|CONFESSIONS OF A MIDDLE AGED GAMER|
I look back at my life and realize a lot of things people will think of as very "long in the tooth". Honestly, I don't care. Pondering what other people think is a symptom of the insecure. Yeah, I'm almost fourty, yeah, I play video games still - because apparently the goal of age 40 for everyone else is whine about your kids, drink till you get cirrhosis or smoke till you get lung cancer, have adulterous relationships because you're so insecure about your youth fading away that you need to prove to yourself that you "still have it" - when you probably already do. Humans love to prove stuff...me, I like becoming a crotchety old bat! Actually, that's one of my #1 goals. I want to be that angry old man with a NES Controller in my hand and a guitar around my neck screaming for the kids to get off my d*** lawn!
Let me confess a little something about myself. I did not come from money, I have much older siblings, and I don't really idenfity with "Millennials" that well. I'm more of a Gen Xer that just happened to be born around 10 years too late. If I had been born in 73', instead of 83', I would have rocked the royal heck out of the 70's, 80's, and 90's - assuming I still had the same taste. I'm just as comfortable on an Analog "landline" phone as I am on a smartphone. There are parts of the early internet from the mid 90's I miss, parts of greatness of 80's music that I feel have never been reached, and things about older video games that I very very much-so prefer over modern games. If I had my way, I'd be spending my 40's in the early 2000's at the latest, getting prpared for the B.S. parade that today's world has turned into. I don't like everything in my house to have a computer, I don't like IOT, I don't like paying $15/mo for server space for some stupid RPG with a huge Guild that I need to treat like a family. Video games fit in a very specific niche of my life - downtime/chill-time, and a little bit of humor to go with it. Today's games, just don't have that, yesterday's do.
So my journey with video games starts at age 3 when we used to pick up old ATari consoles, post crash, at garage sales and flea markets. We lived in some small farming town in Illinois in an apartment, and the Atari 2600 units we bought usually died after some long while because they were "used hard". As such, we accumulated a bunch of 2600 stuff. About 7 years and a state later - I was wanting a game system of my own....so I asked for an Atari 2600 - because we did not need to buy controllers, we did not need to buy games, and it was cheaper than a Nintendo by logic because it's "old" - yeah, in 1989, we called an Atari 2600 OLD! Not vintage, not "retro" for sure, just "old". And for X-mas, through social networking, my mom got me an Atari 2600, which lasted about a year, and THEN I went to the Nintendo.
I got my first Nintendo in 1990 with Bigfoot, The Little Mermaid, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt as the pack-in. I had that console for 5 years, during the time I started having to save for my birthdays so I Could buy a Gameboy in 1992, and a SNES in 1993. I'd go in halfsies on those. Yeah, not even 10 years old yet, and I'm already buying my own game systems, at least partially.
Then....1995 came along.
Ah yes, the mid 1990's - Grunge Rock is dying, Alternative Light is taking off, computers are becoming more commonplace, and a little thing known as the "internet" was taking off. And of course, my second oldest sibling, now in college, got a brand new Pentium computer with Windows 95 and of course - Internet access via Netscape Navigator - anyone remember that browser? It was there I was introduced by my then future bro-in-law to Yahoo! - basically the first search engine I ever used. And what did I put in there? Well, I was on a computer, I was in a "digital mood", so I decided to try "atari 2600" - put the internet to the test, test it's very limits of how far "back" it could go. And much to my surprise....there was TONS of ATari 2600 stuff on the internet, even in 1995, when dial-up was like...$15 a minute!
I would surf and surf for hours upon hours to no end when I went over to their house. I remember being on Craig Pell's website with Grover on a Toilet for a logo and a database of almost every video game system that ever existed. I rembmer ordering games from Sidartha and getting royally screwed by never recieving them. I bought my first Atari 2600 in the "collector context" online with my own money over e-mails with a guy named Joseph Pelitri. I would hang around VGA (Video Game Advantage) 2000 and look at all the screenshots of games familiar and that I'd never seen before for almost every "vintage" console in existence. It seemed the entire "Scene" was born around bored college students who would drag on down to Value Village or St. Vincent De Paul's and grab a heapin box of Atari stuff for $25, and proceed to have cheap fun. A world I kind of blended into already, pestering the guitar stores on the weekends in downtown Auburn for hours on end, and then chatting with college kids at Cheeburger Cheeburger for lunch while I tore through pages of dot matrix printout from the Draughton library begotten by blending in. I was 12, I looked like I was 17 at the very least, so to them for all they knew I was some National Merit Scholar introvert, not some middle school flunkie guitarist-wannabe filling the other moments of after-school escapism with old video games. Much of my internet savvy and even some of my I.T. skillset, I owe to classic gaming, because that's part of how I got it.
As the late 90's and teenage-hood rolled on, I got deeper and deeper into the retro-gaming thing. I downloaded emulators and played games to find new targets for my collection. I borrowed NES games from my friends in Auburn who no longer played them because they moved on to newer systems at that point. I downloaded rarity lists, lists of label variations, even the Atari 2600 Adventure Source code. I looked at all the rarest games....and their values at the time. Back then, we thought it was amazing things like Chase the Chuckwagon - a bloody Purina branded video game, or STeeplechase, were going for more than $50.00 - not the Super Mario Bros. Shrinkwrapped 3-screw $25,000,000 hype scandals we have today. I would go to thrift shops, pawn shops, flea markets, and occasionally garage sales to find targets for my collection that Might want to add. I wanted to collect all 480 US titles for the 2600, I wanted to snag as much of the NES catalog as I could get and afford. Those were, are, and always will be, my two biggest consoles. And I had a feeling, if people were making big money colelcting stamps, cars, coins, guns, guitars, or anything else, my generation likely was going to be the one to put Video Game collecting on the world stage, and oh boy....we did.
In 1997, I got my first computer of my own, and just like anything else high-tech and electronic, it was 10 years old, considered a "Doorstop" to most people, and not quite fit for the "modern world" - especially back then when computers were mysterious to anyone who did not have a college education or a plethora of certifications they risked or outright forego a life to obtain. It was a Tandy 1000 SX, from 1986. A 6MHz, 8088 powered, dual 360K DSDD Floppy equipped, computer running DOS 3.31 and Deskmate II, no hard disk, 16-color graphics, 4-voice sound that I don't think anyone in the family had a clue it was capable of until I got my hands on it. I could not connect it to the internet, I could not find parts for it easily as I both did not have internet at home, nor did I have the ability to add a hard drive or find parts for it, and even if I was given curated parts, I would not know what to do with them. I did not know what an IRQ or DMA, or Memory Addresses, or ISA, or AT, or PC, or XT was. To me, it was a "computer" - some mysterious box of magic that could play games, write long diatribes (like this one), and possibly even get me programming some stuff of my own. THAT is what it was to me at first. And for the longest time, I wondered if Computers would ever become Vintage? I figured they would BEFORE they would get cheap enough for me to afford.
During that time, I Started getting more of a feel for what I wanted in gaming. I knew for the NES I wanted all three MArios, Zelda 1, all four Dragon Warrior games having just played Dragon Warrior IV borrowed off a friend, and was lusting after a original 1977 Sunnyvale HEavy Sixer Atari at a local thrift going for $25.00 with all the games with manuals. IT was like a proper 1970's setup, like something that felt right to slap some Foreigner on the record player, and play some really old 70's releases on.