and cost less than my NES. I bought a new game and left. Each return visit, I saw that top loader and began to realize it's price was dropping. Should I get one? I thought, No. I already had one. Finally, that odd looking NES was $39. I seriously thought I should get one. I didn't because that was the same price as a new game and I already had an NES.

I regret that train of thought to this very day. I should have bought 2 or 3 of them! I wouldn't realize this for several years, but the experience did impact me and my retail video game decisions.

Wasn't the Virtualboy cool looking? It was crazy cool looking! Kind of VR-ish, but had a controller - a controller with dual D-pads. Hell yeah! Gotta have one! I shelled out the money and jumped head first into this new form of gaming. It was very red, but I liked it. However, the learning component came a few months after it's official failure.

Virtualboy The EB near my parent's house was blowing them out for about $25 each. On a visit to see my parents, I stopped at that EB and bought 3 Virtual Boys. The kid behind the counter thought I was a 3X loser for buying a failed system on clearance. I quickly explained the shortness of his lifespan if he didn't change his attitude and went on to my parents house with 3 Virtual Boys! Hell Yeah!!

I did the same thing when the Jaguar failed. I bought a few of them at ridiculously low closeout prices. I was slowly learning the benefit of buying consoles toward the end of their retail lifespan. I wasn't savvy enough to snag a 3DO, but I did pick up a Wii Family edition and Wii Mini. I wish I'd had more foresight in this area in the 90s.

Atari Jaguar

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