Because Nobody Asked: So You Want To Write About Video Games For a Living?

So there were some pretty serious layoffs at GameSpot this week. There are two members of the site’s editorial (written content) staff left. The rest– several of whom had 5+ years of experience there– were terminated.

This should be a wake-up call for those thinking about pursuing a career in gaming press. It’s not necessarily a call to stop dreaming and stop trying, but it is a call to be very aware of how difficult a field that it is to get into for those looking to do it as a career.

GameSpot’s layoffs are the most recent in a string of job losses. GameTrailers, Polygon, and Destructoid went through them in the past few months, and IGN is no stranger to saying goodbye to staff. Paid positions are dwindling, and there’s a far larger base of experienced people looking for jobs than there are jobs available. Video content is exceeding written content, in terms of demand from the audience, and it’s become routine to jump on YouTube or to read a message board than it is to visit a website. Furthermore, the use of ad-blocking programs tends to affect the amount of revenue coming in to these bigger websites, which leads to less money being available to pay staff.

When I first started “chasing the dream” back in 2001, ad revenue was higher. Websites were expanding to accommodate audiences, and there wasn’t a sense of saturation in terms of content. It really was a window of opportunity for a lot of people. If you were a talented writer, someone was going to eventually give you a shot… even if it was after paying some dues initially on smaller websites. For a short amount of time (2004-05), I actually did have a paying gig. It wasn’t a ton of money, but just getting paid to write about video games was a dream come true. Was I the next big thing? No… but I had made a name for myself and, had it not been for my personal life getting in the way of my writing (separation and divorce are tough to work through), I don’t know how far I might have gone.

It’s a much different scene today. Video content is king. If you don’t have a webcam, basic editing experience, and solid social media reach… you’re already lacking as a candidate. You can be an amazing writer and have a tremendous way with words, but there’s just not that much demand. What demand there is left for writing talent is satisfied by the growing pool of displaced, more experienced writers out there. Work experience, in most cases, trumps talent. Readers know their names, editors are aware of their work histories and oftentimes have worked with them before, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s a long shot to make any kind of living this way. That doesn’t mean that freelancing is out of the question, as I believe that websites will continue to secure independent contractors (no weekly wages or benefits) to provide content as needed. It does mean that the idea of getting up, going to the office or getting on your computer to start writing 5 days a week, and getting paid on a regular basis by a gaming website is more fantasy than reality. Many are talented, some will try to take that next step, and a very small number of these candidates will succeed.

Warning against making a living at writing about games or as part of the gaming press doesn’t mean that I don’t encourage talented writers to keep at it. If it’s a passion that you have, run with it. There are many websites out there that can use writing help, or you can create your own website or blog to share your work on with others. That’s what I do now, and I’ve never been happier. I write a piece every couple of weeks, and I’m part of a website that is happy to publish my work. If I have the time and motivation to write more, that’s what this blog is for. I still get to be part of an amazing team of talent and have my work read by a significant number of people. i have no doubt that, if you’ve got the skills and the drive, you can find a similar situation.

If you do decide to chase the dream, as others have and will continue to do, I wish you all the best. In fact, I’d love for you to prove me wrong. I think that many people reach a time in their lives where they decide to go for broke and see what happens, whether it’s for a writing career, a singing career, a personal business, or other career paths… and maybe that is you right now. Just think about what I’ve said here, and what quite a few writers have already found out recently: Gaming press is a tough, competitive business, with a higher rate of displacement than placement. Swinging for the fences will often result in an out– even if it’s a fly ball that gets to the warning track– so have a backup plan ready if/when it happens.

Shooting Straight: Commentoxicity

I enjoy writing.

I’ve done it for a good number of years now. It’s the method of communication that I’m most comfortable with… and, honestly, it’s the way that I express myself the best. When I speak, I sometimes stammer or let loose with a flurry of “ummm”s and “ahhhh”s. If you watched any of my Retro Unscripted videos, you probably noticed that. When I write, though, that all goes away. I let the words flow from my brain to my hands, where I hunt and peck at a keyboard to type the series of words that come to mind.

