I was born prepackaged to become a gamer – my childhood was on the lonely side. Separated from the crowd by introversion, deformity, and a penchant for asking questions that the people of Buffalo believed had no business ever being asked, I found solace in games. It was a natural thing to do, really. My games didn’t reject me. They address me using slurs or names. They transported me to different times and places where I was allowed to deal with my foes in the most vicious ways I could imagine and was seen as a hero.
Since I spent so much time playing video games, it was only natural that I ended up building a strong collection of games that are now quite difficult to find. Hell, in some instances they were rare. The first real consoles that were parts of my life were the Atari 2600 and Mattel’s Intellivision. The 2600, of course, is one of the all-time classic consoles. It created and defined the first generation of consoles. Its presence in my own life was courtesy of Rob, who had a dusty old 2600 which was flickery and buggy. He had it latched onto an old black and white television set which was even more flickery and buggy, and that resulted in gaming as if the games themselves were drunk. Stargate was particularly notable because the constant war between the console and the TV would black out the game, restart it, and shut off the console at regular intervals. We could have made a good drinking game out of it. My friend Chris, who lived in the downstairs duplex, was the one with the Intellivision. Like Rob, he had it hooked up to a black and white TV, but he was the one with the deluxe accommodations because the TV wasn’t buggy, and it had sound.
My first home console, meanwhile, was NEC’s TurboGrafx-16. Now, I had the best TV set of the three of us, but the catch with my TV was that it was the only TV in the house. That meant the comparatively advanced graphics, color, and music required me to have permission from my parents. Still, the Turbo was mine. I loved it, and it opened my mind to a world of lesser-known consoles and games which allowed me access to a complex spectrum of gaming. As my parents were able to save money and bring the family from the lower working class and into the middle class, they were able to occasionally gift me with more mainstream consoles, which in turn became a real video game collection when I entered the working world myself and had spending money.
My video game collection became something to behold. I kept my beloved Turbo, and while my purchasing decisions definitely needed work – Sidearms over Blazing Lazers, Sinistron over The Legendary Axe, and Double Dungeons, well, just Double Dungeons at all stand among my errors – that didn’t keep me from creating a collection which included the first two Bonk games (which I continue to argue are among the greatest platformers ever made), Bloody Wolf (everyone compares it to Contra, but it’s actually the better version of Heavy Barrel), Neutopia (The Legend of Zelda’s most blatant imitator, but still a classic in its own right), Ninja Spirit, and Cadash. Even as I started gaming in the mainstream more, my collection included now-obscurities like Shining Force II, Shining in the Darkness, Kid Chameleon, Flashback, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Steel Empire, Eternal Champions, Landstalker, and Mutant League Hockey.
My console collection eventually included the Nintendo 64, Playstation 2, Dreamcast, Gamecube, and Saturn. My collection of games grew to include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Virtua Tennis, Suikoden III, Fire Pro Wrestling II, Virtual On, Pikmin, Skies of Arcadia (the original version), Sega GT, Mars Matrix, Lunar: Silver Star Story, Dark Cloud 2, Final Fantasy IX, and a few other scarce games that I can’t even think of because I owned so many. Building it up took around 25 years, and even as I got older and grew out of time to play video games, it was a collection I proudly pointed at when talking about my qualifications as a gamer. When I left Chicago in 2011, I made a point of having a friend keep it stored up. Which he did, for three years at what I suspect was more personal inconvenience than he would ever let on.
It took another move to lose it.
Now, to make myself clear, I’m not really mad. Hell, I understand. When I decided to pack it in and move to the West Coast, I knew that I would only be able to haul a couple of bags with me, filled with minimal essentials. That meant that once again, my games had to be left behind and I would eventually have to drive a small truck across the country to grab them again. Well… That never happened. My Mother unexpectedly passed away in November of 2016. At that time, I had been in Seattle for a sliver over a year and had only recently found my foothold. I had a very nice room in a shared house, but was otherwise working one of the worst jobs I had ever worked for a wage that was barely legal. I had no qualms about dropping everything to make a mad dash across the country after learning what happened to Mom, and sticking around for a week to see my Father get acclimated. But once again, there was only so much stuff I could recover and, priorities being priorities, I had to leave my video games behind, with the exceptions of my handhelds.
The day of the funeral, my sister asked Dad to move out to California. While Dad said he would give it some thought, his voice also conveyed one of those tones: He knew there was now nothing keeping him confined to Buffalo, and so he would be joining my sister in California as soon as he could. It took him a year to get prepared, but Dad made the journey to California in December last year. And like me, he had to travel as lightly as possible. The house had been full of little sentimental knickknacks, which Dad had to abandon if he was ever going to be able to find a reasonable place to live in California. My games were simply too much empty cargo.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it, though. People who got a look at my massive collection who were in the know about video games know I’m probably not getting a do-over on a lot of them. A lot of the games in that collection cost as much as any current release, and a handful of them demand three digits for the hards. And it’s more than just the value – the hards were a source of my pride as a gamer, and infallible proof that I was as serious as I said I was. In the gaming community, a list of games like the ones I owned meant a lot because the few other gamers in my life could say they looked at and played one of the original copies. Many gamers these days know about the TurboGrafx-16, but not many have played any games at all on it, and they probably never got to sniff the original chip copies. The gamers who knew me could give details about everything they loved and hated about Bonk’s Adventure and Bonk’s Revenge.
And so that’s it. I guess it’s time to try to build a new collection.