Saturday Morning Cartoon memories

It’s been a few years since the major networks ceased doing their Saturday Morning Cartoons blocks on TV. As a child in the 80’s and into the 90’s the whole ritual of getting up early on Saturday morning and being glued to the TV wasn’t just something we did, it was pretty much all we did.

Everyone has different memories of the Saturday Morning cartoons. For me it was often fighting my three sisters for control over what we watched next. Fortunately we did have 2 TV sets, although the smaller one was in black and white and was mostly used for video games, it still caused many fights that often ended with someone getting hurt. My oldest sister is 3 years my senior so she always wanted to watch stuff like Soul Train and in later years MTV. My immediately younger sister was barely a year and a half younger than I was so she typically had similar tastes in cartoons as I did, except she had this weird obsession with puppets so he gravitated towards stuff like Eureka’s Castle, Fraggle Rock and things of the like. I could get her into Pound Puppies, Snorks and Muppet Babies just fine, but she protested watching Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Transformers, G.I. Joe or even Scooby Doo. I never could figure out what she didn’t like about Scooby and friends. Then there was my baby sister. She had no say, all she wanted to watch was Rugrats and Nicktoons, didn’t matter what day of the week. When they moved Doug and Recess and all that Nickelodeon crap over to my network TV slots I sort of moved on and let her have it.

Of course not all the cartoons we watched aired first on Saturday mornings. Often times they were re-runs of syndicated shows and shows that ran earlier in the week. To that end we never really knew what we were going to get. My earliest memories were watching the Heroic Autobots battle the Evil Decepticons for control of the world’s energy sources. You could argue that watching this show about robots running out of energy contributed to my interest in alternative energy sources, but let’s not give too much credit to the animators of a Japanese cartoon. Save some of the blame for Captain Planet and his Planeteers that would come much later.

Another thing I liked to do during the week was record episodes of cartoons, commercials, and other shows that interested me and play them back on the weekend. I didn’t do this often but it was something I would dabble in. Normally I would end up erasing one of my sisters’ boy band concert videos so when they found out I taped over their boy crush for a bunch of random commercials and crap they would usually go ballistic. Most of my memories were fighting my sisters over what to watch more than enjoying the actual program. Because of this what we typically did was landed on one channel, watched it until commercials then flipped as fast as we could to the next and so on and so forth. This meant we were only getting bits and pieces of each show, but it was better than sitting through an entire episode of that lame New Kids on the Block cartoon that, in my opinion, never should have existed. Those brief moments in between when I got a glimpse of M.A.S.K., or C.O.P.S (why did so many cartoons back then use acronyms?), that’s when I would get excited.

I did eventually get crafty in my ability to turn my sisters on each other. I found ways to get the baby to play with her toys while I would get my younger sister and older sister fighting over a hair brush or article of clothing or something sisters cared about then I would sit on the floor way too close to the tube and claim it for my own. Once my parents would see I was firmly engrossed in a show if one of my sisters tried to change the channel they would get scolded with a firm “You weren’t even watching it, he was let him finish his show.” This strategy worked more often than not. I can’t be sure if they ever caught on because the oldest sister moved on to chasing boys and the youngest sister was easy to manipulate leaving the one opponent, the middle child. Even at the tender age of 8 I quickly learned how to negotiate with the middle child. I would usually agree let me watch this show and the next one and you can have it after that while I play Super Mario Bros. Since I tended to hog the Nintendo and always force my sister to be Luigi, it was easy for me to casually hint that she could play as Mario while I watched my shows. Then all I had to do was enjoy my programs while she romped through the Mushroom Kingdom with player 1 controller in hand for a change. This strategy didn’t always work as my parents were slow to increase our catalog of Nintendo games and my sister was quick to lose interest in the three games we did own for the longest time.

Manipulating my sisters was only half the battle. I also had to find crafty ways to get my parents out of the house in order to prolong the part where dad would kick me out of the house to play outside while he napped on the couch with the TV tuned to some fishing show or NASCAR or whatever else it was adults watched to fall asleep. Normally by the time the parents told us to play outside I would casually, sometimes sneakily, make my way into whichever side room had the video games and try to get in as many rounds of Atari or Nintendo as I could. We still had both systems well into the 90’s so this usually worked out until my parents just decided to give me my own TV set and I ended up winning the war for the TV after all was said and done.

For me it was mostly fought on Saturday mornings. Everyone remembers those blocks. I didn’t have much preference either. I would sit through an episode of the Alf or Teen Wolf cartoon, flip it over to an episode of Care Bears or even sit through an episode of Rainbow Brite if that’s what it took to keep the cartoons going and the old westerns my parents enjoyed off the TV. The battle continued Monday through Friday as I would get up at 5 in the morning, turn the TV to a minimum volume and sit through episodes of The Odd Couple, Perfect Strangers, Mork and Mindy, even Kate and Allie, just so I could stake my claim to the TV set before school.

I had a set list of shows I couldn’t miss. Transformers was TOP priority. It didn’t matter if it was Saturday morning, before school, after school or a random tape I rented from the video store, if there was a chance I could get my buddy Optimus Prime on the TV set I was going to do whatever it took. Priority number 2 was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I would also watch this regularly whenever it aired as well as rent tapes from the video store. Priority 3 was X-Men the Animated series. This came alter but once I discovered it this show became a must watch. Fortunately for me both of my younger sisters developed an equally strong interest in X-Men characters (they each also collected the comics and trading cards as did I) so it was much easier to get them to call a truce when that show came on. Then down the list the priority was, shows with robots, shows with magic, shows with mutants, shows with cute girls that had purple or pink hair (yeah I was weird sue me) then at the bottom of the list was shows with talking animals. This, of course, only applied to cartoons.

Live-action shows was much different. I prioritized shows with a cute girl I crushed on, Saved by the Bell it was Kelly, Sabrina the Teenage Witch/Clarissa Explains it All it was, you guessed, the awesome Melissa Joan Heart, and okay well there wasn’t a cute girl on Boy Meets World, I just found that show funny as hell. And in case you are wondering, it was the red head with glasses on any show that had a red head with glasses. Or any girl with glasses. For some reason I was into chicks with glasses… Okay moving on…

By the time the 90’s rolled around I was shifting into more live-action stuff like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad, and CGI animated shows like Reboot and Beast Wars. I only gave Beast Wars casually passing as I was a die-hard TRUKK NOT MONKEE type. Still I eventually came around and became more interested in that show. The 90’s also saw my tastes briefly shift to anime. I got into Sailor Moon, Ronin Warriors, Dragon Ball Z, The Slayers, Patlabor, and even Digimon for a while. By the time my anime watching friends were getting into Powerpuff Girls I had snapped out of it and the anime spell was broken. I haven’t hardly looked back either. I do remember though, the Saturday Anime block that came on the Sci-Fi channel. We didn’t have cable when we were very young, so we didn’t have the Sci-Fi channel (as it was called back then) until mid-95. By that time I was pretty much over the Saturday Morning cartoon craze.

Those are some of my memories, please comment your thoughts, memories and stories plus favorite cartoons from the 80s and 90s, anime excluded if you can.

