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.

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.

Disillusion of Debbie Gibson

I love Debbie Gibson, her music has always been very uplifting and optimistic. I especially like her song “Electric Youth.” It tells the optimistic story of the kids growing up in the 80’s that will become the next generation of Americans. This weekend I was coming back from a wedding so I was on a long road trip. As is my usual practice I put one my favorite road trip play list which includes several Debbie Gibson songs. As I was listening to the lyrics to Electric Youth I realized the song was made 30 years ago, the message doesn’t really hold true, she was singing about my generation and while I won’t go so far as say we are the worst generation, I think the optimism and carefree anything goes attitude of the song is not at all a defining trait of our generation. Maybe I am taking the lyrics to literal but the message was always this generation coming is the future and the future is bright. If she could go back in time she might tell her record produce, “I can’t sing those lyrics, their so far from true.”

I don’t know how I didn’t see this coming. In the 80’s we were all into Atari and Nintendo, Nintendo might sort of still be around, they are not at all what they were in the 80’s Optimism for the future dies just from an 80’s gamer perspective when you realize that as far as Nintendo has fallen, at least their still around, when you look at what happened to Atari, heck most people today don’t even remember Atari.

I can’t blame her though, as a teenager in the greatest most carefree decade our nation has seen in a very long time it makes sense she would have been optimistic for the generation that was coming up. But that generation, known as the Millennials, are one of the most pessimistic, narcissistic generation, probably ever, in our country. I am not going to complain to much, I am a part of this generation and I see we have done a lot of good things, but I am not optimistic for the future as much looking at this current presidential election cycle. She got one thing right in the song though, the generation was electric for sure. Maybe not in the youthful, carefree, optimistic way she intended but with our over reliance on technology, smart phones, smart watches, social media, we are more electric today than at any point in history.

I am not saying that I can no longer listen to the song and inspire a hopeful sense of the future, it’s been 30 years that future is here and it’s not as carefree as the 80’s were. Or at least how I remember them. I know every decade has it’s troubles but I just feel like this current generation coming up now isn’t as carefree as we were, as optimistic as we were or even having as much fun as we did. I think they have settled for mediocrity and accepted that things are what they are. I am not sure there is any reason to think it’s the end of the world, just that it’s not as “electrifying” as the song I used to really appreciate described. Today when I listen to the song it won’t illicit emotions of optimism for the future, instead I suspect it will only cause me to reminisce about the past. Of course personally I am optimistic about the future, my own future at least, as I have always been a mostly optimistic person. Hopefully once the election is done things will get back to normal and I will then get back to a point where the song won’t make me sad I had to see so many good things get replaced by less good things.

At the end of the day, I still enjoy her music and the songs are still fun to listen to as is most 80’s dance/pop music, it’s just the message is slightly altered now that we are 30 years into the future. On the plus side, Sony just released their Playstation VR and Nintendo is gearing up to launch a brand new game console that I am optimistic for, so there is still some hope.

Chronicles of a Nintendo fan, the end of an era

Everyone has played Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, Duck Hunt, Wii Sports, or Pokemon at some point in their life it seems. A lot of people grew up playing some form of Nintendo. I wanted to chronicle my life as a gamer, my evolution as a Nintendo fan, and my recent decisions regarding the current state of the Nintendo I once fell in love with.

For the world it began in 1985 with the release of Duck Hunt/Super Mario Bros. combo pack. For me it began in 1987 at a laundromat in Delphos Kansas. A small town the people in the next town over haven’t even heard of. Up to that point I was an Atari guy, we had an Atari machine at our house we used to play the crap out of that thing, mostly games nobody ever remembers the names too along with a few favorites like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Haunted House, etc. My arcade experience was mostly confined to Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man at the local bar in town we sometimes ate at as it doubled as a restaurant. Then there I was sitting in a laundromat bored out of my mind begging my mom for quarters to play one of the video games they had in the corner. I don’t for the life of me remember what the other two games were but I do remember the one I dropped my $.25 cents into, it was a game called Donkey Kong featuring this tiny man jumping over barrels and climbing ladders. At first I hated the game, man it was hard compared to Pac-Man my previous arcade favorite, but something about it kept drawing me back.

