Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Hunt

I sometimes get just as wrapped up in buying new games as I do playing them. This all stems back to my first console, the Odyssey 2. I was still a sophomore in high school at the time, not working yet, so every game I could get for that system was an event. Combine my economic difficulties with the fact that the Odyssey 2 had a very limited library of games that seemed to trickle their way to the marketplace, and you can see just how this "event" mentality developed with me.

It carried over to my first computer, the Commodore VIC 20, even though I was working. Working meant having a car, so most of my paycheck went into that. Well, that plus beer and weed. Still, I managed to budget a release or two whenever I could, and it was still an event.

What was different, however, with the VIC 20 was that there were plenty of games for it, so I now had to choose carefully which games would give me the most bang for the buck. Another new factor also emerged early on. I lived in a small rural Ohio town (Galion), with only a few places selling software at all. Nearby was what I considered at the time to be a city (Mansfield), which did offer more choices.

So the hunt was on - searching department stores, toy stores, even office supply stores for software for my VIC 20. One of my greatest victories of those hunts was a copy of Crush, Crumble, and Chomp at a declining department store named Swallen's, in a very out-of-the-way display case which was in such disarry that one might think they were at a flea market.

It was hard to do any research back then - all we had were a few magazines covering the hobby to rely on for game reviews and advertisements. Often the decision on whether or not to buy a game came only after reading the back of its box.

This all carried over to my next game machine, the Commodore 64. I became aware at this time that the nearest real city, Columbus, had an unprecedented amount of places where I could get games for it, and I mounted a few expeditions to Columbus solely to get such treasures. I returned from one such expedition with Neutral Zone, Sword of Kadash, and Imperium Galactum, games I had never seen on the shelves anywhere in Galion or Mansfield.

When I finally moved to Columbus in late 1986, the city opened up to me, and within six months I knew every place selling Commodore 64 software and did "rounds" to check for new releases as well as sales on older titles I wanted. My budget for games was better, but not huge, so each purchase still had to be carefully considered, and was still an event for me.

The nineties brought me greater economic freedom, but the hunt was really on now. I had started to build a retrogame collection - acquiring games from the 70's and early 80s at flea markets and thrift stores. All of this being before the birth of eBay and the retrogame craze that we have now - I was picking up old stuff almost every week for many years, building up my own collection. If I had known that eBay was coming, I would have bought a lot more than what I needed for my personal collection, stored it away, and been very rich today. Ah, hindsight.

This kept the spirit of the hunt alive for me, both with the retro stuff and the modern stuff of the 1990s. In the late 1990s, though, it all ended when I logged into Ultima Online and began to care less and less about building a retro collection and keeping up with the consoles at the time. I had found what I called at the time "the last videogame I'll ever need".

When I emerged from my UO haze (for the most part), I found that there were plenty of great games I had missed. So the hunt began anew. I narrowed my focus to only the best of what was available - games I could get into as my time available for gaming diminished, and/or games I wanted to add to certain existing libraries (GameBoy Advance, Vectrex, etc.)

I still feel that old thrill, that rush, when I find the game I want on a store shelf and buy it, or when I track it down on the internet and order it. Like a little kid, I can't wait to get it home and begin playing it. I may be middle-aged, but I'll never grow up entirely.

No comments: