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My lifelong obsession with video games

Baron Von Jerkface


I was born less than a year into the VCS' life. The first video game I was exposed to was one of the home Pong units. I wasn't allowed to play it, because I was "too young". I recall it hooked up to the television in our home in Milwaukee... a home we left when I was 3, so I probably was too young. I had a half-brother eight years my senior who used to visit during the summers from California. He definitely got to play the Pong unit with my dad.


In 1981, we moved down to Georgia and I don't remember the circumstances, but we got an Atari at some point and later, an Intellivision II. Atari was certainly first, and the first video game I ever played was either Pac-Man or Asteroids on the VCS. My brother, however, would play the more complicated games, like Adventure, or Starmaster, but I could only do the games with few rules and that just required survival.


My dad was laid off by the company that moved us to Georgia shortly thereafter, but we still amassed a huge library of games. Suddenly, we had an Intellivision II and amassed a bunch of games for that console as well. Where did the money come from if my dad was out of work? I'd rather not think about it. 


Then in a pattern that I wish I hadn't learned, my dad bought the Intellivision system changer and got rid of our VCS. Why have an entire console if you can just play the games on a small box that plugs into a console? My dad continued buying games for the Atari and Intellivision all the way up until the late 80s when he bought us a Sega Master System, which begat the Genesis, which begat the Playstation and then I moved away from home in 1999. 


The theme during these video game years was that my dad was extremely selfish. He was constantly afraid we would ruin these expensive investments. I only got to play these systems when he wasn't home (which was rare, because he would get a job, move us out of state, then get laid off shortly thereafter). I remember living in Marietta, Ga., and my dad would hide the Intellivison/Atari combo when he would leave for work. My mom would set it up for me and I'd get to play until just before he would get home. One day, I was busted playing it because he got laid off that day and came home early. 


We moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1985 and then back to Wisconsin for good in 1986. I got caught up in all of the newer game consoles as I hit adolescence... all my friends had Nintendo, but I had Sega... and the Atari/Intellivision got put into a basement box and there it would sit along with several boxes of games for each system.


In 1999, I moved into a house in Saint Paul, Minnesota to play in a punk band. My landlord/roommate/bandmate, Jon, said he had bought an Atari Jr. when they were closed out for $30, so when I moved I took the boxes of Atari games with my dad's blessing. Well, Jon never actually brought his console over to the house we lived at, so these games just sat in the basement next to my room in boxes. After I met my wife and we decided to move to California, I decided that I needed to pare down my possessions, I made the unfortunate decision to part with my Atari games (and my beloved Commodore 64 and its accouterments, but that's a different but similar story). 


I emulated my dad and bought the Atari collections for Playstation thinking, "hey, now I have the games I like and these discs take up so much less room, so I don't need these three boxes of COMPLETE IN BOX 2600 games..." I sold the entire lot to Jon for $50 cash. Let me repeat, all of these games were in their original boxes with the manuals. I'm talking about common games like Pac-man to less common masterpieces like Laser Gates... the Parker Brothers games in the indestructible boxes, like Empire Strikes Back and Reactor, to the weird Imagic games like Fathom. I had Star Raiders with the touchpad in the boxes they came with... the comics... all of that. $50. And it was for more than 60 games. God, I was stupid. If I could go back in time, after I killed baby Hitler, I'd tell myself "DON'T SELL THE GAMES OR THE COMMODORE 64!!!!"


So, here we are 19 years later. I still don't have very much room for stuff in my current home, but I made an impulse decision to buy a light-sixer console and have had trouble NOT buying games for it. This blog will be my story of getting back into collecting for the 2600 and my attempts to control my obsession.


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