This Summer will mark the 15th anniversary of the first time I considered myself a “video game collector”. For no reason in particular, I wanted to write up something about it. Mostly just for fun I guess, to help facilitate my own nostalgia. Even though I started collecting in the Summer of 2007, I’ve been playing video games my whole life.
Make no mistake about it, video games have changed my life. The trajectory of my life has changed multiple times either directly or indirectly because of video games.
I became obsessed with Nintendo (and subsequently other video games) when I was young like a lot of 80’s kids. The story goes that in 1989 my cousins brought their NES to a family reunion and my grandfather saw how much I loved it, so on the way home, we stopped at Montgomery Wards, and he bought one for my sister and I. It came with Super Mario Bros, and we also got Mickey Mousecapades and Sesame Street 123 (I was 5 years old).
(Image: My first ever game room back in 2008.)
As I started school and made friends, it seems like all we wanted to do besides running around the neighborhood causing trouble was play Nintendo. I have vivid memories of starting a game of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project late at night and leaving the NES on overnight so we could finish it the next day. I became obsessed with games like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros 3, Bubble Bobble, Dragon Warrior, Kirby’s Adventure, and especially Maniac Mansion. I still remember being grounded when my friend finally figured out an ending to Maniac Mansion and being so bummed that I couldn’t go over to his house and see the ending.
I also became interested in PC gaming at this time, due to my aunt having one. Although I wouldn’t have a personal computer for years, my aunt and later my dad did, and I got to play a lot of great games. My earliest memories are of playing Myst with my aunt and I still love that game to this day. We also played games like Hugo’s House of Horrors and Commander Keen, among others, which I loved.
Over time, I got exposed to other systems like the Sega Genesis, which I loved playing Sonic the Hedgehog on. I got a Game Boy for my 9th birthday in 1993 with Dr. Mario and Yoshi Cookie. Soon thereafter I bonded with my stepmom over playing The Legend of Zelda: Links’s Awakening. We had so much fun exploring that game, and it became one of my all-time favorites.
My Dad wound up with a Super Nintendo and I loved going to his house and playing it. He had a surprising number of great games that I got to experience at a young age like Gradius III, Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Super Buster Bros, Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, and Mega Man X which is still my favorite Mega Man to this day. These were in addition to the classics like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario Kart, and others. He had a REALLY great library of games!
However, at my house, I only had an NES (and the Game Boy) until Christmas of 1996. I was obsessed with gaming magazines like Nintendo Power and Tips & Tricks, and desperately wanted a Nintendo 64. I was 12 now and wanted something new. Come Christmas morning, I excitedly opened my gifts to find… a Sega Saturn? I didn’t let it show to my mom (or at least I think I didn’t) but I was pretty disappointed. You can’t play Super Mario 64 on a Sega Saturn! It turns out whichever salesperson my mom has spoken to sold her on the Saturn’s “superiority”. My guess is they had a bunch sitting around collecting dust.
(Image: My complete set of N64 games, loose, before I boxed them all up.)
Despite my immediate disappointment, in retrospect I am forever grateful for that decision. If I didn’t get the Sega Saturn then, I might not have ever got one, hell, I might not have even played one. None of my friends had one. Instead, I got to play and fall in love with great games like Fighting Vipers, Daytona USA, Virtua Cop, Die Hard Arcade, and of course, the beloved NiGHTS into Dreams. What a fantastic game, and I never would have played it if I hadn’t got the Saturn for Christmas that year. A lot of people fell in love with Sega during the Genesis lifespan, but for me, it was the Saturn. Saturn is also the console where I first experienced Resident Evil and that game legitimately scared me!
Over the next few years, I mostly got games for the NES and the Sega Saturn, and then played the N64 at my dad’s house (he had upgraded from the SNES). Once again bonding was had with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the Mario Party games. I also became a huge wrestling fan and really enjoyed WCW Vs. nWo: World Tour, and WCW/nWo: Revenge. And Super Mario 64 is still one of my favorite games ever. I also got Pokemon Blue around this time and traded with all my middle school friends to complete the Pokedex. I fell in love with Pokemon then and have enjoyed it ever since.