Getting to know famed video game collector The Immortal John Hancock

When I started getting really into video games I went all in. At the height of my collection I had hundreds of games spanning dozens of consoles. I couldn’t begin to list all of the games I had, but I can tell you the systems I had games for. When I sold off my collection to help pay for college I had an Atari 2600, 5200, Sega Master System, NES, SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, Saturn, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, N64, Game Cube, Game Boy, GBA, DS, DS Lite and even a Sega Nomad.
Well none of that amounts to much compared to a “super collector” that goes by the name: The Immortal John Hancock. A middle-aged family man, Hancock hosts a Youtube channel where he talks about his massive collection. How massive is his collection? For starters it was large enough to be featured in a January 2004 article in the Tips N Tricks magazine. Hancock’s collection consists of 26 complete sets. That is, he owns every single retail game released for 26 different systems. Still not impressed? The man has been collecting since the 1970’s.
How does a person find the time to collect all that stuff? It didn’t happen all at once.
“My mother was a collector. I used to go to flea markets with her as a kid. I began collecting carts, comics and figures. The collection evolved into games which I found much more satisfying.” he said.
His first game console he had as a kid was a Radio Shack TV scoreboard. He described it as basically a Pong clone.
As someone who also had a Radio Shack pong system myself as a kid, I find it refreshing to know many of us can still go back to our roots. In fact one of my only 2 true retro consoles remaining is a Sears Super Pong. My other retro console that sits in a box, a dusty old Intellivision 2 with Intellivoice Voice Synthesis Module. What’s interesting about Mr. Hancock is he started by seeking out unique Pong systems.
“I always have had a fondness for collecting pong consoles.  Mostly due to them being forgotten by others.  I just picked them up along the way due to being very affordable.” he said.
As a family man he enjoys sharing his collection with his wife and kids.
“My game collecting is something that I can share with my kids.  I always try to remember balance.   More strengthens my bond with my kids.” he said.
He also enjoys the support of his wife in his endeavor.
“My wife does not collect but she supports my hobby and I return the favor by not having it affect our relationship in a negative way.”
he added.
So what games do his kids enjoy? Well probably the same ones we all did when we were kids.
He said, “My kids love Nintendo and playing on games like Smash Bros or Mario Kart on the Wii U.  ARMS on the Switch is also a favorite.  Hard to say if they like video games the way I like them, but I can see them carrying on the mantle of at least playing video games with others.”
In recent years he has stated one of his goals is to some day see his games in a museum. Preservation has become more of a focus of his in the last 10 years. He is currently building a new game room onto his house to showcase his collection to his Youtube followers. His internet fame has begun to get him and his wife noticed. He said he gets noticed more at shows or conventions, and it hasn’t had any negative impact on his life to date.
A no regrets kind of guy, he has stated he doesn’t give much thought to his legacy after he is gone. He prefers to just do his best to be as good a person as he can.
“[I] ry to do my best as a human being whatever I do each and every day.   Teaching, talking, and interacting with others each day gives an opportunity to make a difference.” he said.
Speaking of teaching, aside from being a public figure on Youtube, he is also a school teacher. We all had that one school teacher that stood out for us. For me, when I was in grade school I had a teacher that would keep me after school to teach me BASIC programming on the classroom’s Apple II computer. At the end of the school year, I was able to demonstrate my programming ability to the class by showing off the program I had written. It was a monochrome bit map recreation of the Death Star from Star Wars. It was programmed line by line. It sort was sort of animated but not much. To me it was just really cool to have a teacher that recognized my potential outside of the classroom to give me that opportunity. Mr. Hancock has demonstrated that himself by using his video games to teach his students.
“I offer my kids experiences playing classic gaming at the end of the year. This last year my students got to play the original Oregon Trail.” he said.
He also shared he gives considerable thought to his students who has also impacted his own life.
His true goal is preservation. He wants to tell the story of gaming history and keep an objective outlook on the early days of video games. He shares his collection through his own channel, The Immortal John Hancock, and with his friend MetalJesusRocks, who helped launch his channel, and his friend Drunken Master Paul, also on Youtube, who helped give him the nickname that has become a part of his branding.
As I look back on the games I gave up in order to fund my college education I find solace knowing there are people out there that aren’t chasing down the rare games just to horde them, you have people like The Immortal John Hancock, and others, actively trying to preserve video game history. I can’t even begin to imaging ever building my collection back up to where it was so I can at least tell people about this interesting man whose videos often remind me of all the fun I had chasing down those rare video games. Maybe someday I will get back into it, for now I will gladly keep an eye on my subscription feed for a new video from The Immortal John Hancock. You can find John Hancock on Twitter and Facebook.

Remembering DOS games

Every PC gamer worth their salt ought to have a memorable story of booting a game up on good old DOS. My first experience with DOS, that I can remember, was trying to load up this Pac-Man clone game on an old Apple II. I know Apple DOS was not the same as Microsoft but it was similar. I remember spending what felt like hours, but was probably only 20 minutes, typing and retyping commands to get the game configured and working. I don’t even remember what the game was called just it was running on my cousin’s old Apple II computer (and it was old at the time, this was early 90’s.) My first experience with MS DOS, the DOS most PC gamers think of when they hear the words DOS, was at a friends house. He was showing me his IBM clone PC with Windows 3.1. It was so much fancier than my cousins crappy Apple II. He showed me a game called Duke Nukem. I spent a few minutes playing the game. I think by the time I beat the first level I told him, yeah it’s, okay I guess but it’s no Sonic the Hedgehog. He agreed then showed me a game I knew my beloved Genesis didn’t have, Dungeons and Dragon’s Eye of the Beholder II Legend of Darkmoon. I can’t say I was blown away, but I was very impressed.

I was so hooked on playing PC games on my friends IBM-clone (that’s what we called them back then, we didn’t just say PC because there were dozens of types of PC’s back then.) I told him, dude you are so lucky to have this I want a computer so bad. He shrugged, then replied. No way dude, I’d trade it for a Sega Genesis straight across. I think what he envied about the Genesis was how the games just plugged into a cart slot and were ready to go. That was fine but what I envied about his machine was the complexity of the games verses the simplicity of console games. I wasn’t converted into a PC gamer overnight, but I was starting to see them in a different light.

It would be a few more years before I finally got my first PC of my own. Unfortunately it was just a decade’s old Atari 8-bit my dad found at a Goodwill store for a few bucks. Oh don’t get me wrong I was SO delighted just to have a computer I went whole hog into that machine. I became so obsessed my dad showed me the film WarGames to see what computers were like when that thing was still relevant. I was so excited. The problem was, I already had an Atari 2600 and this stupid thing really didn’t play games more advanced than what I was already getting there, for the most part. Oh well it was still a nice entry point for me, in 1996. By the summer of 1997 I would get my second old PC, a Commodore 64. This was at least a little closer in quality of games as the NES and there was a lot more variety in terms of products supported so I had a blast getting to know my retro computers. Finally I picked up a 486 PC clone, I honestly can’t remember the brand, in late 1998. It was a full on DOS machine. I started scrambling to grab any floppy disk that said DOS compatible at the thrift stores as I could. I quickly learned that having no experience prior with DOS, no instruction manual, and no clue what the hell I was doing, I ended up junking the thing out of frustration as I never could get even a single game to load up. Remember I didn’t have the internet yet, and our high school was just starting to get computers in the library, not even in the class rooms yet. So it would be another 2 years before I finally got my first, real, PC.

