Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The True Story of My First Super Nintendo (SNES).

On a forum I frequent, Nintendo Age, a thread was started over the Summer asking people about their first Super Nintendo. The OP was asking, I assume, in conjunction with the 23rd  anniversary of the SNES which was roughly released on August 23, 1991. Release dates back then were a lot mushier, but I think it's probably pretty close. I started to write a response, but about a page in I realize it was pretty long already and not near finished, and two it was far too serious and kind of depressing. I showed it to my wife and a few close friends and then mulled over what to do with it. If only I had some place where a story I wrote about video games and my life could be posted. I sat on this for a few months and then finally realized I had a blog where 10's of people might be interested in this tale.

Be warned, this story is a little bit ugly and long. It comes from my memory so it might be a bit imprecise, but it is true as memories can be.

The True Story of How I Acquired My Super Nintendo

It was the Summer of 1991, the recession and heat were going strong in Southern California. I was 12 years-old, and my family was really poor, we shared one bedroom. Let me be clear, this was not a one bedroom house or apartment; it was one single room, which was a small half basement room under my aunt house. It was so small we slept on bunk beds, me on the top and my parents on the bottom. My parents did not get along with my aunt, so that meant if we needed a bathroom or dinner; we need to go next door to my grandmother’s house, as the door to the upstairs was always locked. My grandma's house was no great refuge either, but she at least tolerated us enough to let us use the bathroom and kitchen, and she did let us have the room, as she owned both houses. Prior to this my parents and I had been living in a Motel 6; I considered our current lodgings a large step down.

One good thing about my grandma having a stable residence was that my Nintendo Power always had a destination to be delivered. I had been reading for months that the SNES was finally going to be released in North America sometime late summer or early fall, and man oh man, I just had to have it. The unfortunate reality was that my parents were never going to be able to buy me one, as neither one of them worked, both having lost their jobs the year before.Their recreational drug use had increased to become hardcore drug use and you might think I could have asked my grandma, but I also could have also tried to wring blood from a stone for all the good that either would do. 

Knowing my situation was pretty bleak I decided rather than cry about it, I should do something. I started reading the Pennysaver and the want ads in the paper hoping to find someone who needed an odd job or two done that a kid might actually be able to do. I also went to all the neighbors asking to wash cars and mow loans. At the end of June I stumbled across an ad looking for kids 13 and up who wanted to make some money. I decided to call and lie about my age, I mean really anyone hiring 13 year-olds probably wasn’t looking too hard. 

The company called itself Junior-Careers (Here is a good article / story about this place http://www.kellydessaint.com/tag/junior-careers/.). Seriously this job was even shadier than it sounds. What it boils down to is this, Junior Careers made its money by using lids to sell Candy door to door. They relied on desperate kids to look desperate. The more helpless and lost you looked the better it was for them. You would get dropped off on a random street corner, most of the time not in the city you lived in, and walk up and back stopping at every house on the way trying to sucker kind hearted people, who felt bad for you, into paying too much money for a shitty box of candy. The candy ranged from $3 to $5 a box, and for each box sold would net you a commission of 80 cents up to a dollar, they did not give an hourly wage. When you finished with your block or whatever area that had been predetermined, you would then go to a wait point and hopefully the van would come back and find you. Remember this is 1991, cell phones and pagers aren't really a thing, and even if they were, any family that let their child hock candy for this organization probably wasn't providing one.

When I called I obviously didn't know any of this, but even if I had it probably wouldn't have stopped me. I spoke to a guy named Ron, and within 2 minutes he told me I was hired, asked my address, and told me I started tomorrow and he would be there at 3pm. He didn't ask my age, my story, I don't even know if he asked my name. At around 3pm the next day, some burly, unshaven, dirty shirt wearing, fat white guy with pit stains pulled up to my house in a windowless white van and honked twice. I told my parent the night before I got a job, oh and they were just tickled, funniest shit they had ever heard. "Who the fuck hires a 12 year-old?" my dad asked. Dutifully I told him "Junior-Careers of course", and pretty much recited the ad in the paper which stated "it was an organization to help kids stay off the street and make money for school".  They didn't really care and offered no further resistance. At the time I didn't realize how odd it was to be kept of the street by essentially being put on the street.

