Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The law of attraction: old game stuff somehow finds its way to me.

I'm sorry, gang, though their historical value is dubious my video game ANSI art series is proving to be so popular it's derailing this blog.  Following a warm reception from my old ANSI colleagues, I dug a bit deeper and I can conclusively say that there at least three most posts in the hopper on that particular subject.
But what of the video game comic book ads? You know, like in the blog's name? Well, the good news is that this post isn't about ANSI art. The bad news is that I'm derailing the derailing with a different derailment: back to garage sale finds!

I know that it's the chronological extremes that are sexier -- the older, classic consoles like the NES and Atari 2600, or the bleeding-edge next-gen powerhouses, but the core of my collecting spans the Xbox/PS2/Gamecube era (they're just what people happened to be selling for cheap second-hand when I started looking for deals) and I've got to say, it's a solid generation.  That said, there's an ineffable (likely coin-gobbling) quality to an arcade classic, so here I get the best of both worlds: Midway Arcade Treasures is a compendium of 24(!) arcade classics, largely developed by Atari Games.  (It's kind of criminal how Atari did the heavy lifting and then Midway gets to slap its label on and ride the nostalgia gravy train.  In a just world, this would be called Atari Games Arcade Treasures, Plus A Handful Of Williams' Mediocre Games, Oh Yes And A Couple Of Midway Ones Too.)  Two dozen games would be the stock of a respectable arcade, and this compilation has plenty of absolute classic classics including Spy Hunter, Stargate, Defender, Gauntlet, Joust, Paperboy, Rampage, Robotron, Smash TV, Rampart, Sinistar, Marble Madness, Super Sprint, Toobin', Tapper... and lesser-known titles.  At its original retail price ($20) that would be excellent value.  Second-hand, I spent $3, which comes to twelve and a half cents per game -- or otherwise put, unlimited play of coin-op arcade games, two games for a quarter, which ups the value from "excellent" to "insane".  Basically if more compilations of this expansive quality were released, the games industry would collapse as there would be no need to spend money on new games.

You will also note that I picked up two Xbox 360 games (joining one I'd accidentally acquired previously), pre-emptively stocking a collection for a machine I'm anticipating inheriting.  I never imagined I'd own a machine from that generation (though I logged some good play hours on a 360 in the tail months of my bachelorhood courtesy of the ex-roommate whose original Xbox I also inherited) because there was no way I could justify the new purchase price and it could just be assumed that any units spotted second-hand in the wild for suspiciously affordable prices were casualties of the Red Ring Of Death -- basically, a consequence of consoles' grown complexity being an increased consumer-subsidized burn-in period.  But this comes from a friend who has genuinely just moved on, so I'm preparing to pass through a door I never expected to see opened.  Will Lego Batman really be that much improved on the 360 from the PS2 version?  I don't know, but all the Lego games are at least some fun (we had to turn off Lego Indiana Jones at my game party due to the pulpy racism in the DNA of the original source material) and the price was right.  Assassin's Creed seems to have been well-received and become influential -- maybe the most interesting game about the Templars ever made -- and maybe my native Canada's biggest gift to gaming since Distinctive Software became EA Sports (or, OK, let's temper the hyperbole a bit: since Bioware released KOTOR?)

But I've saved the best for last: what an amazing T-shirt, it's a pity it's so small ... a throwback to the days when video games were for kids. (Well, they still are: we remain those kids, obstinately trudging immaturely toward middle-age.)  Does the shirt describe a Nintendo player or a power player?  Or just a Nintendo Power reader who, presumably, plays as well?  (No, I just enjoy the magazine for its articles...)  Well, at least I can rest secure in the knowledge that when my toddler daughter is ready to start gaming, I can clothe her in some suitably appropriate vintage garb.

(All that plus a working free box mini TV/VCR for video game party display -- the limiting factors have been the number of monitors [and, admittedly, power outlets!] but we should be up at least two next time around.)

... but let's be honest here, these deals are all peanuts compared to the great deals I picked up at the GOG and Steam summer sales, launching inconveniently just after Father's Day, an occasion on which people search their brains for suitable presents to give ageing dudes. (Then again, maybe it's for the best: as a sage colleague noted on a post almost exactly one year ago: "I was super excited about this game when it was released. My wife bought it for me for Christmas that year. I played it for hours. She never bought me another video game again.") I picked up (among other titles) complete packages of the Blackwell and Tex Murphy series, plus all of Telltale's Sam & Max and Monkey Island episodes. Also the Goat Simulator. Well over a hundred dollars in savings. Will I get a chance to play any of them before the winter sale? I already logged a few hours playing a discounted Master of Magic from GOG and it was worth ten times what they asked. But I digress! If this blog veers into digital download territory (have I urged you to purchase Choice of Games' Heroes Rise games on Steam yet, striking a blow for great justice and text-based gaming in modern storefronts?) then that will be a whole other kind of digressing digression, likely one with fewer interesting visuals and less retro appeal. So let's wrap it here!