My parents were never this excited about it. Well, maybe my dad.
Warning: This is going to get depressing.
When someone asks me why I'd collect something as strange as old video games, I usually ask them, "well, did you ever have a Nintendo?" Their response is almost always a "Yes". When asked about their favorite game, they can never seem to hold back the smile as they describe taking out Bowser, defeating Ganon, or finishing Contra without the Konami code.
In conversation, sparking that feeling of nostalgia is generally all it takes for someone to understand why I'd spend so much time and money on this stuff. But, as with most things that compel us, there's a lot more to it than that.
I was practically born in front of a computer. I don't personally recall, of course, but there are photos of me as early as 2 years old playing with a Commodore 64. My parents had an Atari 2600 that I have vague memories of, as well, but I have no idea what happened to it. My dad is a programmer, so there was always a computer in the house. I'd ask him questions incessantly about how things work, what they do, etc. If he didn't know, we'd look it up together.
Computers were always there, but it was the NES that would captivate me the most.
Christmas morning, 1988, I woke to find an NES Action Set under the tree. It was everything I'd imagined it would be. The games were so far beyond anything on the Commodore 64 or the CGA 8086 PC - it was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen.
As much as I loved it, I didn't truly bond to gaming until much later.
I was always a pretty friendly and outgoing kid, until around the fifth grade, when my school days became a nightmare.
There's always a hierarchy in public schools, and there's usually some weird kids and nerds on the bottom. The abuse trickles down, with those on the top making fun of those below them, et cetera on down the totem pole.
Somehow, at that time, I discovered an entirely new sub-basement of this hierarchy, and I was alone there. Even the weird kids and the nerds would mock me to make themselves feel better. It didn't stop there, of course. I'd get spit on by the girls at recess, I'd be kicked, punched and attacked for no reason without provocation. Once, at an assembly, I was punched in the nose by a kid who, I swear, was no higher than my waist. I was kicked between the legs at least 3 times for no reason, a girl even threw my glasses in the garbage when I left them on my desk at recess.
Any time I'd make friends, they'd call any group I was in "The Nerd Herd". Keep in mind, back then being a "nerd" was not a socially acceptable thing. Computers were unpopular, and enjoying computers was social suicide. I didn't mind the name so much, until all the "friends" ditched me. One of them would come up to me one day and say, "Oh look, if it isn't The Nerd Herd". Holding back tears, I replied under my breath, "It can't be a herd if it's just one person."
Of course, my family was there for me, but I didn't retreat there when I needed to get away. I'd rush off to my room, turn on the Commodore monitor, blow on a cartridge and slam it into my NES. I'd forget the kids and their verbal and physical attacks. It was just me and my friends - Link, Mario, the Belmonts.
It was an escape. I wasn't a scared child; I wasn't running away anymore. I was a hero. I was rescuing princesses, saving the world, stopping the bad guys, and all before dinner. I could choose any game, and be anything I wanted to be. Anything but me.
Now, whenever I pick up that familiar 2-button controller, whenever I see a cluster of pixels on screen that vaguely resembles a person, I become that kid again. Not the scared, confused, hurt child; the gaming god, the story's hero. The good times always flow back in - the 2-player games with my sisters or my dad, my personal victories - but the pain never comes back with it. My wife tells me I get a look on my face when playing old video games - the kind of honest smile that comes from deep inside you.
I never let go of all those old games - they'd sit in a bin in the closet, occasionally coming out to be played. I wasn't an active collector, I just simply couldn't let go of all that old stuff. It actually wasn't until the release of the Wii that the collector's bug bit me. I hooked up my brand new Wii and jumped on the store, and just had to buy Super Mario Bros. Then I had to buy Castlevania IV. Then Solomon's Key.
It was then that I realized that this was silly. I already had a copy of Super Mario Bros. in the closet! I had a Super Nintendo, why couldn't I just buy a Castlevania IV cartridge and play it on the real thing?
Right then and there, it clicked into place. Now I had a mission - one which, after a reboot, continues in this blog today.
Why do I collect old games? Well, why aren't you collecting the things that make you smile?