I stayed on with Junior Careers until early August and only stopped then because I was going to Northern California for my annual visit to my cousin’s house. I didn't make much money. Part of it was the fact that the job wasn't designed to make me money, some of it was my newness and inexperience, and another part was the inefficacy of it all. The job didn't start until 5, but you were picked up at 3 because picking up all the other kids took time and so did driving to, which ever city you would be selling in. I would work from 5 to 8 or 9 in the evening, out in the dark standing on corners, no flash light, no phone, and not much in the way of safety. Nothing ever happened to me aside from a scuffle, and two thefts (which came out of my earning), but I was lucky. I later heard horror stories about kids who were abducted raped, beat up, and ever manner of unseemly horror that falls in-between. I think I worked a total of 6 weeks and I was doing it 4 and sometimes 5 nights a week. I had almost $700 by the time it was over. I loved watching that mound of money grow, I was going to buy a Diamond Back mountain bike, a Super Nintendo, and probably have enough for 2 or 3 games. I couldn't believe it, I felt so lucky. I decided that I would take 50 bucks with me to my cousins, which would ensure we could buy candy and rent movies and games for the whole three weeks I was there. It was the best kind of summer trip, we had more soda, candy, games, and R rated movies than two 12 years-olds had any right to.

I came back home with a good deal of regret in my heart, I was jealous of the very stable life my cousin appeared to have. I often wished I could stay at his house forever, but alas my parents wanted me back, for reasons that I assumed were more property based rather than those born out of paternal instinct and caring. I had taken great care to hide my money before I left, I had cut a hole in side of my mattress that faced the wall and tucked the money into a bag and stuffed it as far in as my arm could reach. I waited to do this until both of my parents had passed out below me watching, shitty reruns on the TV while their cigarettes smoldered in over full ashtrays. A normal kid would entrust his hoard to his parents, but I did not trust them, they had grown more than desperate, and when I left I was the only person in the room with a job.

Every quiet fear I had was realized the moment I walked into our room. I went right for my stash and my father just sneered at me. "What are you hoping to find in there John boy?” he mocked. He only though he knew what I was hoping to find. He thought I was hoping to find money, but I was looking for my summer dream, for a child's trust in his parents, for safety, to know that I was wrong to worry, for reassurance. What I found, was my fear made real and an anger and anguish I had no place to put. My father looked at me and told me the following: that I was his son and that any money I made was his money, that the fact I tried to hide my money and never gave it to him was wrong and ungrateful, and that I was an asshole and should be ashamed. Also I believe I was told to quit my effing sniveling and get outside. I can't confirm that last part, I was in the full grip of rage by then and all I could hear was my blood in my ears and the inner scream that I was letting loose inside my head. 

I paced around the property for a few hours trying to get a grip on myself, trying not to let myself dissolve into tears and admonishing myself for the tears I had already let spill out of me. School started in two weeks and I needed to do something, I needed to keep my head and make a new plan. My dream of buying a bike and playing the Super Nintendo until school started was dead, I had to acknowledge that and move on. Night settled fully into itself and my grandmother told me to get inside and stop stalking around the property. I was too angry to go to the room, so I instead left the property and hiked up a hill to a set of three sandstones that  sat high on a hill and overlooked the railroad tracks and all of Simi Valley. It was a truly good place to sit; you could see the stars and all the lights in the city. The only noise came from the bugs or occasional train that rumble through, rocking the hillside as it went. It was a peaceful place made for soul searching. I didn't know it at that moment, but in the summer of 1992 this would be my home for 6 weeks. I stayed on those rocks all night; wishing on stars and hating my parents. 

That morning I had an early breakfast with my grandmother and then called Ron to see if I could work the remainder of the summer. As it was 7 am and Ron, who was clearly a drunk, was not awake. I resorted to leaving him a message on his answering machine that told him I was ready to come back to work and would be ready at three. I managed to mostly avoid my parent, only speaking to them enough to convey I was going to be gone all evening. I didn't tell them I was going back to work, but I am sure they guessed. As luck would have it Ron would arrive promptly at 3pm and my return to Junior Careers was confirmed. 

I worked until school started, and when I was done I was more than happy to walk away from that job forever, turns out forever would only be 9 months. While I didn't make enough to buy a Super Nintendo in that two weeks I was actually really close. My birthday wasn't far away either; it was just about a month until October 11th. I would finally be a teenager, the big 13. With this big birthday I was hoping that I might get enough cash to finally buy the SNES. Having one bought for me was still out the question, but hoping for enough cards stuffed with 13 dollars in them wasn't out of the question. If I got enough of those I would be able to swing it. After the disastrous end to August the end of September was actually looking really good. My dad got a job, no one more shocked than me, and it looked like we were going to get an apartment of our own. I told my parent's if we could only afford one room I would be fine sleeping in the living room, that would seem like a grand villa compared to what we had endured for the past 14 months. 

