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February 2017 Retro Gaming Article

February 14, 2017 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

As I play my various retro game consoles I ponder why I didn't explore them during their heyday

Games on display at Toys R Us
Confined by my self-imposed tunnel vision, it took me a long time to see I was denying myself a lot of great games.
Many of the retro consoles I own were purchased decades after their original release. When I play some of my favorite games, they fall into two categories. One set are played on the consoles I purchased at retail when they were in production. The other set are played on great consoles I knew about, but never bought until decades after their heyday. I wish I had been more adventurous in the 1980s and 90s and bought into them during their original reign.

As a kid who grew up long before the information age, I sometimes ponder how different things are now for my son compared to my early days. The convenience and vast resources of the internet are light-years ahead of my next best thing - the town library. My son has the entire AC/DC song library on his iPhone - I do too, but mine's on a stack of CDs.

I've forgone the town library in favor of searching the web, but I've only bought digital music twice. I still love pouring over the new music releases each Friday - some on vinyl, most on CD. As physical media slowly disappears, and the things I take great pride in owning are now cloud-based, I don't mind cleaning the oxidation off an Asteroids game cart to play a few rounds on my Atari 2600. There's something reassuring about the feeling of a game cart in my hand.

It Started With A Clock-Radio

Long ago I listened to music on the clock/radio in my bedroom. Through that tiny speaker, I began to discover a wide variety of music. Some stations played music I still listen to today, while others played songs that had little or no effect on me. My buddy who lived across the street had Kiss' album Destroyer. Every time I went to his house we listened to it. Every time!

My Dad had a lot of classical music on vinyl and I finally asked if I could use his turntable to play records. He said, Yes and my mission in life became obtaining that amazing Kiss album. I knew little about music, bands, record stores, or any of that. All I knew was that album spoke to me. It was the best thing ever!

Kiss Or Nothing

I still vividly remember buying Destroyer at Giant Music. I was astounded by all the LPs in the store, having never been to a record store before. I found the Rock section and scoured the bins for "K" until I found Kiss. I hadn't made the connection between record stores and everything that poured from the tiny speaker on my clock radio, but I had Destroyer and I raced to the counter with it. "King Of The Night time World" and "Shout It Out Loud" now played at my house. An awakening was dawning in my young life.

I discovered another friend had Kiss Alive and the whole concept blew my mind. I began buying albums - Kiss albums. While I knew there were other groups that I liked, owning their music on an album was special to me. I was enthralled by the idea that I owned my own music. I didn't want to explore other bands. I loved Kiss and that was all I wanted. My relationship with music was such that I had tunnel vision to the reality of having a music collection.

Buying Steve Miller or Led Zeppelin seemed wrong to me. I was a Kiss fan! I'd listen to other music on the radio, but when it came to the awesomeness of owning an actual album - it had to be Kiss. One might think I was a weird kid, but I didn't have anyone to explain the big picture to me. I was hellbent on Kiss and that was the way I liked it.

So, this was the start of my tunnel vision that really came from the heart in the form of passion for Kiss. Several years later, Atari came along. Similar to my Destroyer passion, a buddy of mine got an Atari VCS for Christmas and had Space Invaders. I spent many hours playing Space Invaders at the local bowling alley, so the ability to play at home was pretty cool. I needed an Atari 2600.

Atari Or Die

I was drawn to the Atari VCS because many of my favorite games from the arcade were also made by Atari. This was a perfect fit... until my friend got an Intellivision for Christmas. Naturally, he told me it was better than the Atari and I assured him he was delusional. Similar to my Kiss obsession, I was now hellbent for Atari 2600 games. Coleco piqued my interest, but I stuck to my guns. I'd gone from being a stubborn kid to a stubborn teen.

As you may surmise, I'm about to delve into my bout as a stubborn adult. So many people say they grew up with the NES. I didn't. I was grown up (for the most part) when it was released. I was in college and we were headed off for a week-long ski trip. I was dying to jump back into video games and Nintendo was on everyone's mind. So much in fact, the consoles were sold out everywhere.

On our journey to the slopes, we finally found a Kay-Bee Toy store in a mall that had one in the back storage. It must have been our 6th detour into a mall. This purchase launched me into an obsessive Nintendo mode complete with the inability to acknowledge other consoles of the era. It was the purchase of this NES that really makes me question my solidarity to bands that made my tunnel vision so dominant.

I have fond many memories of the game aisle at Toys R Us and the innumerable flip cards representing the stock they kept under lock & key in Customer Service. I'd spend hours perusing those cards in search of the perfect NES game that would delight for hours, days and weeks (which tuned into decades of passion). That long wide aisle had games for a variety of systems, but I rarely strayed from the NES titles.

Being employed gave me the ability to own multiple game consoles had I wanted to. Strangely, I still had it in my mind I should be loyal to the NES. My dilema about competing brands seemed to stem from passion for the one I owned combined with some sort of loyalty. This surprises me even today when I think about it and the number of consoles I passed over due to some notion in my head.

I'd have loved getting into the TurboGrafX-16 or the Genesis in the late 1980s! Some oddity in my head, prevented me from making the leap to funding another console and game library. It may have been fiscally responsible at the time, but later I'd buy into many of these systems as an exploring retro gamer. Now I wish I'd had the foresight to jump in when they were actively sold at retail.

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