My great-grandmother passed away sometime in 1999 and her daughter, my grandma Frankie, used some of her inheritance money to buy my mom, and her kids (us) a computer. It was a Compaq Presario running Windows 98 SE. It had a modem built in! Oh and a CD-ROM! I was so excited to finally be working with a real computer, and it was actually current at the time we got it. I remember the specs even ingrained in my brain as I scrambled frantically to find games that would run, DOS or Windows I didn’t care. It was a 533 Mhz Pentium with 64 whopping Mega Bytes of SD RAM. It had a Soundblast compatible sound card, several new fangled USB ports, and a built-in modem for networking.

The first thing I did was go online and search download DOS games. I found a website that hosted all sorts of games for download. I grabbed both Duke Nukem games and Duke 3D, Wolfenstein, Jazz Jackrabbit, Eye of the Beholder Legend of Darkmoon, and a ton of others. I went nuts installing DOS games all day long. I started learning all the disk commands, fdisk especially, and going through all the settings trying to get each game configured perfectly. I also started buying new games on CD at K-Mart and Target. We didn’t have a Walmart yet so those were my choices. I would grab all sorts of those random 150 games packs with a ton of crap on them. We got You Don’t Know Jack, Myst, Who Wants to Beat Up A Millionaire, Doom, Quake, Unreal, Alone in the Dark, and several Star Wars games ranging from various X-Wing and Tie fighter games, Dark Forces, Force Commander, and plenty of others. By mid-2000 I was hooked I was a full fledged PC gamer. This didn’t mean I gave up console gaming entirely, I still had my trusty SNES/Genesis tag teaming it up in my bedroom, my newly acquired PS1 and N64 consoles I grabbed on my 18th birthday, and the aging NES sitting in my sisters room as she liked to play old Mario games still. The one PC game I enjoyed the most at that time was MechWarrior 2. I was so thrilled to finally be able to play that game on high settings for once.

By the time I finally got fully invested in PC gaming I started to realize I was in over my head. I was getting error messages all day long about this game not being compatible, this driver crashing something or other, or some blue screen of death kicking me out of my zone. The problem was I didn’t have a dedicated graphics card, not enough RAM for most games and was running on aging hardware with each passing month. I did buy a nice little Radeon graphics card, upped the RAM to 256MB from that paltry 64 it came with. I then replaced the CD-ROM with a CD Burner in hopes I could get more out of that machine. It was all in vein as none of the games I was buying at the time were able to run on this now outdated machine. So I finally used my own money for once to buy my own desktop PC. This was in 2003. I bought my own Compaq, this time I got one with 1Ghz CPU, 512MB ram stock expanded to 1GB and bought another Radeon GPU this one a little more expensive than the previous, and topped it off with a DVD-Burner because I felt I needed to be state of the art. Or as state of the art as my wallet would allow. The problem is that DVD burner changed my priorities. With DSL internet, a larger hard drive (the original Compaq my mom bought had a 20GB drive I expanded with a 10GB slave drive) Mine came with a 80 GB drive I replaced with a 200 GB drive and stuck a 100 GB drive in the slave slot. I was shifting from games to movie downloading. I had a DVD burner so that meant I could download entire movies, burn them to a DVD and, hope the copyright police never found out what I was doing. I never sold movies but I did eventually discover the legality was not as gray as I was lead to believe and stopped cold turkey once I got my first copyright notice from my cable company. I was shocked into walking away.

Getting back to games. I didn’t really stick with DOS for too long. I dabbled in it off and on in the 90’s, grabbed a few DOS games off the internet in 2000 and 2001, then migrated to Windows games before giving up on PC gaming for the most part. I still game on the PC today, but it’s far less than I used to. I stick to the ease of use I get from PS4 and Nintendo and save my PC for games I either can’t get on a console (like Guild Wars) or games where the console experience is so lacking it’s not worth it (like the Sims or Sim City) The rest of my PC gaming is done through emulators. Unlike some PC gamers, I don’t really look back on the DOS era with rose tinted glasses. I remember a few games fondly enough, but the whole experience was such a mess I gladly traded performance and graphics for the simplicity of consoles.

A look at the Sega Saturn from the perspective of a Sega fan

I got my Sega Genesis for my 12th birthday in 1994. I instantly fell in love with that thing. The first game I played was the amazing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that came bundled with my soon-to-be favorite game console for several years. Prior to getting a Genesis I couldn’t really say I was a fanboy or even just a fan of any platform. I had an NES, and before that we had an Atari. Before that I did all my gaming at the arcade.

As someone who was a HUGE fan of video arcades and arcade games the Genesis was a blast. By the time the Sega CD and 32X came along I was seriously contemplating buying either or both of those upgrades to gladly keep my Genesis alive. But things started to really turn around the closer the Saturn came to launching. The hype began building up. I starting to really consider saving all of my after school money I was earning from throwing newspapers, mowing lawns, and working in the corn fields on the side.

At the time, what drew me to the prospect of wanting to get a Sega Saturn was a combination of my love for the Genesis, arcade games, and the transition to the new world of 3D gaming. As the 90’s dragged on a few things started to become apparent to me early on. First thing I noticed about the Saturn was the lack of games. Remember when you are a kid flipping threw the gaming magazines all you have to go on is the information they offer. I didn’t have any way of knowing what games were coming out unless Electronic Gaming Monthly, Game Pro, or Sega Visions told me about it. Considering Sega Visions ceased following the launch of the Saturn, I didn’t really have much faith in the new product early on. I can’t say I “knew” it was going to fail. Far from it, I wanted one but I wasn’t sold to the point of I have to have one.

Whenever I would read a review of a Saturn game and the reviewers would point out how the game felt rushed, incomplete, buggy, or some other similar phrasing, I started to get skeptical. I distinctly remember reading a review for Virtua Fighter where the reviewer flat out said skip the Saturn and stick to the much cheaper 32X version. I also remember reading a really lousy review for the Saturn version of Mortal Kombat II, a game that was running smooth on the Super NES! I felt like if the Saturn can’t even handle a game both 16 bit consoles did okay, not to mention the 32X version was a huge selling point on making me want a 32X, I started to get a bad feeling about Saturn. That’s not to say it didn’t have games I wanted to play, just not very many must have games were jumping out at me.

The few games I was interested in, Bug!, Clockwork Knight, Panzer Dragoon, Virtua Cop and Sonic 3D Blast, all looked like they weren’t really showing off the true potential for what the Saturn was promising to do. At the time as I kept reading reviews of mediocre games, articles on how poorly the Saturn was selling, and the more I would see game after game getting announced for the new Sony Playstation and with no Saturn version planned, the more I started to lose interest. By the time the N64 finally started to make waves I had all but moved on from the Saturn. I wouldn’t give it another thought until the day my friend showed me his brand new Dreamcast. My reaction was, oh, when did they kill of the Saturn? I honestly stopped paying attention. As a self-proclaimed Sega fan this bothered me. I was saddened that the Dreamcast was already out and pushing the Saturn into obscurity. I also felt bad that I had missed my chance to get in on Saturn when it was still current tech. Then the more I looked into it, the more I realized, I wasn’t missing out on much.