I remember it was 1987 because I was barely 5 years old, I hadn’t started Kindergarten yet, I was living in Delphos Kansas and I was born in 1982 so it had to be 1987. I also remember having mixed feelings about the game. Then we moved to another town called Minneapolis, Kansas. It was New Year’s Eve going into 1988, my family was attending a party with some friends my parents had made, this kid named Marvin who I remember very little about. What I do remember is when I asked if they had an Atari they said no, I should have been bummed but what they did have was so  much better. They took me downstairs to the play room where they kept all their toys, had the TV set up for the kids and they was this VCR-sized machine with these funny gray “tapes” stacked up beside it and the kid was holding an ugly little square controller with 2 buttons playing a game I never seen before, it was called The Legend of Zelda. He let me try it out and I was hooked immediately. Forget Atari man I wanted one of these, what were they called Intendos? I wanted one so bad. I spent the rest of that year BEGGING my parents for an Intendo I needed an Intendo bad. (yeah I didn’t learn it was Nintendo until we got one, that Christmas.)

It was the Christmas that almost didn’t happen though. See my mom had promised me a younger brother and in April of 1988 she brought me home, nope not the brother she promised, but ANOTHER sister, I mean come on I had one older and one younger than me I was surrounded by icky girls I was ready for a boy in the house to help me tear the place down. Well needless to say the “bundle of joy” came along early enough in the year there was some doubt what sort of Christmas we would end up with. Turns out most of the fears were for naught as under the tree was a present in a HUGE box larger than any we as a family had seen up to that point. Christmas Day arrives and we tear into it me and my two sisters that were old enough to do so and BEHOLD the Intendo machine I been begging for! Yeah parents made me forget that my baby brother was missing some parts. Oh well plugged my gaming machine into the TV, powered up some Duck Hunt and blasted Ducks till it was time to go back to school. Yeah it was a year after I had gotten my first taste of Nintendo before we had one in our home but man it was worth it, my tiny little six-year-old hands couldn’t be seen without a Nintendo control pad in them for a VERY long time.

Fortunately for us there were not on, not two, but THREE stores in town that rented Nintendo games so I was lucky to get to experience so many “great” games ranging from the hotly anticipated Who Framed Roger Rabbit to the nobody heard of before Little Nemo, to a bunch of games I can’t even sarcastically pretend were good because honestly I totally forgot their names they mostly sucked. Still even if the rentals were hit or miss, we had one gem at home, Super Mario Bros. Not Mario Bros. no we had SUPER Mario Bros. In the 80’s Rad, Awesome, Ultra, Super, Radical, or Mega, if your thing didn’t have one of those words in the title it wasn’t really worth your time. I played that game to death, literally poor Mario died countless deaths on his quest to save the poor princess from the evil turtle.

I don’t know if it was coincidence or what but it also happened that my favorite cartoon at the time and accompanying toy line also featured some beastly looking Turtles, so I was able to “pretend” my Leonardo action figure was “King Koopa” and any Optimus Prime action figure was Mario and I could re-create my favorite “scenes” from the game over and over, with toys. It was about this time my hobby of Nintendo began to become an obsession the likes of which would dominate my youth for many years to come.

I enjoyed the early days of the NES tremendously, randomly renting one game after another as my parents were too cheap to buy us that many games, and the few they did buy were sadly from the bargain clearance rack which meant they usually were games nobody heard of or nobody wanted to play. I wasn’t complaining though man I loved that little gray box. I loved it so much my parents bought me a small black and white TV and set it up next to my bed so I could sit and play at night before I fell a sleep. I thought once I discovered Nintendo there was no going back the world had changed and Atari was quickly fading into memory.

My love of Nintendo even stretched into other areas of my life. I begged mom to buy Mario valentines day cards for my friends, I had Mario on my folders and notebooks for school, I watched the cartoon/TV extravaganza the “Super Mario Super Show” faithfully, even more so than my previously beloved Transformers. If Mario was on one channel and even Ninja Turtles, which I enjoyed, was on the other, Mario one every time. I even watched that movie, I won’t say the name you remember, and I was, well I liked parts of it, seeing Mario and Luigi on the big screen in their costumes was, um sorta satisfying, but, okay it was a mess of a movie that almost killed Nintendo for me but I sat in the theater hoping to enjoy it nonetheless, I even convinced my parents to buy a copy on VHS because as a kid I believed if I kept watching it would eventually get better. Yeah I was wrong sue me.