Somehow we got a two bedroom apartment at the Meadow Wood Apartments, my parents on some combination of HUD and my Dad's salary we able to swing it. I was positively dancing; my soul hadn't felt this light since time out of mind. I hadn't had my own room in years; I didn't know what do with myself. With my Birthday now less than a week away my mother approached me to discuss what I wanted for my Birthday. I wish I could tell you that I was a good enough kid to not want anything, and to understand the delicate situation my family was in, but I wasn’t. I was 12 going on 13 and all I wanted in life at that moment was a Super Nintendo. I told my mother with all the enthusiasm a 12 year-old can muster, how I had worked the last two weeks before school and how I had saved my money again. I told her how I nearly had enough and that all I wanted was a little bit of money to put towards it. My secret hope, the one I only let slide into my mind in quiet moments before sleep, was that I would get enough money to buy an additional game too.

My mother, explained to me that she felt bad for what happened before, but told me that the money my father took helped them get this apartment, that made me feel a little better about it, but I was still pretty sore over the whole event, and my father and I had not yet full repaired that rift. She asked me if I understood, I said yes. What else could I say?  My mother then offered the olive branch. She told me she would take my money and that for my birthday she would pay the difference between what I had, and what it cost to buy a SNES with Super Mario World. In my mind all was forgiven, I was overjoyed. I quickly pulled out my stash of 186 dollars and passed it to my mother.

The 4 day wait until my birthday was maddening, I counted every minute twice. Finally it came, and it had the double pleasure of being a Friday and the day my school observed Columbus Day. A three day weekend seemed like all the time in the world for a newly christened 13 year-old to play Super Nintendo. My mother told me we had to wait for my father to get home before we could do anything, so I waited some more. The clock sluggishly moved from minute to minute but eventually time moved enough to allow my father to come home from work. I was told we were going to have dinner, and after dinner there was to be a small cake, as we were going to my grandmothers the following afternoon for a more proper party. My impatience was plan on my face and could no longer be stifled. I blurted to my father that “I wanted to open my gift before dinner” and “that I was tired of waiting” and “I had earned it”.

This was not my best moment, I was overcome, frustrated, and tired of waiting. My father rounded on me quick as a snake. He had is face an inch from mine, his index finger extended and thumping me in the chest. He was yelling and spitting with each word. “Did I think that he was going to let some ingrate 12 year old tell him when or how we were going to do anything?” I piped up that I was 13, and his retort was perfect and without hesitation, “Who the fuck cares?” Sadly the answer to that question was apparently, no one. I was told to get to my room and stay there, and if he heard me cry, he would come in there and really give me something to cry about.  So I went to my room and happy birthday to me; no dinner, no cake, no SNES.  

What I had not realized at the time was that I had been duped. My parents never planned on getting me a Super Nintendo, they took my money and flushed it down a needle. I was just another tool helping them get their next fix. I do not regret giving the money to my mother, you might read that and think me foolish, but without the ability to trust in others you will never make it through this life, it's just too hard. I have regret over what happened but it is based on my mother’s actions not mine. Every son should want to trust his mother, and in a perfect world would be able to. The next day at my grandmothers just added to what was absolutely the worst birthday I ever had. I got a few cards with a little bit of money, my loving grandmother bought me a box of cereal, yes cereal, and my aunt gave me a used Dodger hat that I was obligated to put on, regardless of the fact that I was not a Dodgers fan. My older sister was a no show, and how could I blame her for missing this awesome party? The cake was white and coconut frosted, which is fine if you like that, but I don’t like white cake or coconut frosting.

              Time marched on, steadfast in its slow moving slouch. I endured the party, but I wasn’t really present. I heard people telling me “I should be in a better mood”, and that “I was a teenager now and I should act my age”, and some commentary on “how ungrateful I was”. I have never been ungrateful, so hearing it for the second time in less than 24 hours snapped me out of my daze. I remember standing and confronting everyone. “What should I be grateful for? Is it this cake that I hate, or this hat that hate? Maybe I should be grateful for this family?”  I stopped myself before I added "that I hate", threw the hat on the ground in disgust and marched off to the car, got into the backseat and did not speak another word for nearly two days.

The long weekend passed and finally I was able to escape my bedroom, and go to school. Monday morning came and I crept out of the house without incident, I made my way to the city bus stop and waited for my carriage to arrive. I would say school is the last place I wanted to go, but it actually it ranked as third least appealing places to go; just beating out my grandmothers and my parents’ apartment. My reasons for disliking school were not anything out of the ordinary, it was 8th grade and I was in Junior High and that was enough.

The school day was uneventful, but like all school days for me I couldn't wait for it to end. I made sure to catch the late bus home, wanting to spend as little time locked away in my room as possible. I wasn't grounded, I was just angry.  Anywhere in the apartment that wasn't my room meant I could possible see my parents. I couldn't look at them, the very site of them made me ball my fist, clinch my jaw, and grind my teeth. I hated everything about them. Try as I might I could not shake that feeling, something between us had finally broke and it was irreparable.

Walking the long parking lot to the back of the complex, I got a pleasant surprise when I found my Aunt Carol parked and waiting for me. Normally a visit from my aunt was carefully arranged beforehand, by her, to minimize any chance of her running into my father.  My Aunt Carol is my dad's sister and was at that time my favorite aunt. She was the cool aunt who took me to movies, gave me too much candy, bought me comics, and made sure every birthday I got a twenty dollar bill, and every Xmas I got a Nintendo game. Her arrival was the first pleasant thing that had happened to me in four days. If you recall one of those 4 days was my birthday which made it seem that much worse and her being there that much better.

When I approached the car she rolled down the window and told me to "Get in", no greeting just "Get in".  Her tone worried me; I figured she must be angry with me, even though I didn’t feel like I had done anything wrong. I think this feeling of worry is the exclusive domain of all children who are spoken to in raised firm tones by an adult.  My assumption was that she talked to my parents and they had lied to her and twisted the story as to cast blame my way.

I slide into the passenger seat aunt’s car narrowly avoiding the stupid auto seat belt. As great as being right is, this is a moment I would have loved to have been wrong. My aunt is a no bullshit kind of lady, she will tell you what’s on her mind and she won’t soften the blow to make you feel better. Knowing this I was not surprised when she asked, “Why were you too big a cry baby to talk to me on your birthday?” The look of withering contempt I gave her pulled the wind from her sails because she came up short. I think she expected to see shame on my face, a boy too old to cry caught in the act. She started again with a noticeably different tact, “What happened on your Birthday?”
I started from the beginning, telling her all about Junior Career, the SNES, and the theft of my money, not once but twice by my parents. During the telling I did feel shame, and I fell into tears a few times.  The tears magnified my feeling of shame and stupidity, I knew my aunt was not into crying children so I tried to keep it together, but I couldn’t, I was at my breaking point. My father would often tell me that my aunt was the High Queen Ice Bitch, and he wasn’t exactly wrong. Her patience for my blubbering and inability to get my story out was at its end.  She shushed me and asked me one question, “What do you want me to do about it, Johnny?” I had my answer ready; I told her I wanted to leave, that I would rather be anywhere else. I swore if she took me I would be good, I wouldn’t ask for anything, I’d do anything. In that moment I would have sworn any oath, told any lie, and broken every promise I had ever made to be taken away. It was not to be, I mistook her statement as a question. She said she couldn’t take me, that it wouldn’t be right and that I was just going to have to get through it.

My conversation with my aunt degrades from there into incoherent sobs, the self-pity I felt in that moment still stings to this day. I was coming unglued, I could feel my inner steel go thin and papery, it was no longer strong enough to hold me together. The next month would be one of the darkest times in my life. My self-esteem would dip to lows I didn’t know I had, I didn’t recognize myself, physically or mentally. The strong sturdy material I though made me who I was had eroded. I had become a shapeless, purposeless, thing. In this wretched time of my life I gave real consideration to suicide. I wish I could say what kept me from it was the last remnants of the steel that once made me strong, but in reality it was fear. Fear based on long discarded Catholic teachings. Fear of the pain. Fear of doing it wrong and surviving. Whatever happened I didn’t want to fail and be institutionalized or live a life physically maimed. I am thankful that I never had access to a gun during this point of my life; the ease at which I could have made a fatal error is staggering.

My older sister is the one who finally stopped me from circling the drain. She is as unlikely a savior as you can imagine. Megan was 21, married, and had a nine month-old daughter. She shared a house not just with her husband and daughter, but with 3 and sometimes 4 roommates. She worked on and off and her husband did construction, which due to the recession wasn’t a great field to be in. Megan fled my parents at 16 years-old; she went out the window of her bedroom one night and never returned. We knew she was okay, she kept in touch, but my parents never tried to bring her home. I never blamed my sister for leaving and in all my life, I have never asked her why she left, I guess I never had to.