I realize that over the years the prevailing attitude of the majority of sheeple on the web has shifted from thinking the Saturn was a mess of a console, to the Saturn was an overrated piece of junk to now it being considered a hidden gem or an underrated masterpiece. Whatever your attitude is, keep in mind this is a reflection from the perspective of someone whose whole life revolved around the Genesis.

At the time, as in during it’s life span I went through many phases. The first phase was excitement for a new console from Sega. This phase didn’t last long. I was already torn between wanting to get a 32X to give my Genesis new life, to wanting to save up money for a Saturn when it arrived. I even remember reading about the E3 thing, a whole month later in a magazine, thinking, what just happened?

I had been following the PSX and Saturn launch hype for months so I was shocked to learn Sega blew their wad and was now seeing all their hype fizzle. I maintained some hype for while, thinking erroneously Sony wouldn’t last. My logic was Playstation was too similar to the doomed 3DO. I ended up being wrong but more on that down the way.

My attitude started shifting as I started reading reviews. I kept holding out hope with each review that maybe the next game would prove to be worth owning. I would demo some of these games at local stores from time to time, so I wasn’t relying entirely on other people’s impressions. Still, the reviews were not doing the system many favors. There were a few hidden gems along the way but at the time I kept thinking this is not a good score. At first I thought everyone was judging the console unfairly. But looking back I think the opposite, I think they were being too soft because they didn’t want to accept Sega was messing up so bad.

When I realized the Saturn was in trouble was about the time I read a review, or even a preview, for the game Virtua Fighter Kids. My 13-year-old brain thought, wow, that’s a stupid idea for a game. Even then I felt like the system must be in trouble if they are resorting to such an obvious cash grab knowing full well it was just a cheap way to get another game on stores shelves in a big hurry for minimal effort. I knew that if this was the case the system was in trouble. All it really took was flipping through the magazine past thew 2-3 pages of Saturn games before stumbling upon the 8 or more pages of Playstation games to start to realize, Sony was getting all the love. Remember N64 wouldn’t be on the scene for a whole year later and even as I started reading articles on the upcoming Ultra 64 I started to get worried the Saturn was in trouble. By the time the N64 came out I had already forgotten about the 32 bit consoles and was already buying into the 64 bit hype train. I ended up dropping the money to get an N64 on launch day.

Looking back the most obviously issue with Saturn was the games. A few years later after I had grown up, gotten a job and began collecting video games as a hobby I went back and dug into the Saturn library. Unfortunately the passage of time was not a friend of the console. The games that would have blown me away in 1995/1996 had I gotten a chance to experience them then, were severely outdated in 2004 when I was buying them up. I didn’t go after any of the super rare or ultra expensive games, but I had a decent enough assortment when it was all said and done. In the end my Saturn collection consisted of X-Men Children of the Atom, Sonic 3D Blast, Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers, Sonic 2, Virtua Cop 1 and 2, NiGHTS into Dreams, Bug!, Clockwork Knight, Panzer Dragoon, Revolution X, Daytona USA, World Series Baseball, Mortal Kombat 3, Gex, even Tomb Raider. I might have had a couple other games but honestly nothing stood out in my mind as particularly noteworthy. I felt NiGHTS was so overrated I became very hostile to the Sega bots online that insisted I was playing it wrong. No, the game just didn’t appeal to me, at all. The fighting games were mediocre at best, the X-Men game was fun but not worth the asking price. Panzer Dragoon felt too bloated for what was basically a Star Fox type game which I wasn’t a big fan of Star Fox either. While I did enjoy Virtua Cop 1 and 2, and even as bad as it was to some people, I really had a lot of fun playing Bug! and Sonic 3D Blast. The rest of the games were just, eh nothing special.

I since went back and checked out much more of the consoles library via emulation. However that’s shoddy at best. The real trouble with Saturn collecting is all the expensive games aren’t worth the price you pay. Even if a game was on both PS1 and Saturn it could go for 3-4 times as much money on Saturn than PS1, and for all intents and purposes they’d be basically the same game. I grew so disgusted with Saturn collecting it was the first system I sold off. I traded it into a used retro game store for a big box of GameCube games and never regretted it.

I think the Saturn did have potential, but the truth is, I think most of that potential was too little, too late. Sega squandered all of their good will with Genesis fans before they even launched the Saturn. As the months turned to years I started to lose interest in the system. Today, even if I had the money I probably wouldn’t buy very many Saturn games. The console is, in my opinion, vastly overrated. It’s good for a few quick arcade ports and it has a handful of great hidden gems if you got the money to seek them out. The majority if the library, however, is available elsewhere for far less money. The handful of true exclusives aren’t even all worth the price of admission making Saturn truly a collector’s console.

Youtube channel update

Alright so I keep saying I am going to be launching the Youtube channel soon. I been saying this for a while. Today I got one step closer. I verified the website with my channel so that the branding is now tied together. I am still working on nailing down exactly the types of content I want to produce. I am thinking for the time being I might just start as a typical vlogger until I come up with something more involved. I actually have multiple channels associated with my account so I might try to upload different content to different ones. I haven’t decided yet. But I do know I am getting closer. I also experimented with using my phone as a video camera. I wasn’t 100 percent satisfied with the quality but the process was simple enough I might consider using it again. This is just a general site update post nothing much to see.

A look at internet shopping: buying groceries from Amazon?

It was probably 2000 or 2001. I was watching an episode of smart guy and they found they had some toy or something that was worth a whole lot of money on eBay and the two kids went crazy selling a bunch of stuff on eBay. This was the first time I ever considered buying anything online so I went to ebay.com and decided to check it out and see what they had. I signed up for an account and started buying stuff on eBay mostly toys and collectibles from my childhood at this point. Go back then being that I wasn’t fully an adult I didn’t have a credit card or a bank account and I still live with my parents I had money since I had a job, but I didn’t have any way to pay for stuff. What I did was I had to buy money orders and mail them to people. That made shopping online a hassle. Pretty soon eBay would take that option away and replace everything with PayPal, a smart move I thought. Now I shop on Amazon all the time.

Last night I did something I had never done before. I filled up a box of Amazon pantry and I ordered groceries through the internet to have them delivered to my door. I know people who would laugh at the idea of buying groceries online. I was probably one of them for the longest time. But once I started shopping around I realize  they were selling a lot of the same foods I buy when I go to the dollar store, only they had a lot more variety and their prices were just as fair.

It’s no secret I’m one of those people that hates leaving the house. But my motivation this week for buying my groceries online wasn’t because I didn’t want to go anywhere. It was actually quite simple. My bank account is empty so I had to use my Amazon Prime card to shop online. They just happened to have groceries.