A few years later after I started high school, I got my first job at a Godfather’s Pizza making $5.15 an hour and I started buying my own stuff. This is probably about 2001 or so. I got a used N64 (the Smoke color variant) and an SNES Mini as well. I also eventually got a Sega Genesis somewhere in there. I started buying games for those systems as well as what I already had. I also got my own personal computer, and Half-Life, which is a great game. The best part of Half-Life though for me was Team Fortress Classic. It is not the type of game I typically played but I love that game so much. I have put literal hundreds of hours into it over the years and I still log on to Steam and play it here and there on the few remaining servers with actual humans playing.
Despite owning a decent number of systems, and good chunk of games, I didn’t really consider myself a video game collector. I didn’t go out of my way to educate myself on gaming lore or history. It was something fun to do but it wasn’t my defining hobby or anything. My dad got a Sony Playstation 2, and we played Grand Theft Auto III together and beat that game, which was a lot of fun. But as I graduated high school and developed other interests, video games were not a focal point for me. Additionally, moving out on my own in 2003 left very little disposable income to buy more games. But I still played the games I did have, and I never got rid of any of them, no matter how broke I was.
(Image: My N64 set now, all boxed up nice and clean.)
My interest in gaming swelled again around 2006 when the Nintendo Wii came out. I got one as soon as it came out, with Wii Sports, and Warioware: Smooth Moves. That game was absurd, and my friends and I spent a lot of time playing it and enjoying the ridiculousness of it. I bought some more games for the Wii, and it was fun, but I still kept it pretty casual.
Then one day in the Summer of 2007, I walked into a CD Tradepost store. CDT was a great little store that had used DVDs, CDs, and video games. I shopped there occasionally, mostly to buy movies or music. But this time when I walked in, I was face to face with literally walls full of retro video games they didn’t have the week before. There was… EVERYTHING. Hundreds of games for major systems, stuff I’ve never seen before like a NEO GEO console, Vectrex, etc… It was crazy. I remember being shocked when I found a game called Battletoads/Double Dragon for the NES. I loved Battletoads and Double Dragon and had no idea this existed! It was $3.99 so I bought it, along with a LOT of other games.
I spoke with the store manager about it, and he let me know that a family had come in to sell the collection of their son who had passed on. It was a very sad thing to think about, and something I think about to this day. I bought a nice but small portion of the collection, because to me it felt right. I never sold my games that I did have. These were from this person’s cherished collection, and now they would become a part of mine, and I would cherish them the same. And just like him, I would never part with these games.
My conversation with the store manager turned towards the store in general, and he mentioned that he was hiring. I pretty much hated my bank teller job, so I applied, got hired, and quit my bank job. Six months later in December of 2007, I applied to manage another location, and got the job. And then I worked for CDT for eight and a half YEARS. That store manager went on to create Pop Culture Exchange, which is my favorite local store, and they have sold me literally hundreds of pieces for my collection throughout the years.
That summer I became enamored and obsessed with learning as much as I could about the history of video games. I started buying as many as I could, and I found a closing Captain Video rental store selling complete in box NES games for $5 each. It was a GREAT time to be a collector. I researched online daily in my downtime at CDT and found great resources and forums online. I scoured garage sales and eBay listings. I began to make lists and goals and deciding what I wanted to collect, and I discovered things I didn’t know existed, like the Aladdin Deck Enhancer, or that Sega had a Master System that existed before the Sega Genesis... I had no idea!
Collecting from 2007 until about 2010 was great. Prices were low, deals were had, and I worked at a place that dealt in games. I could buy games directly from the store if I needed them. I wish I had more expendable income back then. CDT didn’t pay a lot, but I bought what I could. Now that I have a great job and income present day, the prices are high, and the product is scarce. So it goes.