            One day in early November my sister came to the door, I was relieved. Not to see her specifically but to see anyone. My parents hadn’t been home in what was two days. It wasn’t an unheard of amount of time for them to be gone, but it was worrisome.  Turns out my parents had found their way to jail. Apparently a couch fell off a truck they were driving behind and they hit it pretty good. The impact caused them spin off the road and crash into the side of a mountain. They had minor injuries, my mother had broken her arm, but both would be fine. What wasn’t fine was that my parents were both loaded on a multitude of drugs when the police arrived at the scene. After they were treated they were taken directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars. In that two day span no one came for me, not police, not CPS, not a soul. I went to school both days and nobody so much as blinked at me.

My parent used their one call to try and persuade my grandmother to post bail, it was a big no go, so they were going to have to see the judge and hope for the best. It did not go well, but it could have been worse, they both spent the next three months in jail. Some how in all of this I was never mentioned, no one ever asked where I was. My grandmother obviously knew I had to be somewhere, but she never came for me, and she never called anyone. If my sister hadn’t stopped by my grandmothers to give her a quick visit with the baby, who knows if she would have told anyone?

My sister took me from the Meadow Wood Apartments and I would never return. I would only live with Megan for 8 months but they were absolutely paramount in my healing and rediscovery of self-worth.  My sister and I never got along when we lived together as children, and this second go round was no exception. We fought a lot, but I needed that, I needed someone to lead me into a fight, to rekindle the fire that had been lying dormant inside me. I don’t know if she did it on purpose or if it was pure happenstance but I will always be grateful.

I did get a Super Nintendo that year, my Aunt Carol who I hadn’t yet forgiven for stranding me with my parents sent a card for Xmas. She lived at the other side of town, so clearly she wasn’t ready to see me yet either, be it from guilt, shame, or disgust. The card arrived a week early and had 3 crisp One Hundred Dollar bills inside. Not willing to make the same mistake for a third time, I immediately got on my brother-in-laws bike and pedaled down to the local game store, the Game Exchange.  I walked straight to the counter and asked for a Super Nintendo. The shop keeper, a pudgy guy named Al, told me I was lucky they had just gotten some in. I left the shop with a brand new SNES and a copy of Final Fantasy 2, the bulk made it impossible to ride home, but I was content to walk.

At the time I thought that this was my finest hour, and that the pendulum of life had finally swung in my favor. Alas, as all pendulums are want to do, it swung back the other way. By June of 1992 my sister could no longer afford to keep me, we were evicted from the house we were living in, and in an unlikely turn of events my grandmother agreed to let me sleep on the couch at her house. The peace between us would only last a few weeks. I was cast out of the house, and told I was dead to the family. I lived on the rocks above the train tracks for 6 weeks, in that span I had managed to get back in touch with Junior Careers and resume my life as a candy con man.  In my 6 weeks of homelessness I did have brief interludes as a normal boy, where a friend who lived close by would let me stay at his house while his mom and dad were at work. We played my SNES endlessly, and if nothing else it gave me a place to shower and stay out of the heat. From this point on my life would get better, not in a single leap or bound but in the steady upward thrust of switchbacks.  It did of course have lows left for me to traverse, but that is the nature of life and it never went as low as the fall of 1991.

I know this tale seems sad, but I can tell you, now more than 20 years removed from all of this, I have no regrets.  My life is now better than I could have ever imagined. I served in the military, graduated college, have a game collection I enjoy, unbelievably good friends, and a wife I don’t deserve. The indignities of my childhood seem a pitifully small price to have what I do today. If I had not gone through all of that I never would have made it here. Life isn’t always an easy journey, but when it’s hard you must keep going. The dawn of every new day takes you closer to a new beginning, if you stop you will never arrive.


PS: While I have lost most of the things I owned in life prior to the age of 14, I have somehow managed to hold onto that Super Nintendo, it is one of the the last relic from that part of my life.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gamecube Collection Update: Almost There

Almost There

I am close to finishing, very close. I have added GameCube to the sidebar so you can see where my number is at, 520 out of 557. I think the final number of 557 could be argued to 555, as it depends how you count some of the Zelda Wind Waker games. I am leaning towards 555 being my number, but a friend gave me the his very well put together checklist and it says 557. Until I think it over some more I am going to keep with his number.

