Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Christmas haul, 2016

In previous years through various permutations of this blog you have seen me document ridiculous holiday yields of video game-related gifts on a few occasions. Typically you can gauge what else is going on in my life by just how quickly I'm able to get a relevant blog post up -- last year we waited a whole month, while I imagine in previous years of sporadic employment I may have been able to get right on it with same-day or next-day service (since I was sure you were all on the edge of your seats, right?) Well, here we are -- I was able to attend to the documentation and tabulation right away, but a blog post is more than a spreadsheet update so it's taken me a while to be able to get around to explaining what makes the exceptional pieces just so exceptional.
Exhibit A... was what we thought was the whole enchilada, opened on Christmas morning as part of the "stocking" phrase of the holiday. Later, we would progress to Christmas dinner, which (it turns out) entailed some heavy-duty gift-receiving itself. But I get ahead of myself. As you can see, the preliminary haul was no slouch:
At twelve-'o-clock there's a schematic diagram T-shirt showing the guts of a Nintendo Entertainment System gamepad -- definitely Gamely. I don't know if I approve of the hardware fetishization (a good memory of software is a memory of experiences and stories, but a good memory of hardware is kind of ... a memory of a context in which other memories occurred, it's all a bit meta for me), but then again I have an NES on ice in storage in my basement, so who am I to throw shade? ... a trifecta of disc-based games: The Cat in the Hat for the original Xbox (whose games I can no longer run, having given my unit away under the false understanding that the 360 was backwards-compatible!), Barnyard for the Gamecube (not being previously familiar with the license, the game itself is turning out to deserve the nickname "Grand Theft Tractor"), and Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures part 2 for the WiiU (which I also do not have yet... maybe someday... maybe in a decade... maybe never?) (Not pictured: Mario Party 8.)

Then there are the considerably more aged cartridge-based games for the Atari 2600 and Colecovision -- some early hits from big-name developers, but hang on a sec, can we zoom in there a little?

A photo posted by Rowan Lipkovits (@nicheinterests) on
Well, if you're going to have six copies of something, you could do worse than the killer app that was the Colecovision's Donkey Kong. (NB, only 3 copies for that machine, the other 3 for the VCS.) Moving right along... take a good, hard look at the fabric pattern on that stocking! Then we have a couple of baggies of Super Mario candy (gosh, I hope it isn't mushroom flavoured), light-up Super Mario bonus keychains (a question-box and a 1UP mushroom), a -- look closely! -- Super Mario Christmas ornament painted on a blown eggshell!, a Pac-Man ghost candy tin, Pac-Man drinking tumblers, and some kooky Playmobil pirate game for the Nintendo DS. Phew! I know, it's not a huge haul, but it's respectable enough, right? I know, I know -- "When I grew up, I put away childish things", yadda yadda.

Later that day, I uncovered the main attraction... did someone say cartridge-based games? My mother-in-law must have encountered a dealer liquidating their stock at a flea market. I didn't count, probably over a hundred Atari 2600 carts -- naturally, including a ton of duplicates, both in regards to what I already had and even internally (and heh, there's the seventh Donkey Kong of the day!) plus some Xonox two-headers and non-standard carts made by more niche third-parties than Activision and Imagic, but more interesting to me were other cartridges for systems I didn't own or had never even interacted with -- it's always exciting to someone as overexposed and blase about old video games as I am to go "hello, what's THIS?" to something never before seen: a few Atari 7800 carts, a couple of cartridges for the Atari 8-bit computers, a bunch of Texas Instruments TI-84 cartridges (hello, commercial release of Hunt the Wumpus! I had a chance to pick up a working machine in a Value Village basement when I was destitute and was crushed to find hours later -- and a few dollars richer -- that someone else had snapped it up), a few cartridges for the TRS-80 CoCo -- my first home computer, one of these games (Castle Guard, if memory suggests correctly a Pong clone) very likely part of my very first exposure to home video gaming.

(That's one HECK of a non-standard Pitfall! label... the usual one is included for comparison.)
There's also a handheld Tetris clone ("Brick game". There's Super Mario Galaxy stuffies. Pac-Man salt and pepper shakers (I find myself wondering at what point an entire kitchen can be decked out in the Pac-Man theme? (The fruit bowl is only allowed to contain the following: Cherries, Strawberries, Peaches and Apples.) A Super Mario Strikers backpack (that one actually went to my daughter, as did the stuffies, but I rounded them all up for the group photo.) And another Super Mario candy tin, next to ... you can't see it in the photo, but front centre are chocolates shaped like gamepads and joystick controllers... Here's a close-up. (I'm told that someone close to me has acquired some chocolate molds, so I may be seeing more of these in the future...)

My eldest has been going nuts trying to get me to play the Pac-Man game (I don't know that a WiiU will ever be in the cards, but who knows if the relatively small supply of them will flood the market once the Switch is released) but failing that, we enjoyed an excellent time over the holidays playing through all five of the Freddi Fish adventure games by Humongous Entertainment. I enjoyed them so much, I even bought them on Steam! (And I've got to say, they've held up quite a bit better than Cyan's children's games. But Freddi is the only one of the pack with a girl as the hero.)

So there we go, from a respectable if somewhat underwhelming (this family does Christmas in a big way, we're trying to throttle it down a little bit but apparently not yet!) haul in the morning to a truly overwhelming cavalcade of cartridges by sundown, making my Atari 2600 collection... truly formidable! (And if I had all the parts needed to get them working, my Colecovision and Intellivision would be holding their own also!) Who knows what my birthday in April will bring? (Well, the next installment of my twice-annual vintage gaming Big Pixel parties, of course... and chances are, we'll be giving away duplicate VCS cartridges at the door. Stay tuned!)