Saturday, 4 April 2015

Happy birthday to me!

Today is my birthday! That means many things: good times spent with my family, especially in years where it coincides with the Easter long weekend (in my troubled adolescence -- but I'm being redundant -- sometimes I would schedule B-movie and RPG festivities with friends for the whole duration!), reflections on mortality, replying to greetings from hundreds of accordionists on Facebook, and... exciting influxes of piles of gaming materials. (This is what I mean when I tell people who ask what I want for my birthday that I almost certainly shouldn't get any more of the things that I want. How many hundreds of discs and carts is enough?)

My mother-in-law is the reigning champion of the thrift store / flea market / garage sale beat of second-hand out-of-print history churn deals, so these hauls are typically entirely attributable to her shrewd eye and canny bargaining. (Did you know about the gendered difference in approach to a box of unknown treasures? Women will perk up at the clink of Fiestaware, while men will grab a power cord and reel it in, eager to see what electronic device awaits at the other end!) These kinds of posts were very common, especially in the summertime, at this blog's old incarnation over at, but with parenthood our secondhand treasure-hunting expeditions are slowing down (also: I've got so much stuff now that it's quite a bit harder to find prizes I don't already own!) so it's a first for here.

The elephant in the room here is clearly the complete (and ... working? Still need to dig up a TV old enough to hook it up to and try out!) Atari 2600 VCS, the first major home video game console phenomenon. While it's a critical cornerstone for any historical collection of old games machines, and while there were enough out there in circulation, I didn't actively pursue finding one because ... most of the games are a bit primitive for my tastes. (There's Adventure, Pitfall, and a couple of solid home conversions such as Space Invaders, which blew a breath of second life into this machine.) But if it finds its own way to my house, I certainly won't kick it off of the shelf! I've felt a little fraudulent about my twice-annual "vintage video games" parties (next up April 11th, contact me for attendance details!) with most titles dating from the PlayStation 1 era or younger (I've cheated, representing this era with an Atari Flashback unit, but it's not the same), but this will definitely give me some solid oldschool footing. (But still people will mostly be playing games from the past 15 years.) Also I received with it some lovely boxed games dating back to the environs of the year of my birth -- Asteroids, Combat, the aforementioned killer app Space Invaders, and the hilarious "games are games, right?" Video Chess. No screenshots on the boxes, because they would only act as drag factor -- the lush illustrations on the box tell you what the experience of your imagination should be striving for when playing the games. I have, well, a pile (see halfway down for my 2600 haul of just last Christmas!) of other Atari 2600 carts in the basement, the one major exception to my "I won't collect games for systems I don't own" rule, because I figured sooner or later a VCS would wash up... and here it is!

The catalogue is also a thing of endless wonder, an artefact printed at the intersection of the '70s and '80s, from where both the '60s and '90s are visible, and I look forward to someday blogging commentary on some of its pages once I scan them in. But on with the show!

At 4 o' clock we have a PlayStation 1 with PS2-era controllers -- very useful. And the console came with a copy of FIFA 2000 in the tray: I think that consoles should always be given with a game packed in, like a dollar in a gift wallet for luck. Opposite it you see a Sega Genesis, but do you notice anything unusual about the controllers? You, in the back? Yes -- they're wireless! The giant IR receiver bulge on the front of the unit gives it away. Now we can rock Columns from across the room! And it also comes with a classic cart, Super Street Fighter 2. Impressive!

In the top left corner we have a couple of thoughtful gifts from my mother-in-law's daughter -- my partner! The heart container print is perfectly lovely, and in the Super Mario baggie is ... a pair of Super Mario boxer shorts. Overalls, underwear! You can't see, but the trim of the shorts is emblazoned with a who's who of his Rogue's Gallery. (It brings to mind the opening of my, NSFW, write-up on Bomb'X: "hypothesizing what kinds of adventures might be gotten up to in Bomberman's shorts".) The big question is of course: what will happen to the shorts when I eat a Super Mushroom?(Probably Super Mario's tailor, as with the Fantastic Four's, deals heavily in unstable molecules.

I received plenty of other lovely gifts as well, but they fall beyond the purview of this blog. Now you may not be aware that this post had a second shoe to drop, but I will do so here -- some of my birthday goodies reflect duplication of working video game treasures I already own! At my retro gaming video party next Saturday, I'll have set up a free box for guests to take home some of my extraneous gaming surplus carts, discs, consoles and parts -- perhaps granting them, in time, the ability to mount retro gaming parties of their own! And for those who can't make it, I have a pile of duplicate sets of Steam codes for games I can only really play one at a time -- the first was put up for grabs in December, a Dreamcast collection, and once someone asks for it, I'll open the floodgates and start doling the rest of them out, too. Free games, and all you have to do is read my blog! Not a bad deal, I think.

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