But around 2010 or so, retro gaming exploded in popularity. People figured out that these games could be valuable, and it was getting easier to use websites like eBay or Craigslist. You started seeing retro gaming stuff everywhere, on T-Shirts, in musical references, etc. It got a lot harder to collect, but I still did it. I bought everything I could, and I still got things cheap. I took advantage of sales at stores like Gamers, and I got SO MANY games for $5 or less… NES, SNES, Sega Saturn… the number of Sega Saturn games I got with $1.95 and $2.95 price stickers still stuck to the plastic… I am glad I had the foresight since you pretty much have to take out a loan to collect for the Saturn now.
(Image: Main display in my second game room, and the one I started my Instagram account with, circa 2017.)
So much time has passed since I started actively collecting. I eventually left my CDT job in 2015 for a job in tech. I don’t work with video games anymore, but I sure can afford to buy more of them. At some point I got a smart phone, but I never got too into mobile gaming. I downloaded Pokemon Go in 2016, played it for a week, then lost interest.
In March 2017, the Nintendo Switch was released, and I bought mine on Day 1, along with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game brought me many emotional moments and more than once it felt like to me that my life with gaming was coming full circle. From bombing every wall and burning every bush in the first game in the series, to spending over 200 hours exploring every inch of the map in BotW. It is without question one of my favorite games of all time.
I enjoyed plenty of other Nintendo Switch games and enjoyed modern gaming for the first time in a long time. Eventually I installed Pokemon Go again and this time I got hooked. I met up with a group of co-workers and we would routinely use our breaks to walk over to a gym and raid. Within this group is where I met the love of my life, my fiancé Rachel. Turns out she is almost as big a nerd as I am. We bonded over the game and in the process, we found out we are perfect for each other. She’s obsessed with games like The Sims, the Civilization series, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and others. She has even beat me at Street Fighter II. Last week she played through and helped me beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, and she had a blast doing so. We’re getting married next year. Once again, gaming indirectly changes the course of my life.
Some time a few years back I started my Instagram account, CodysGameRoom, and it has been a constant source of joy for me. Between having an outlet to share my hobby, and meeting amazing people within the retro gaming community, I am truly thankful that I made an effort to engage with it. Despite my modest following, I’ve made deals and trades for pieces added to my collection that I never would have had the chance to otherwise, and I’ve had amazing conversations and made legitimate friends there as well. I’m very thankful for the retro gaming community on Instagram.
Listen, I know over 2,700 words is a LOT to read about one guy’s journey with video games throughout the years. I don’t expect a lot of people to actually read all of this. If you have, thanks and I hope it was fun to read. But writing this was mostly for me to enjoy my own trip down memory lane, and self-reflect on 15 years of collecting, and a lifetime of gaming.
I currently own over 6,000 video games, tons of consoles, magazines, and memorabilia. In fact, there are less than 600 games left on my lists as far as systems I would like to collect for. I still try to play games every single day, even if for just a little bit, and usually succeed. Below are some collection highlights:
· Complete (loose) sets of every game released in the United States for the following consoles: Nintendo 64, Nintendo Game Boy, Nintendo Wii U, Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear.
· Only one (really rare) game needed to have complete loose sets of the following systems: Super Nintendo and Nintendo Virtual Boy.
· Every licensed NES game except for Little Samson and Stadium Events, and only missing 5 unlicensed games.
· A complete in box collection of Nintendo 64 games with the exception of 4 pieces, the box and manual for Stunt Racer, and Clay Fighter: Sculptor’s Cut.
· Various games for over 65 different consoles or handhelds.
· Near complete sets of Sega Genesis, Sega 32X, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, and Atari Lynx consoles (give me a few years )
· Almost every single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game released in the United States, complete in the box with a couple of very rare exceptions.
· A complete run of Nintendo Power Magazine from the very first to the very last issue.
Luckily, the collecting never ends. I don’t buy too many new release games, but there are plenty of retro gaming items still on my “lists”. Besides over 570 actual games, I’d still like to get hundreds of boxes and manuals for my NES and SNES collections, and work towards bigger collections for other consoles, like the Gamecube, Sega CD, and Turbografx-16. I look forward to continuing my journey with video game collecting. I’ve accomplished so many collecting goals and hopefully in another 15 years, I’ll have accomplished many more.
(Image: A shot from my current game room, the best version I've had yet, and hopefully the last!)