When I look at our social media world I realize that most of my friends are people that I know through the internet. A lot of them are just avatars with usernames that I know through discussion boards or video games. I can honestly say I am thoroughly connected to the web. I don’t have cable. All of my entertainment comes through my PlayStation. I get all my movies, TV shows and video games through my PlayStation.  I get all my comic books on my phone. I have a tablet I can get comic books and movies on. I create web videos. I have a podcast. I run this blog. I do pretty much everything in my world online. Yet I still feel like I’m connected. I’m enjoying life and getting things done.

Being able to buy food from the internet then having it delivered to your house it’s a little different than actually going to the local supermarket. I’m kind of leery about ordering a box of food to have it delivered to my doorstep, especially when I don’t want people to steal my food. I know I would be paranoid if I just left it sitting out there waiting for me to come pick it up could probably walk away.

I’ve already transitioned to a point where I do most of my shopping online. When I started out I was using eBay. I was only buying things through the internet  that I couldn’t buy locally easily. Things like Transformers collectibles, rare comic books, hard to find video games, stuff like that. As I got more and more used to it I bought all my college books online once I realized it was cheaper than buying them from a bookstore. I’ve slowly started buying all my comic books online. Once I discovered Netflix my transition to doing everything on the internet was almost complete. I still had cable for a while but I started using it less and less. In some ways I kind of see this as a milestone. Moving forward I am getting closer and closer to a time where I don’t buy anything locally and this is kind of a conflict for me.

For the longest time I believed in shopping locally because I was under the impression that if you shop locally you create local jobs. I believed that until I went to college and started studying business. I started realizing that if Walmart can come to town they might put four or five shops out of business. But those four or five shops don’t employ anybody. They’re usually just four or five entrepreneurs who employ themselves and maybe one or two part times. So when Walmart brings in 200 jobs I don’t see that as a bad thing. One of my economics professors also pointed out that if you can save money shopping online or shopping at Walmart, that gives you more money to spend elsewhere in the community on the businesses that you wouldn’t have otherwise patronized. For example there’s a custom furniture shop in town. If you have to spend all your money on groceries, clothing and household items,  you don’t have any left over to buy custom furniture. You just buy random junk from the thrift store or yard sales or whatever you can get your hands on.

That money doesn’t go into the hands of anybody and there’s certainly no tax benefit from it. But if you can save a considerable or even significant amount of money by shifting your purchases to online or even shopping at places like Walmart you can free up money in your budget to be able to spend it on what that specialty shop you’re still giving your money to local business and entrepreneurs while  still putting money back into the tax pool.

Now I’m going to be honest. There are a lot of things I couldn’t buy off of Amazon. They didn’t sell dairy products. There wasn’t any frozen foods. They certainly didn’t sell any meats. Well, except for canned meats.

One thing I did notice they had an abundance of are those complete meals. It’s basically a whole meal  like a meatloaf or some type of dinner that has a meat and the potato underneath. I buy these from the dollar store anyways. They sit in my cupboard until I’m ready to microwave them. These are also pretty good meals.  The best part is Amazon had a pretty good assortment of canned foods and box dinners too. Again stuff that I already am buying from the dollar store.

I realized if I can spend the same money, or even less, and have it delivered to my door I don’t see the downside to me buying a box of groceries off of Amazon pantry. Especially if I can just put it on my Amazon credit card. I even noticed that you can clip coupons during the transaction.

What if I want a gallon of milk or a carton of eggs? I’ll still have to go to the grocery store. but I think I can probably fill my cupboards and do without some of that stuff. I can also save money by not buying ingredients for meals. This way I won’t be trying to cook something that I’ll just mess up, eat a little bit then throw away. I guess when you get down to it if you’re already not a big fan of going out in public, while being on a very tight budget, you start to get creative. I think shopping Amazon Pantry is another way to just be more reliant upon the internet. For better or for worse, this is the world we live in.

What’s really in the dark?

I enjoy horror movies and science fiction TV shows. Whenever the two intersect I tend to be very pleased. In Season 4 of the revived Doctor Who series there was an episode called “Silence in the Library.” It was basically a two part episode dealing with an alien, flesh-eating parasite that lives in the darkness.In fact it was the two-part episode “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” with a very horror movie tone that got me into the revived Doctor Who series in the first place.

But, what really is hiding in the dark?

There are all sorts of myths, religions, urban legends and superstitions about what lies in the darkness when the lights go out. Things like monsters or ghosts are very common. One question that often comes out of this sort of pondering would be, why are we afraid of the dark to being with. The short answer is because we can’t see in the dark. We are afraid what we can’t explain. More specifically we are afraid of the unknown. We know in our minds that darkness is really the absence of light. But is that really the case?

Let’s look at a few instances of possible supernatural activity that might shed some light on this subject. So what about monsters, ghosts, spirits, demons, etc., do we really think these things are hiding in the shadows? Or is it likely we just fabricate these types of explanations to placate our sensibilities? After all, it’s easier to make something up that fits into our experiences than it is to ask questions. It’s even harder to explore the world around us if we start off afraid.

Everyone knows someone who has heard, or shared, a ghost story. We are all drawn to ghost stories for the simple reason they justify our fears. If you tell yourself that cold sensation you get walking past the “haunted” painting in the hallway late at night when you are waling to the bathroom is a spirit stuck in this world, it makes sense so you accept it. The scientific mind would look for a rational alternative explanation. Perhaps a draft coming from somewhere in the walls. Or maybe it’s just your imagination from watching too many episodes of Tales from the Crypt.

One thing about ghost stories is nearly every culture has some belief in spirits. Some attribute them to the deceased unable to pass on to the next life. In some culture they are demons who have turned their backs on the creator, waging a war of good against evil. Spirits and spiritual things do not always fit into the mind of the rational skeptic. The next issue then is, do you believe in ghosts?

This comes up a lot. No matter if you are a Christian, atheist, or adherent to some other belief system; the question of belief in spirits and ghosts usually comes up at some point. Without getting into documented cases just consider that everything you can’t explain doesn’t have to have an explanation either. The scientific principal of the easiest explanation is usually the best doesn’t always apply. What if the easiest explanation for that shiver you get is a result of a spirit passing by your presence? Isn’t it easier to freely admit there could be a ghost than it is to try and offer and number of explanations? Just some things to consider.

Do I personally believe in ghosts? The short answer is I don’t know. I believe that in a universe as vast as ours there are some things we can’t explain. That doesn’t mean that we need to jump to any conclusions. We just need to keep in mind that you don’t have to immediately dismiss a supernatural or spiritual explanation for something that isn’t so easy to explain otherwise. I sometimes question what lies in the dark. I think we all get the feeling we are being watched at times. We experience this feeling even when we are certain we are alone. I once lived in an old house in the country. I swear I could hear the sounds of a little girl crying in the attic late at night. My sister, who lived a few blocks away came by to visit me one day and asked if I was babysitting because she could hear a little girl crying upstairs. We checked it out and there was nothing.

I used to tell a story about my childhood. We had this painting that I swear I could sometimes see a little girl hiding in the woods, while other times there was no sign of this girl. My sisters each have reported seeing different things in that very same painting over the years. We had my mom so convinced it was haunted she got rid of the painting. I don’t know for certain if I believe in ghosts. But I am 100 percent convinced there are spiritual, perhaps even supernatural, forces at play in our universe. Even if we do not currently have the scientific capability of detecting these forces.

One of the reasons I enjoy horror movies so much is because they often do make me think about what might be hiding in the shadows.

What if… retrospective: The TurboGrafx-16

The TurboGrafx-16 (TG16) is quite an oddity. Much like the doomed Sega Dreamcast nearly a full decade later, this game machine would be plagued as a mid-generation release that failed to catch on. Much speculation has been banded about on the internet on why it failed. Discussion forums are littered with topics discussing what could have been done differently. In this retrospective I will take a look at a few factors that are often overlooked in why this machine failed. First, I am mostly talking about within the context of the North American (mostly United States) market. While it is true the system performed better in Japan than it did in the US, and there is some doubt if it even existed in Canada at all, it still can be deemed a failure world wide by every measure. In fact, it didn’t even make it to the PAL region. Let’s dig in.

Usually two topics get brought up first when discussing the TG16. The first is Nintendo’s illegal exclusivity contracts in North America that would prevent third party companies from releasing games on the system. Often fans of the system will state that if it had better 3rd party support it would have sold more systems. While it is typically pretty obvious more games makes for a more attractive market, it’s not always the case. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Hudson could have found a way around this by vetting developers and publishers who weren’t even making games for the NES at the time. So that argument holds little weight, Sega was able to get plenty of support for the Sega Master System (SMS) and they sold quite a few more consoles and games than TG16, all on inferior hardware.

So first let’s look at the games that did come to the system. Despite most of what die hard fans will tell you, there are a few false statements often repeated about the TG16 library. The first is that the console had a great library of arcade style scrolling shooters, also known as shoot-em-up’s or shumps to some. The fact is, however, the NES, SNES and even Sega Genesis ALL had more shooters released for their consoles than TG16. The myth it is a shooters dream console is false. The reason this myth is spread has some merit. There is a significant percentage of games for the console that are, in fact, quality shooters. The problem is, there are only 94 games total for the console. So that means the fewer than 21 total shooters on the console stand out as the dominant genre by default. If roughly one forth of your consoles entire library is made up of a single genre, it stands to reason people will gravitate to that genre. No arguments there, the shooters on the console are all quality titles. Of course many fans today are looking at the ENTIRE library as a whole. They forget that for the super vast majority of gamers in the 1980’s when the console was sold people didn’t import as much as they do today. So when you add in all the PC Engine games to the list, especially when you take into account people playing these games using emulators, you start to see a skewing of the facts.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter how many arcade games were released in Japan at the time. When discussing why the console failed it is essential to do so within the scope of the time it was released. In this case it was 1987. This is important because those 94 games that made it to US shores, weren’t all available the first year. Keep in mind you have to look at it on a month to month basis. As a consumer in the late 1980’s even if you were contemplating getting a TG16. Either you were getting tired of the NES, or perhaps you never had the NES and were wanting to upgrade from your Colecovision console or something else. Maybe you were a PC person looking for a new console. Whatever your motivation for wanting one you always have to look at the games first. Everyone talks about how abysmal Keith Courage was as a pack in title. The problem is if you look at the console market at the time, pack in titles were relatively new concept. It really started with Super Mario Bros. on the NES. So when you talk about game consoles you can’t really put too much weight into what pack in title was included. Remember even today pack ins are rare and they were a BRAND NEW concept in the mid-80’s. It’s a fallacy to believe just packing in a different game would have enticed more users. Why? Because if the games that were sold separately weren’t going to convince you to buy the system, throwing on into the box for free wasn’t going to make a difference either. With pack in titles it’s always a gamble. Even when it works like with Wii Sports or SMB, or even Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s still a big risk when the publisher is missing out on all those extra sales. It’s at best a gimmick marketing tactic that is rarely used in the grand scheme of things.

Still, since it gets tossed out let’s debunk the myth anyways. My question is, if not Keith Courage then what? It couldn’t be an arcade shooter. Remember 2 facts, first at the time it was a NEW console so gamers wouldn’t be able to predict it would become a haven for shooters. 2nd, despite being popular among retro enthusiasts, even at the time shmups are NOT that popular. No console in the history of consoles ever packed in a shooter even if they did pack in a freebie. The reason is shooters have a low appeal. Even the best quality shooters only appeal to maybe a tenth of a consoles entire userbase. That is why they are so rare. Even to this day the number of shooters released is small and the ones that do get released are done in very limited runs. Newsflash, that was the SAME back then, why do you think all those so-called “gems” are so damn hard to find? Because, NOBODY BOUGHT THEM. They didn’t sell. There is no chance in HELL a shooter was going to sell the main stream gaming audiences on an untested console. Even the often cited spectacular R-Type, wasn’t exclusive to the console. Sure the NES port has issues, but honestly you are talking a small percentage of your gamers that even want a shooter, even smaller sub-set of those that care about a superior port elsewhere. That’s why when a shooter does become popular it’s some low budget throwaway title in the bargain bin. Gamer’s don’t spend money on them, only collectors do and only in hind sight because they are told to more often than not. Even me, someone who does occasionally enjoy the shooter game, wouldn’t rush out and buy a console even for the most perfect shooter. They are fun, in small doses but they are usually very remnants of older arcades.

Okay if not a shooter then what? The next game often cited is Bonk’s Adventure. That WAS a pack in just as soon as they game was released. But even that didn’t really move units. Again for as much fun as Bonk is, it’s only half as much fun as Sonic, which itself is probably half the fun of Mario. By order of transference Bonk’s Adventure wasn’t a great enough of a game to really convince people to give up their Mario machines. Sonic came close but it took a lot more than one game to get Sega on the map.

I try to be reasonable. I looked at the entire library and to be honest I could not find a single game that stood out as good enough to convince me to pick up a TG16 over an NES. Now I know it comes down to preferences, and I am NOT trashing the console just examining what if scenarios.

So what if it had a BETTER pack in comes down to, no real impact. I can’t imagine Hudson having it in them to imagine a game that would have that appeal. Some would argue Bomberman. I would reply, even the best Bomberman games didn’t help the Saturn, N64, Dreamcast or Gamecubes so sorry nope. Unfortunately there isn’t a single, stand out game on the console.

That takes us back to the first point, Nintendo’s illegal strangle hold on the market. It is well documented Nintendo forced publishers to sign contracts disallowing them from making games on competing consoles. Even if you tried to argue TG16 wasn’t an 8-bit system so it technically wasn’t competing, that wouldn’t pass mustard because Hudson referenced NES in their marketing.That leaves us to wonder then, what games could have potentially been developed on the console that weren’t.

Even if you take the 3rd party deal out of the picture and pretend the Turbo could get any old developer to make games for it. Remember the NES launched with barely 18 games. Now it had a POWERHOUSE launch combo with SMB/Duck Hunt that TG16 didn’t even have in its entire lifespan. So you get ONE shot to entice gamers to pick your machine over theirs. It took Nintendo 2 full years to get the 3rd party support we remember. If TG16 launched in 1987 that means it wouldn’t even begin getting the same level of games as NES until around 1989. That would be a full year into Genesis’s life and the Genesis could be cited as more of the death of the TG16 than anything else. Despite all the flaws of the SMS and the shortcomings of the TG16. Sega DID manage to get a quality launch period stash of games on the market. While Altered Beast is not fondly remembered today, when it released it was somewhat impressive. The scrolling levels, the large sprites, the transition animations, the cut scenes, and the compressed audio voices were all very big deals in 1989. So even if you look at the top tier NES games, let’s assume Castlevania, Mega Man, Contra, Ninja Gaiden and maybe even Double Dragon all have quality ports on Turbo by the time Sega launches. Fair enough, however some of those games did get ports on other consoles, and there is a Castlevania on the doomed Turbo CD (but that’s an entirely different story.) You have to keep in mind 1, how long it takes to port a game over, and 2 the cost to do so. Most 3rd parties wouldn’t have jumped ship to support an untested console when NES was doing so well so let’s just assume it still struggled. I can imagine it doing slightly better but remember NES was NOT successful because of games alone. Nintendo were masters of marketing their toys to kids at that time. So you have to look at the marketing along side the games issue.

Marketing can sink a good product and prop up a terrible product in the short term. Now for all intents and purposes, the TG16 is actually a decent product, sort of. It was more powerful than NES, but not as powerful as Genesis and SNES. Those would be the main consoles it had to compete with. Again NES would have still been replaced with SNES by 1991 even if the TG16 was successful, even more so because Nintendo would have felt threatened. So let’s look at just marketing. TG16 was ONLY sold in very big cities with populations over 1 million people. This is well documented. It was also ONLY marketed in the major cities where it was sold. This left consumers like me in the middle of no where Kansas reading about it in comic books and magazines sold nation wide, but I was not able to just walk into my local Sears, Radio Shack or K-Mart and pick one up. If I can’t find it how can I buy it? And you know what, I can say this with some degree of certainty because despite the flawed marketing strategy overall, it sorta worked because I DID want one. Even if it had a “killer app” pack in I still couldn’t have gotten my hands on one without great effort.

The 1-2 punch of lack of 3rd party support and terrible marketing is often given as the reason for it’s downfall. Now let’s go back to games and see if maybe Hudson could have done more even within the framework of Nintendo’s monopoly. Going back to the question of which game would have been a better pack in. When I look at why gamers wish for more games on the beloved TG16 I often remember its because they see the potential and wish it would have been realized. So let’s just assume they marketed it better, maybe localized a better Japanese games for the launch and it sold enough to at least get attention of developers that weren’t locked into contracts with Nintendo. Who does that leave?

The obvious choice is Atari first. Why them? Simple, they were willing to release games through their Tengen label on the NES. It stands to reason they would have seen dollar signs on TG16 if they saw an opportunity to get superior ports of their games on a competitors console. Why didn’t this happen? It’s often stated, obviously, because they were still marketing the 7800 at that time. False. You see Atari split into two companies following Time Warner selling them off. Tengen was a branch of the arcade division, the company that made Gauntlet and NARC, among others. The company that owned the rights to the Atari arcade catalog, the ones publishing under the Tengen brand, wouldn’t care about the 7800 at all, that was the home computer branch which would go on to release the Jaguar before dying. The arcade division would go through a few different sellers. This is important because while true Tengen did release games for the Sega Genesis, they did so as authorized 3rd party licensees unlike with Nintendo where they did so technically illegally.

Then why couldn’t they release games for TG16? Okay, the reason was business. Again by the time the TG16 released it was already doing poorly. Those Tengen games didn’t even come to the NES until the time when Hudson was scrambling to get their console into homes. Atari Games would have looked at the TG16 and seen it was doing poorly and considered it too risky to put games out for it. Hudson recognized the need for those games so they did license some themselves as Sega was doing with SMS, but it was too little effort as it just spread them too thin. Then why did they make games for Sega? Simple, whereas the TurboGrafix launched to abysmal sales in the US, the Genesis took off basically overnight by comparison. It was a hot item kids wanted. The marketing was perfect, the games were fantastic, the console looked futuristic by comparison. I am not saying all this as a die-hard Sega fan. Remember before I discovered Sega I did want a TG16. What pushed me over the top was, of course, Sonic. That’s another story for another day.

Even if we ASSUME the marketing was better and we assume Tengen was on board because why not. That’s still barely what, 20 or so games they released for the NES? Even if they ported every single one to the TG16, would it have really made that much of a difference? I mean okay, is Gauntlet or Alien Syndrome really going to get you to buy a system that Splatter House or Bonk’s Adventure didn’t already sell you on? Even if you add the ENTIRE Tengen (Atari Games) library, and you throw in a few NEW arcade ports here and there, we’re talking about not 2nd tier, not 3rd tier, Atari was making 4th and 5th tier games at this point. Sure that’s about on par with the slop Hudson was dumping onto the TG16, a few hidden gems aside. Looking at it this way, I still can’t see the TG16 doing much better. But, let’s keep going. Which developers weren’t locked into contracts with Nintendo at this time? Well I am not going to bring up the unlicensed NES crap games that sell for tons of money, because they all sucked and were only on the system as shovel ware because it sold so well. A dying console doesn’t get shovel ware unless the 1st party developer is making it themselves.

We could look to the PC scene. If you remember the NES did get a ton of Commodore 64, Apple II and PC DOS games ported to it. The problem is they came later in the life when it was more affordable to do so. Still let’s examine this as a potential for games. Remember I am assuming no NEW games were going to magically get made. Developers only have so much inspiration and I can’t believe for 1 second that just because they were making a game for the TG16 instead of Apple or Amiga they would miraculously be inspired. That is not how art works. That leaves companies like EA, Epyx, Sierra Online, LucasArts and SSI. All of these companies mostly avoided the NES until t was firmly established as a must own console everyone needed to get their game on. Each of these developers shined on the PC at the time. Here is why I find it unlikely you would have gotten them to port games over to TG16 (not talking Turbo CD here that’s whole other article.) These companies were large publishing houses, but they didn’t develop games for the most part. Lucas being the major exception. So what you have is a case where developers might have wanted to tinker with the guts of the PC Engine as it was known in Japan, their publishers would have said no. I have been talking within the framework of the launch window to the release of the Genesis and SNES. In order to assume the TG16 would have been more successful over all it would have had to be more so out the gate. If you consider that then which game developers making powerful graphic adventure games that use up tons of memory are going to release their games on tiny HuCards? Keep in mind even with the CD add on these companies largely ignored ignored the platform entirely. The reason it took later for them to get games on the NES was because it took that long for Nintendo to develop larger carts. Remember Legend of Zelda was originally released in Japan as a floppy disk game, something you could do with a computer but not a console. The floppy drive was not sold in NA, therefore Nintendo had to find a way to squeeze the game onto a cart. The solution was larger carts that could hold more data.

Even if you scour the entire library of games that were released for Commodore, arcades, PC, DOS, Apple, etc., that didn’t get ports to NES, it’s remained unlikely many of them, if any, would have been ported to the TG16 anyways. At most I figured maybe 30-40 games would have been released over the 94 that were, again maybe half of those in the time span it would have made a difference. By going through all the variables I discovered there was just nothing Hudson and their partners could have done to make it a success in the States. The deck was stacked against them from the start. Even if that mysterious pack in game that doesn’t exist was available, and the console was sold at every toy and department store in America, the things Hudson could control, they couldn’t force developers to make games for their console and even if they could, consumers still might have passed up on it. No matter how you examine it I truly believe the TG16 was always doomed to fail. Remember Genesis was right around the corner, SNES right behind that and before long you had so many games and consoles on the market the TG16 was always going to get lost in the shuffle. At best you might have gotten a dozen or so ports of games from Tengen and a few high profile PC ports that didn’t require large amounts of storage space. Even with all things in Hudson’s favor the system was doomed from the start. In a way it’s a shame because the console really isn’t half bad. If it wasn’t so expensive due to how rare it is, I might be temped to pick one up one of these days. As it is the machine is forgotten by the same people that mostly didn’t even know it existed. The library is ripe to be discovered through modern means, however, so there are still good games worth looking into these days. As I tried to think of any scenario, aside from Nintendo going out of business, there wasn’t anything that would have made it the success it’s die hard fans often wish for.

The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 7

In this episode I discuss the Child’s Play/Chucky film series following a marathon viewing over the weekend. I take a look at comic book characters I personally discovered through playing a video game featuring that character while taking a look at the comic book games released for the Sega Genesis, Super NES and NES consoles. I talk about Big Brother in the framework of Game Theory and how it reminds me of the online forum game mafia/werewolf in some ways. All of this and more on the latest episode of The Spiders Lair podcast.

My comic book memories: X-Men

A couple of days ago I went onto Amazon to purchase some Dawn comics. For those that don’t know Dawn is a character created by Joseph Michael Linsner in the late 1980’s. I discovered Dawn in my early pre-teen years when I was just starting to really get into comic books. Before I could commit to buying any more issues or trade paperbacks I had to dig out my comic vault to see what I had to make sure I wasn’t buying something I already bought previously. I started going through my X-Men graphic novels and TPB’s and realized I didn’t have all of the ones I thought I did. I also confirmed I didn’t have any of the Dawn TPB’s so I was good to order them on Amazon.

How I got into X-Men is a little more interesting than how I discovered Dawn. I always preferred comics with more of a mythology feel or fantasy/swords and sorcery stuff. I enjoyed Conan, and the D&D comics especially. That is how I found myself getting into X-Men. My first experience with Marvel’s famous mutants was not even through comic books. Since I was mostly into indie comics, horror comics, and less mainstream stuff I didn’t see a lot of advertisements for X-Men or other mainstream stuff. If I did, I ignored it or dismissed it as a bunch of spandex wearing clowns. My first exposure was walking into a video arcade and playing the 6-player behemoth X-Men arcade machine. I had no clue who these characters were. Since I discovered TMNT through an arcade game I decided to check out X-Men since I really loved the Ninja Turtles at that time. Turns out the Ninja Turtles were mutants, and the X-Men were also mutants so I thought cool I can get into this. Even if I didn’t really know what a ‘mutant’ was at that time.

I didn’t really pick up any X-Men comics right away though. Instead my next exposure came from renting the abysmal NES game. Now I had rented my share of terrible games on the NES but this was by far one of my least favorite. I couldn’t believe this was how they ported that awesome 6-player game to the NES. I didn’t discover until years later the weren’t even connected outside of the name.

From here I was in 3rd grade and I had a teacher that new I was into reading fantasy and science fiction stuff so she lent me a few of her issues of X-Men comics. They were all mostly current stuff from the late 80’s. Nothing special but I had no idea what was even going on. They were about 3 unconnected issues that had totally different characters in each one. The only character that I recognized from the video game was the guy in the yellow and brown jump suit with the claws. My first impression was I hated that guy. I learned his name was Wolverine and I thought, what a stupid name. His power is he has claws, yawn. Oh he has unbreakable claws, so what.

I didn’t give X-Men another serious thought until the animated series came on Fox a couple of years later. I watched a few episodes and it was entertaining, but I still didn’t know much about the characters, and I still couldn’t stand that blasted Wolverine who just happened to basically be the star of the show. By this time i was really heavy into the Conan the Adventurer cartoon and the new Aladdin animated series. Like I said I was more into horror and fantasy stuff than actual sci-fi. Well I saw a commercial for the Phoenix Saga mini series of X-Men cartoons coming soon. There was a Phoenix character on Conan so that connected the mutants to the mythology stuff I was more into. I was also getting really heavy into Dungeons and Dragons right about this same time.

Finally I gave the cartoon a second chance. I had seen a few random episodes here and there. While the action was always good, the characters didn’t really mean much to me as I had no connection to them. So when I started watching the Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga unfold as a dramatic event over several weeks, I became hooked. Suddenly I picked out the characters I did care for and wanted to follow them. I immediately ran out and began buying all the Cyclops and Jean Grey stuff I could. I fell in love with that couple and wanted to get everything I could. By this time I was also getting into collecting trading cards so I had picked up a few sets of Marvel Universe series cards. There were always X-Men characters within those sets so I started reading the backs of the cards, trying to learn more about the lore of these characters. By this time I was really getting fascinated with the Cyclops character and Marvel Girl especially. I started buying X-Men trading cards, action figures, that super fantastic Sega Genesis game and it’s pretty amazing sequel, too. By the mid-1990’s I had gone from not caring or knowing much about the X-Men to being completely dedicated. Before long I was less excited for Conan and found myself looking forward to X-Men episodes even more. As the series dragged on my disdain for Wolverine continued so I quickly lost interest again as the characters I liked took a backseat to his temper-tantrums.

Then it all culminated with me picking up the Wedding of Cyclops and Phoenix issue. Seeing Scott and Jean get hitched was the perfect end to the fairy tale. The mess that was the Spider-clone saga had completely turned me away from Spidey comics by this time. I had sat through the majority of the Age of Apocalypse with intense interest and curiosity. Then just as things were starting to ‘recover’ they started they whole Onslought stuff and I finally lost interest in the comics for good. I kept paying attention to the characters through buying action figures, picking up back issues of the comics that were void of Logan as much as possible. Then they dropped the bombshell of a movie on the world. Wow, for the first time I didn’t care for the Cyclops character and was actually rooting for Logan. Part of this was the movie made Logan a much more likeable character than the whiny little bitch he was in the comics. He was still a selfish asshole in the movies sure, but not as bad as he was in the comics.

This allowed me to warm up to the character so I went back and tried to get into the Wolverine comics too. Needless to say the movies altered my perception of the characters quite a bit. Before long I was stating to lose interest in the characters and their mythos entirely. Still, every once in a while I go back and remember what it was I liked about them in the first place. At one time I was collecting everything X-Men related from New Mutants comics to Cable and Deadpool spin off stuff. Eventually the movies would start to really spend too much time focusing on Logan again, giving him solo movie after solo movie while continuing to treat my beloved Scott and Jean like second, or even third class characters.  Today I have a pretty decent X-Men comics collection I can go back to and revisit. I have all but one of the films and that’s just because I just haven’t been looking for a copy. All in all I discovered I really loved the X-Men and I am very glad I took the time to get to know them.