Things were progressing along just fine until one day I questioned Nintendo’s value to me. A friend of mine showed me his new game consoles, the Turbo Grafix 16. He bragged how it was so much better than Nintendo because it was 16 bits and Nintendo was “only” 8 bits. I didn’t know what the hell a bit was but if this machine had more of them it must be better. So I started looking through comic books to read Turbo Grafix ads and saw, it had a few games that looked cool. I started putting the work on my parents to buy me a new 16 bit machine and they shot it down dead with, when Nintendo makes one we will consider it. I thought that will never happen Nintendo is stuck in the past their machine is too popular there is no chance they will ever replace it. Of course I was 8 at the time what did I know. To be fair Super Mario Bros. 3 had just came out and well that game, 16 bit or not 16 bit, was a damn fine game that reminded me bits, what are bits, this game is FUN and fun is the name of the game. So  my interest in Turbo whatsitcalled faded and I plunged head first into my world of Nintendo.

Then everything changed in 1992. I was at another friends house who was showing me his newest toy, the Super Nintendo! Wait a Nintendo that was SUPER and not “regular” I had to have one. This put me on a quest to once again convince my parents I needed a new Nintendo player. Dad wasn’t falling for it, he just got the Nintendo three or four years prior, if they can’t last ten years he felt they weren’t worth the money spent on them. And so I waited. Christmas 1993 came and still no Super Nintendo under the tree. By this time I had begun to amass quite a collection of NES carts so I wasn’t exactly in a huge hurry to you know upgrade. That is until one fateful day everything changed for good, this time there was no going back. Sitting on the bus another kid showed me his new toy, the Sega Game Gear. My best friend at the time had a Game Boy and I already had dozens of those Tiger things at home so I was vaguely familiar with the concept of a hand held gaming device, but the tiny screens I just wasn’t sold. He was playing a game called Super Star Wars. I had played this game on NES and felt the Game Gear version definitely played better. Then he plugged in his Sonic cart. WHAT IS THIS? A “Mario” game that was actually as good as or even *gasp* better than Mario? Oh man I fell in love so hard with Sonic I immediately began to lose all interest in that lame Plumber from the Mushroom Kingdom. (This was the SAME Mario my mom had used to convince me cleaning the toilet was fun because “Mario is a plumber and plumbers clean toilets” yeah I fell for it, Doh!)

With my friends posters and Sega promotional material I now knew I had to have this new machine, the Sega Genesis. I had forgotten all about Super Nintendo and abandoned my quest to get one now I turned all my attention to Genesis. It was an easy sell, my parents were Sunday school teachers, the word Genesis is in the Bible it must be good right?  It worked, a little nudging, some careful planting of evidence and on my 12th birthday my parents gave me a Sega Genesis console with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 packed in! Whoo hoo I was happy. Yeah sorry Nintendo, Sega had Sonic, Mortal Kombat WITH the blood, Turrican, Shinobi, Streets of Rage, the BETTER Mighty Morphin Power Rangers games (shut up I was 12,) and it had not one but TWO totally amazing X-Men games and boy was I an X-Men nut by this time. The 16 bit wars were easily the best time to be a gamer and I loved drawing battle lines and picking what I knew was the right side, Sega Genesis all the way baby, it had games, it had Sega CD, it could play music, it could play Karaoke CD’s (didn’t know what they were but hey it could play them so it was cool!) Man I jumped on the Sega bandwagon so hard, to this day my online discussion forum handle more often than not is Sega Gamer 12, a throwback to getting a Genesis on my 12th birthday. Good times were had for a very long time.

Just like the transition from Atari to Nintendo then Nintendo to Sega I felt there was always going to be a newcomer to take out the old timer. Atari failed to make a comeback with their Jaguar, and even before it was announced I knew Saturn would bomb because it was over priced 32X and 32X was a joke, even I could see that at only 12 years of age. So where was I to go now that Nintendo had lost my interest? Don’t count the lovable house that Mario built out just yet my friends. Nintendo and Sega were battling it out in the home console and handheld market, Sega was killing it in arcades and I was a huge arcade fan, something was brewing that made me rethink everything. Virtaul Reality. We stopped calling it VR pretty quickly and then just called it 3D gaming but between Doom, Area 51, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Racing, Tekken, Cruisin USA, Killer Instinct, Star Fox, this new “VR-3D” gaming craze was upon us and I had to get in. The question then was which of the new 3D consoles was I going to set my sights on? There were four on the market or just around the corner.

It was middle 1995, summer, I had a job now I could save up my money and buy my OWN machine. No need to involve the parents anymore. I was saving up for a new 3D gaming box but which one do I go after? The Sega Saturn, and it’s blocky, ugly games that were not at all fun like Genesis? Or would it be Atari and..  not not even on my radar was the Jaguar sorry pass. What about Sony and their new fangled Play Station majigger? Not sure how much faith I have in a company known for making tape decks so I turned my attention to the one last hope for gaming, Nintendo Ultra 64, which was just around the corner. I enjoyed Killer Instinct and Cruisin USA in the arcades, I played the heck out of Area 51, and I was even starting to feel some nostalgia for Mario after playing Super Mario All-Stars at a cousins house that summer. This had me thinking Nintendo was going to be my next purchase. I saved up, went down to K-Mart in August of 1996 and put my N64 machine and Super Mario 64 game cart on advance layaway. It was going to cost me a whole bunch of money but I felt it was worth it I wanted 3D Mario.

The day before I was supposed to pay it off/pick it up something changed. My dad had taken me into this pawn shop, which introduced me to a whole new world of shopping I had never experienced before, and they had a complete working Super NES for a mere $40 bucks! I was like wow wait a second drop $250 on an N64 and ONE game, or take home this machine, a shoe box full of great Super NES games, and have money left over to buy 3 pieces of a 5 piece drum set? I had to cancel my Layaway, take that money to the pawn shop and load up on Super NES games.

With a Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis safely tucked away on my TV in my bedroom I was set for life baby. I was quickly reminded how much I enjoyed Nintendo games. I never fell for the 16 bit wars, I finally had both machines and I could honestly say they both gave me equal enjoyment over the years. Eventually this would morph into a half truth then Super NES would not only win out for me as the better machine overall, I would eventually settle on it as the greatest video game console, of all time.

Things were going good I was firmly back in Nintendo land. I grabbed me an N64 a couple short years latter, got a Game Boy Pocket then Game Boy Advance along the way, followed that up with an amazing and to this day very memorable Game Cube machine, got me a Nintendo DS and enjoyed it tremendously then suddenly Nintendo did the unthinkable, they made a machine I not only wasn’t excited for much, I grew to HATE. Unlike Super NES where the alternative was just as good for the most part, or the N64 where you kind of had to recognize it was your second machine with Playstation being the bulk of your source of gaming, now Wii was an entirely different beast. I quickly went from not that interested to HATING that worthless pile of garbage. I hated it so much that it was 3 years into Wii U before I could even consider getting it and despite having the same name, I personally felt it was the superior machine, it was the last straw for me. I never picked up a 3DS, I sold my DS when it became nothing more than SNES 2.0 with a few N64 remakes and a bunch of the casual crap flooding the Wii library. I realized my love was not for Nintendo the company, or even Nintendo products, it was always the Nintendo games and the characters within those games. I gotta say with Wii and Wii U I lost a lot of respect for the company, I began to lose hope and now just a few months away from their next machine, the NX, I just don’t think I can muster the energy to go through all of that again. This could be my final good by to Nintendo once and for all. Wii hurt me, bad, and Wii U didn’t do much to mend those wounds, in fact it just rubbed salt in a few cases and was barely a band aid at best.

I am here to say that barring a really mind blowing game that I absolutely can’t live without, that does NOT rely on some controller gimmick, and isn’t outrageously over priced outdated hardware, I am just not likely to even bother with NX and Wii U might be my last Nintendo console I ever buy, and if I sell it to buy more Game Cube games, which I might do, it won’t even be a console I own forever. I love Nintendo, at one time I loved them a lot, but I feel like the time has come to file for divorce and go our separate ways. Sony surprised me over the years consistently making the games and consoles I just wished Nintendo would and I figured I am done wishing Nintendo would JUST make a Playstation/modern Super NES and say to hell with it I am firmly now a Playstation gamer.

There is a chance I might buy that new NES Classic Edition console they just announced yesterday. Can they win me back? Only time will tell but as of right now I spend all my time gaming on my PS4 anyways, and I am saving up for a Playstation VR so it’s a long shot. I might download that Pokemon Go app in the meantime though.