I also enjoy leaving comments on various content across the Internet. These aren’t just one-sentence rapid reactions; they’re usually multi-paragraph comments that probably often run a bit longer than most people want to read. Brevity is not my strong suit. I’m also usually not the kind of person to comment on another’s work negatively. If I’m compelled to leave a comment on something, it’s because that content affected me in a good way. I often leave positive comments on work done by friends and Retroware colleagues; it’s one way that I show my support for the hard work necessary to create that video or to write that piece. I will occasionally leave constructive criticism if I deem it appropriate, but Internet comments are often a minefield of toxicity and anger… so I instead choose to be supportive.

Unfortunately, people don’t like positive comments on the Internet very much. For example, after leaving a positive comment for the latest episode of The Video Game Years on YouTube recently, I was greeted by this response:

Comment

I deleted my original comment after reading this.

It’s not the first time that I’ve dealt with venomous reaction. I’ve tried to ignore it in the past, and I have similarly deleted my comments in the past that received such a harsh reaction to try and head off more inappropriateness. Even on Retroware, the site that I so happily submit articles to and that has made me happy to be writing again, I’ve been forced to severely cut down my comment activity out of defensiveness. It’s sad, because I enjoyed leaving comments for the content creators and thought that the comments would be received as supportive or a small token of appreciation for their hard work, but I didn’t wish to continually make myself a target.

If I was a community manager, or if I was doing this kind of thing for a living, I’d probably swallow my disappointment and keep at it. I’m not, however; so being positive or supportive and getting blasted in the process has lost its worth. Why subject myself to the same kind of attacks? I don’t have any valid reasons. This isn’t a virtual schoolyard where I should feel as though I have to defend myself… and for what? Being nice? Being complimentary? I’m better served leaving a thumbs up, or a “like”, or a +1, than I am to keep putting myself out there to get this kind of reaction.

I’ve posited for awhile now that Internet comments, as they are now, are overdue for retirement. If people really want their voices heard, make them earn it by writing e-mails or blog posts of substance and clarity, which can be picked up and shared by the content creators that they’re aimed for. These used to be called “Letters to the Editor” a long time ago. Content creators– or a person hired or designated by said content creator– can read the reactions they get and determine which ones deserve attention versus being deleted. If the comment writer doesn’t like that he/she isn’t getting the attention that’s desired, let them take to WordPress, Tumblr, or any other free blogging site and post the discarded reaction for all to see.

Of course, the onus then falls on the content creator to judge reactions fairly and share both the bad and good… within reason. Reposting only positive comments isn’t necessarily representative of how readers or viewers feel about the creator’s work. If criticism is civil and respectful, it should garner as much consideration for sharing as gushing plaudits do. It’s basically Moderation 101, but this process occurs before anything goes live for viewers to see. What’s more, citing that an e-mail or blog post be submitted in response places some potential responsibility on the person who is reacting to at least put a little effort into his or her response. If they do, read it. If they don’t, discard it without a second thought.

Of course, this is most likely an unrealistic solution as it requires extra effort to accomplish while also potentially upsetting readers or viewers who are accustomed to leaving comments at will. Removing that level of engagement is a risk that I’m guessing very few people would want to take. Until something changes, though, I’m at the point where I have to make my own adjustments to protect myself from reactions like these. I will do my best to maintain some level of support for content that appeals to me, mostly by sharing it without comment on social networks or writing about it here, but I’m done with commentoxicity.

Retro Game on the Brain: Rad Racer

RRTitle

I didn’t really play Rad Racer too much until 2012, when I got my NES for my 40th birthday. In past years of owning an NES, during the 1990s, I had played the game sparingly. I never really got too far– maybe to the second stage, if I happened to run well– and I just cast it aside as an early NES game that really didn’t matter much. Instead, I played other racing games, such as R.C. Pro-Am or Super Sprint. As my NES personal gameplay experiences came and went over the years, Rad Racer was pretty much forgotten.

Had I attended the Nintendo World Championships in 1990, as I so desperately wanted to, perhaps my early opinion on Rad Racer might have been different. After all, the game was part of the competition. I don’t think I would have fared all that well, though; my skills at Super Mario Bros. and Tetris at the time were intermediate at best, and I didn’t have any experience playing Rad Racer at that point. None of my friends had it, and we never rented it for a weekend to play it. I probably would have crashed and burned at the competition, but I suspect that I would have been sold on Rad Racer (and the other games) at that time, just to improve.