"Almost there."
Red Leader, 1977Created & submitted by mazeon

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Only in Their Dreams Can Men Truly Be Free." R.I.P. Robin Williams

 “But only in their dreams can men be truly free. It was always thus and always thus will be.”  
R.I.P. Robin Williams

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Complete U.S. Release Harry Potter Video Game Collection (All Variants)

How Many Harry's?

 Back in April when I was writing up the Pokemon post about catching them all I started thinking about all the people who collect just the Pokemon games, and then I then started to think about completing whole console sets. My wife has every Pokemon game in the main series, and while she likes games she would never dream about collecting a full console set. I don't think most people in video game collecting are looking to complete full system sets and the reasons for this are many: it's costly, it takes up a bunch of space, it means you are going to put games you never want to play in your collection, and it is not practical. What reasonable collectors do is go after subsets. These subsets can be almost anything, a particular publisher, a box type, a specific genre, a favorite game series, and on and on. With this on my mind, I thought it would be fun do go after a subset I haven't seen anyone display
before, Harry Potter.

How Hard Could It Be To Go For A Harry Potter Set?

I told myself completing this set should be pretty easy as there are only 7 books / 8 movies. I wasn't wrong, it wasn't that hard as the set was only 14 games (I would later find out that most of the portable games are vastly different than the console games). As many of the Potter games are cross platform I need to pick a system / systems. Making this a Playstation 2 / PS3 subset was an easy choice, because between the two consoles they contain all 13 14 games and I didn't want to cross pollute with Xbox, or Nintendo (At the time I made this choice, I did not realize Harry Potter Kinect was a physcial game, I thought it was a download only). Having the set narrowed down to just Sony made picking up all the games a snap. I already owned 2 of the games and getting the other 11 took me until May with very little effort. At one local shop I noticed they had 2 of the PSP titles, so I figured I would grab those call them extras and be done.

Picking up those PSP games turned out to be a pretty bad decision, because by the time I got home my collector brain / OCD was kicking into gear, curious what other Harry Potter titles were on the PSP. With nary a pause I went right upstairs got on the computer and began digging. My research would lead me to the list below,

This is not a huge list and they all seemed pretty easy to find, until I realize that the Lego Harry Potter Favorites can only be found if it is new and sealed. Why? Because this is one of the PSP favorites that just had a sticker slapped on the cellophane, once opened it becomes just a standard Lego Harry Potter PSP game. Despite that annoyance I found most of them locally and for cheap. The PSP Vita only had the one Potter title so I grabbed it too. When I decided in April to do this set I picked the week of July 31st, Harry Potter's Birthday, as the target date of release and it was only May 10th and I was done. With so much time on my hands I expanded the set again to include all Sony Harry Potter games. This expansion added only 4 games, 2 from the PS1(Sorcerer's Stone & Chamber of Secrets) and 2 PS2 titles (Order of the Phoenix & The Half Blood Prince) that also appeared on the PS3. This not being nearly enough games I decided to go for Sony variants as well, this would bring in the box sets, Greatest Hits titles and some other random variants.

The addition of all the variants accounts for 15 more games bringing the total to 39 games. Finding and identifying these variants proved far more challenging than the initial set of 14 and lead me further down the rabbit hole then I ever intended on going. I was in full research mode, so I decided I would identify and list all Harry Potter console games and their subsequent variants. "No harm in just listing them", I told myself.  Here is a confession, whenever I make a list I make sure each item has a box next to it so that I can check it when it's done or in my collection. Making a list of games is almost a sure fire way to trick myself into buying them. I cannot stand looking at an uncompleted list, it punches me right in the OCD.

Creating the list for the Harry Potter games was way harder than I anticipated. I mostly collect for classic systems, so I just assumed that modern games were all known quantities with good pictures, and tons of information. While that could still be true, it isn't in the case of the Harry Potter games. Every time I was sure I had the list set I would find another variant, or I would have to remove a game because that particular variant wasn't ever released in the US. Proving the existence of a particular game variant is only half the battle, and is doesn't compare to actually finding it and purchasing it. This uphill battle would continue into mid July, and truth be told I am still unsure about one variant.

Why Is It A Challenge To Prove Any Of These Harry Potter Games Exist?

 I know what your thinking and let me see if this covers all of it. "These aren't obscure or under produced titles, these are HARRY POTTER GAMES, one of the most well known and well loved series of all time, each game probably sold a million copies. How can this possible be hard? Oh and what about barcodes, and Google Images, or Youtube for unboxing videos, or game forums, and you know the whole fricken Internet." True, all of those things are real and I did utilize them, but the reality is that information on the Internet isn't neatly organized until it is. It becomes such when someone someone with a bit of gumption and reason takes action, it then requires that same person to post that information publicly to a relatively easy to access location. After this post it will probably never be difficult to find all the US Harry Potter games ever again, and I am okay with that. This whole process has opened my eyes to the difficulty of collecting for modern consoles. I actually plan to do a write up on that topic, but I didn't want to water down this Harry Potter post with something that should get it's own write up.

Insight as to why it was difficult to complete this set.
  • Cross Platform: This is a volume problem that expands all the other problems.
  • Barcodes: Barcodes specify a product but not always the variants of that product. Harry Potter Prizoner of Azkaban (Xbox) has a different SKU on it than Harry Potter Prizoner of Azkaban Platinum Hits (Xbox), but has the same sku as Harry Potter Prizoner of Azkaban with Movie Ticket.
  • Minor Variants: This has always been a problem, but now that tons of games are cross platform it's worse as each company creates different minor variants. Several Harry Potter games included movie tickets, but his didn't happened on every console or for every game. For instance Prisoner of Azkaban had a ticket on the PS2, Gamecube got them with Goblet of Fire, while both  the Wii and DS got them on Order of the Phoenix. Sorry Xbox, none for you.
  • Covers: This is mainly a problem for the Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4, This game used the same cover for the standard version of the game, versions with the DVD inside the case,  and a version with a separate DVD attached to the case.
  • Retailer Exclusives: Target had different copies of Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 than all the other resellers as theirs included DVD's. This also lead to a strange cardboard trifold packaging for the PS3 version, while the Xbox and Wii versions covers wear nearly identical. Another odd one is Walmart, they had a special Heroica Lego Harry Potter 5-7 DS pack-in.
  • Canadian Vs. US Release: The US releases have their title text in English only, while all Canadian releases have French text on the cover too. For example it will read Harry Potter, big and in English, and the Goblet of Fire, also in English, but it will have Goblet of Fire written in French as well. For some reason on US release of Order of the Phoenix for the GBA and DS version it has French and English text.Another exception is that the Order of the Phoenix that contains the movie ticket has no French text. It was a lot of fun figuring that out.
  • Stock Photos: Every game site, eBay, Amazon, and Google Images is just littered with stock photos. This is a problem one, because stock photos exist for products that were never sold. Two, when a game has many versions with the same cover you never know what you are going to get. Three, some stock photos are mock ups and don't reflect what the actually final product looks like. Bottom line, it makes finding exactly what you are looking for that much more difficult.

What IsThe End Result?

The end result of this process is a list that took over 3 months for me to be happy with. The finally tally stands at 98 games, with 14 individual titles. The first game, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone for PS1 and Gameboy Color, was released in the last quarter of 2001 and the most recent, Wonderbook: Book of Potions, was released November of 2013 for the PS3. Bonus items you can add to the list include 2 accessory packs, 1 promo download code, and 1 themed console box. The list covers 13 systems with, has 5 special box sets, 23 different version of Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4, and a bevy of portable games that are vastly different from their console counter parts but share the same title.

Thanks For Reading,

I am currently working on a video to go with this post, look for that on My YouTube Channel in a few days.

The Checklist

(Checklist will soon have Pics of Each Cover)

Odds and Ends
I am currently working on a video to go with this post, look for that on my youtube channel in a few days.

Harry Potter games on the GBC, GBA, DS, and PS1 are offer a different game play experience than the ones released on console. Most of them are so different it would be fair to consider them different games. It should also be noted that the PC games (not in this collection) are also not the same as the console or portable versions.

On consoles the first Harry Potter game released was Chamber of Secrets in 2002 while the GBC, GBA, and PS1 got Sorcerer's Stone in 2001.Console gamers would get a far different version of Sorcerer's Stone a year later.

Truth Time.
The timing of this post is no accident, the new Wizarding World attraction Diagon Alley just opened in Florida, as well as the Wizarding World of Japan, plus it's J.K. Rowling as well as Harry Potter's birthday. Harry Potter Mania is alive and well

Cruel Joke.
Several Wii versions of Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 contained the Sorcerer's Stone DVD, but the Wii can't play DVD's.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

World's Largest Video Game Collection, Sold? Does This Affect Us?

7/17/14 Update: Looks like the collection may not have sold after all. The top of his website also states this collection is still for sale. Unfortunately for collectors the damage is done as the publicity of the event cannot be taken back.

World's Largest Video Game Collection, Sold? Does This Affect Us?

I know I am late to comment on this but the supposed "World's Largest Video Game Collection" just sold for over $750,000. This entry isn't to describe minutia or details of the sale, if you want that the links above will give you access to all the particulars of the auction, bidding, contents etc.  I could dedicate a whole post to the contents of this auction and how misleading it is. Hell, I'd like to go on record and refute half the sets he calls complete, because clearly they aren't. I could do a follow up post to the one above about the nature of online auctions and how to even a barely trained eye this one looks like a sad grab at attention that preys on our hobby and is most probably fake. I am going to attempt to avoid the pitfalls of such discussions. To indulge in rants like those listed previously looks a lot like petty Internet jealousy, and even though I could tell you it isn't, that is exactly what it would look like. What I want to discuss is what this sale means for collectors, and I do think it affect us.

It's not often but every once in awhile the sale or a particular game, or this case games, grabs media attention outside of our little niche. You might remember the Gold Nintendo World Championship Cart that sold for 100k back in February, or the Stadium Events found at a Good Will that was immediately valued at 15k and least we forget the French collector that nabbed 1.2 Million for his games. These are transcendent events that seep into the general populous and alerts them, that HEY! video games are valuable. The trickle down of these events can be as innocuous as the random comments from your non-collector friends. It can also be seen in the positive upswing of new collectors on forums you visit. It may even lead to some less awkward family interaction, because they are going to call or email now that they feel they finally have something to talk to you about.

Those are some of the nice things that will happen, however, it will also lead to some not so nice things.  One thing that is sure to happen is an influx of resellers (annoying but not always bad). The problem with many new resellers is that they may not be collectors, which means you have to wade through their ignorance, explain what rare actually means and that no SMB/Duck Hunt is not in fact very valuable.Who can forget the 13k Nintendo from Storage Wars? YUUUUP it's NES-001, just like most of them. Another downside is that it more resellers and collectors means less product, less product means higher prices. Your local game store or favorite website might just not have the deals they use to, or less of them anyway. People on eBay will automatically list their games for more, people start over valuing their trades, and the incremental price hikes continue. 

We mustn't forget the scammers. As more money gets dumped into the hobby, so do more scammers. These people come in a few flavors but the worst of them are the ones who will join a community and just wait.They will hang out get to know the scene and after they build a little trust they take advantage of as many people as they can in one fell swoop. On eBay  and on the forums you get more people trying to pass off fakes as the real deal and then you also get more grey items like repros, custom boxes, and magnets. Grey items aren't all bad, and these people aren't always scammers but they are people who want to make money off of the hobby without selling the genuine article.

The whole buying experience of retro games changes when a transcendent event occurs. Do you troll Craigslist, your local paper, or Kijiji? Get ready for a bunch more ads stating " I buy Games for all systems, umm for my kids, so they ugh can, ummm, play the games that I grew up with?". For your kids, right, totally believe you. As if those posts weren't insulting enough you then have all the people who suddenly believe they are sitting on a pot of gold. These people putting up ads with a busted NES, 2 controller, and 3 games for $200. Oh shit, what a deal! Thank you for listing that.

I know I sound  all doom and gloom, but the reality is that video game collecting is a growing. With growth we have to be prepared for some things to get worse and take count measures to make it better. When big events like this happen people take notice and that notice comes with a cost.

Thank you for reading,

Stay Safe, Play Safe

Monday, May 26, 2014

Retron 5 Review and Game Play Video

Retron 5 Video Review with Game Play

This is a basic review and game play video that puts the Retron 5 through it's paces. I test all the different formats that the Retron 5 is able to play, including, Famicom, Super Famicom, Sega Master, System, Genesis, Gameboy, SNES, NES, GBA, Home Brew, and Repros.

My testing of Repros and Homebrews is ongoing. Please see this link for more info.
The Test List

Thank you for watching,

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pick ups 5/21/14 and a Hint at what set I am going to try and complete next.

Greeting Constant Reader,

I don't do many posts about my recent pick ups, but this one was kind of large so I figured I'd drop the pics on here and show you guys the next set I am going to try and finish, I guess it's not so much a hint as an obvious confession. Notice  though I did say try, I could very well get distracted, or if I get some good trades hopefully I can finish that NES set I have been plugging away at. I am about 7 games from a PS1 Long Box set so I could get a wild hair and finish that, but as to what I am currently working at it's GameCube and NES, just like with Sith there can be only two. The Sith rule is a bit of a slap in the face to Highlander...just a random musing, as it is now well past my bed time.


Pics of my trades here