Turning the calendar to 2001, I finally got my hands on a DVD copy of The Wizard. I had heard about it in years past, and I had never seen it in theaters. Chatter grew about it as I had begun to write NES reviews for fun in the late 1990s, but it took until 2001 for me to see it all the way through for the very first time. While watching the film, this scene stuck out to me:

 

Yes, it’s notable for one of the most iconic retrogaming-related sayings of all time, but this sequence also raised my interest in Rad Racer. I had already seen the film more times than I probably should admit to publicly, so when I got an NES on April 21, 2012, I knew that Rad Racer was going to be one of the first games that I wanted to track down. I wasn’t going to play it with a Power Glove, like Lucas did, but I was going to give the game a fair shake for the first time… and I’m happy that I did. In fact, it’s become a game that I play fairly often today.

The play controls are very simple, which is great for those just starting out. The A button is the gas and the B button is the brake. Once the car reaches 100 kilometers per hour (or just over 62 miles per hour, if you’re anti-metric), pressing up on the D-pad kicks in a turbo boost that cranks up the acceleration. Pressing down on the D-pad changes the music between one of three selections, and I find the music to be pretty good. (My favorite is this music track, but the other two are worth listening to, as well.) If you have red and blue 3D glasses, pressing the Select button toggles 3D mode, which is not really that impressive.

The objective of Rad Racer is to complete each of the eight courses in the game. These are races against time, with checkpoints scattered throughout each stage to add precious seconds to the ever-ticking clock. A new player’s first instinct would be to maintain top speed and fly to the finish, but the game punishes players who adopt this strategy. I used to do this during my first few attempts, and it wasn’t long before bad things would happen. High speeds make the car slide to the outside of a turn, which often results in colliding with an object on the side of the road. Going too fast also prevents players from having time to adjust to traffic, and colliding with another car usually leads to a crash. Crashes and collisions waste time, and too many crashes during a stretch between checkpoints will inevitably lead to a Game Over situation.

Too much speed while taking curves spells disaster.

Too much speed while taking curves spells disaster.

The key to succeeding at Rad Racer is learning when to speed up and when to slow down. There are several straightaways that lend themselves to top speeds, but there are plenty of curves that demand less speed and more steering accuracy. Road signs alert drivers to left or right curves, but these fly by quickly and can be easily missed if a player isn’t watching for them. Seeing and reacting to these signs allows for speed and steering adjustment to avoid taking the curves too fast. Traffic is also a variable that must be accounted for, when considering speed. It’s easy to pass a single vehicle, but there are times when all three lanes have vehicles occupying them in various distances from the player’s car. Slowing down a bit can open up narrow passing windows, which is all that’s needed to leave that pesky traffic behind and continue on towards the goal.

Personally, I’ve only made it to Stage 5 once in my Rad Racer experience. Getting past Stage 4, which is a challenging course that winds through the ruins of Athens, is usually my Kryptonite. The first 25% of the course is very curvy, which makes it difficult to maintain much speed early. Once the curves are left behind, the next 50% is generally straight, but traffic increases and requires some deft maneuvering to get around. The last 25% of the course is usually what takes me down. The final checkpoint comes well before the finish line, and two harrowing turns combine with heavy traffic to severely cut down the margin of error. I tell myself every time that I get here to slow down and pace myself through the course, but I feel the pressure getting towards the end and often make too many mistakes.

Despite my continued failures, I keep coming back to Rad Racer. I keep playing with the belief that it’s only a matter of time before I get through Stage 4, experiencing and conquering the remaining four courses. It’s not impossible. The crashes and failures aren’t ever “cheap”; they’re caused by my own actions, and that’s all that I can really ask for in a difficult game. If a game is fair, then I know that I have a chance to succeed with practice and experience. Aside from fair challenge, Rad Racer also creates what I call rewarding tension. Squeezing though a wall of cars without incident when a collision seemed imminent or coasting just past a checkpoint after time expires are cool resolutions to tense situations. Tension and resolution may not be fun for everyone (or even anyone else), but that thrill is a rush for me.

I’ll never be as cool as Lucas Barton, even though I own more than 97 NES games. I don’t use the Power Glove, I don’t make moves on a competitor’s female companion, and I’m about as far away from being an intimidating presence as one can get. Despite these differences between us, Lucas and I will always have Rad Racer in common. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have given this game more than a few passing tries.

RRLucas

So, here’s to you, Lucas. You may have lost to Jimmy Woods at Video Armageddon, and you may have been a bit of a jerk to your friends, but you made Rad Racer cool to me 25 years after its release.

First Time Friday: The Karate Kid (NES)

Today brings the first piece in what might be a new series of content. First Time Fridays will have me dipping into my retro library and picking out a game that I haven’t played before– or perhaps a game that I haven’t played for a very long time. 

KKCart

I had been warned about The Karate Kid for the NES. The Angry Video Game Nerd warned me. My friend Half-Bit warned me. Other members of the retro community quizzically scratched their heads when I announced on Twitter that I would be playing this game for the first time. The game was warned to be exceptionally difficult, with frustrating sequences that bordered on the unfair. Still… when I saw it at a game store during July 4th weekend, something inside me said that I just had to find out for myself. I grabbed it and it sat for almost a week.

I was admittedly worried that I had made a big mistake. After all, my reflexes aren’t as sharp as they once were, and I might have been setting myself up for disappointment. Sure, YouTube personalities sometimes play up their anger or frustration when it comes to games like this. Viewers dig the outrage. I know that I laughed at several video reviews that I saw of The Karate Kid. Behind the acting, though, there’s often at least a modicum of truth. Was I destined to play this and snap my controller in two? Would I wind up muttering to myself for hours, wondering why I bothered?

There was only one way to find out.

I glanced quickly at the instruction manual, but thought it would be better to go into The Karate Kid cold. I did have some idea of what to expect, anyway. I knew what kind of game I was about to play– it’s a flawed beat-‘em-up that seemed to draw inspiration from Irem‘s Kung-Fu Master. I then took to cleaning the cartridge, and the first bad sign appeared. The Q-Tips came back black as night. I wondered if it was some kind of warning, as if to tell me that playing this game would make me soul as black as these cotton swabs became. I took a deep breath, popped the cartridge into my NES, turned the power on… and…

Nothing. A black screen.

This had to be another sign. All that was left to happen now was for the power to go out, or perhaps for my NES to vanish into some kind of sinkhole. Despite my growing fear, I pressed on. I tried cleaning the contacts again, and more black Q-Tips resulted. Maybe it was just really dirty and needed a bit more care to get going. The game isn’t evil. It can’t be.

I popped the re-cleaned cartridge in once more.

KKTitle

It was alive. I gulped audibly, and pressed the Start button.

The first stage, which take place at the All-Valley Karate Tournament, was ridiculously easy. In fact, the first three matches consisted of my moving Daniel-san to the right and having my opponents literally walk into my kicks. They were like the extra members of landing parties on the original Star Trek TV series. They were just glad to be there, but they knew what was up. Unlike those poor Starfleet casualties, though, these fighters just froze in time after being on the receiving end of one last kick. Doctor McCoy wasn’t needed here. The final round of the tournament was a touch more challenging, but poor Johnny Lawrence never tried to sweep Daniel’s leg. He never had a chance. Two crane kicks sent him down and off to an appearance on How I Met Your Mother. I had won the tournament, but, sadly, I never got to kiss Elisabeth Shue. I felt cheated, but there was no time to think about that now. I was off to Okinawa, and the beginning of a much tougher game.

The second stage of The Karate Kid is where the game really begins, as it transitions away from being a (pretty lame) one-on-one fighting game into a side-scrolling beat-‘em-up. Daniel’s objective in this stage– and for the rest of the game– is to run to the right for a showdown with Chozen. Of course, there are obstacles aplenty that stand in the way of meeting this objective. Chozen apparently has thousands of followers who are willing to get kicked in the face and groin if it means that it’ll keep Daniel from getting to him. For this stage, the followers use their fists and feet more than projectiles and weapons, but the level design here creates a problem as Daniel sometimes finds himself on platforms that are just above or below his enemies; this enables the bad guys to beat the snot out of Daniel while he punches and/or kicks into nothing but air.

Interestingly, the laws of physics ceases to apply to Daniel once an enemy hits him. He doesn’t just flinch; he flies backwards, sometimes by more than half the width of the screen. The best part is when Daniel gets hit and pinballs from an upper platform down to a pit at the bottom of the screen, like so:

KKDeath2

I admit that I cursed– rather loudly– at this. Why was I still flying backwards after falling through one opening in that upper platform? Seriously? It’s at this point, in Stage 3, that I understood the warnings that I had been given about the pits in this game. The pits are… well… the pits. The ridiculous force with which Daniel is knocked back after getting hit by an enemy seems to drive him into these pits more often than not, which leads to cheap and frustrating deaths. I felt my face getting red. I gripped my NES controller a bit more tightly. I gnashed my teeth.

At this point, I was contending with two major problems that were limiting my enjoyment of The Karate Kid: The level design and the physics. Unfortunately, a third problem also reared its ugly head when Daniel has enemies to his and his right. When this happened, Daniel would bounce after getting hit from one enemy to the other, and I helplessly watched my life bar evaporate faster than water on a hot day in Phoenix. That’s always fun, watching your onscreen character getting pummeled and being forced to just sit there and watch it happen. Fun, indeed.

Somehow, I persevered through the second and third stages, despite all of the frustration and through all of the cheap deaths. I didn’t make it to the final stage on my first try; it took a second play to get there. The good news is that taking advantage of two of the bonus games led to enough extra lives to get me over the hump. The fly-catching bonus game took some getting used to, but after a few attempts, I was consistently getting perfect results for maximum points. The block-chopping bonus game is based on timing, and I had no problems here. I will not talk about the Swinging Hammer bonus game, because it’s stupid. It also helped that getting past Chozen at the end of each stage was incredibly easy, as long as I had crane kicks in my arsenal to use. Three of those shots drain Chozen’s life bar, and his counterattacks are no match for Daniel if even a couple connect.

Then came the fourth and final stage.

KKFinalStage

The Angry Video Game Nerd and Half-Bit were right. This was hell. Enemies here require two hits to take down. There are enemies that charge Daniel with spears and run him through without hesitation. All kinds of objects are flying across the screen here to contend with, aside from the usual assortment of bad guys. It doesn’t help that the level design here continues to work against you and promotes getting Daniel surrounded by enemies that he isn’t able to hit. It’s here, at this point, where The Karate Kid becomes The Crying Game. I’m not talking about the 1992 thriller, either; I’m talking about a game that will literally make you start crying. Through the tears, I thought that I was close to reaching the final boss encounter on my last life with just a shred of energy left… but a rock finished me off.

ENOUGH. NO MORE.

I surrender. I take back the William Zabka joke. I didn’t mean it. (But it was pretty funny, I thought.)

The Karate Kid, to be fair, wasn’t a completely terrible experience. I’m no Lucas Barton, but even I got pretty far into the game before I was summarily chewed up and spit out. I liked the music quite a bit, the graphics were okay, and, when the difficulty was fair (and not cheap), I felt like I was… having fun? Yes. Really. It’s not the worst game that I’ve ever played– not by a long shot– but it was certainly one of the more frustrating games that I’ve played.

I can honestly say that I will go back to The Karate Kid at a later time and test my skills. Why? As James Rolfe so truthfully put it, I “want to win”. I want to beat the game. I doubt that I’ll feel fulfilled if I see that winking Pat Morita at the end of the game, but it would bring closure to a journey that just began.

Retail Review Update: Game Depot (Holyoke, MA)

Last year, I wrote two Retail Reviews for Game Depot in Holyoke, MA. There were two separate locations at that time, and I had favorable experiences with both. Earlier this year, the decision was made to consolidate both locations into one main store, and the results are for the best with more inventory, more attention to customers, and a newly-dedicated retro section.

The unified store is located on 245 Main Street in Holyoke, MA. This is the first location that I reviewed back in May of 2013. Upon entering, the layout is still the same; games for the PlayStation 2, original Xbox, Gamecube, Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3 are located along two aisles. The combination of inventory drastically increased the store’s PlayStation 2 game inventory, which is big enough now that game cases have to be “spined” instead of facing out. The other platforms are represented well, although the Gamecube selection is a bit lacking. (That can’t be helped, of course, if customers aren’t trading Gamecube games in.) Display cases at the front of the store have a nice array of Nintendo DS and 3DS games, along with some Sony PSP and Vita games. There’s even some new-generation games to look at, for those who have upgraded to the WiiU, PlayStation 4, and/or Xbox One. The pricing for all of these games ranges from below to at PriceCharting values; bargain hunters can and will often find a few games for less money than anticipated.

The main draw for me is the new retro section of the store. Consoles, games, and accessories from the first five console generations are located in this area.

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The supply of NES and Nintendo 64 games is perhaps Game Depot’s biggest strength. While there aren’t a lot of uncommon games, what there is for inventory here is priced at or below average and is perfect for those looking to start a collection or for those looking for affordable expansion to their libraries. There is also a decent number of original PlayStation games, and all of them are complete with case and manual. The Genesis and NES sections are a little bit smaller, but there is still some great stuff to find while looking. For handheld gaming fans, the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance platforms are well-represented by available games. There is also a small amount of Dreamcast and Saturn games available, along with some boxed Dreamcast VMUs.

The staff here– which consists of the two guys who ran each location before the consolidation– is fantastic. Both are well-versed in gaming-related knowledge, and that’s impressive when considering that the store also handles cell phone sales, other electronic sales, computer repair, and more. That kind of flexibility allows the store to do well, even during leaner gaming periods (such as the summer months). Both guys are very personable and genuine, which is important to keep customers coming back.

My updated Retail Review Grade for this store is an A.

There is a solid inventory of games to choose from here, which especially appeals to those just getting into retro collecting/library building or for those looking to add a few games to a growing library. While I’d like to see more games for Genesis and Gamecube, the store can’t be faulted for not carrying what hasn’t (yet) been traded in. The pricing is more than fair and consistently lies at or sometimes even below PriceCharting standards. Despite my tight cash flow and limited trade-ins, visiting this store has allowed me to gradually build my retro library for a reasonable amount of money. The staff is great, offering just the right amount of attention while being armed with sufficient knowledge to answer most questions. If you’re in the greater Hartford/Springfield area, Game Depot is worth at least a visit; don’t be surprised if you wind up spending at least a little bit of money while you’re there.

Consoleation Status Report: July 2014

Hello once again, friends!

Let me lead off this month’s status report with something that’s probably become pretty obvious: my lack of YouTube activity over the past few weeks. The simple explanation is that filming has become difficult due to summer conditions. It’s been too warm and humid to allow me to turn off air conditioning in my living space during the day, and my lack of lighting means that I can’t really shoot at night. So… yeah. Until this pattern breaks a little bit, I’m kind of on forced hiatus in terms of video shooting, unless I want to fight the droning hum of my A/C unit in the background. I will resume some shooting when I can.

Consoleation is still going strong over at Retroware, which I’m thrilled about. Consoleation 005 will be written this week and should be going up by the weekend. It’s been a great experience already, and I’m honored to be working with such a great team. It’s nice to have a strong platform to widen my potential reading audience, as well; even though we’re clearly in the Video Age, I’m hoping that it’s helping to draw in traffic. I’m proud to share that I have my own section on Retroware now, so if you’ve missed reading any of my work there, you can check it out by clicking here.

As for the Consoleation blog here, I just posted a new Retail Review and another one is in the works. Unfortunately, with money being so tight, I don’t get out to retail stores as much as I’d like to, but I have visited two very cool places recently and they are the focus of these two new pieces. I have some other ideas, but it’s a matter of making the time to make them into written realities. I’m still nursing my injured right arm and shoulder, so typing and even gaming remains limited to short spurts until the healing process is complete. I’m getting closer, though; hopefully I’ll be near 100% by August 1st.

Finally, I wanted to share with you some images of recent additions to my retro library over the last month.

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That’s it for this month! Don’t forget to check out my next Consoleation article for Retroware later this week!

Retail Review: Cheaper Movies, Toys, and Video Games (Norwich, CT)

July 9, 2014 1 comment

I recently took a trip down to the Mohegan Sun Casino in southeastern Connecticut to catch a concert, and I took the time to stop by a new gaming-related retail store that had recently opened. I found out about the store through a Craigslist ad and, since the store was on the way to the casino… I figured that I would take a peek. After I had seen the pictures posted on the store’s Facebook page, I knew I had to look.

The “store” is actually a rented house. It’s not too large, but big enough to show off just some of the retailer’s inventory. Upon walking in, I was pleasantly surprised to hear arcade game attract sounds. These came from a Konami multi-game arcade setup that I forced myself to resist playing, since I’m still recovering from hurting my right shoulder and arm by playing too much Track & Field at FunSpot a few weeks ago. Then, I saw this:

GameStore3

I said, “Wow!” out loud. I had to marvel at this display case. I hadn’t seen some of these games in the wild in a very long time in a loose fashion, let alone complete. As I kind of expected, the pricing on many of these games was more than I could afford on this day, but just seeing these gems made me smile like a kid on Christmas morning.

I proceeded inside and took a look at the rest of the games. All of the major consoles were represented: NES, SNES, Genesis, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and more. Scanning some of the pricing, I compared a few tags to PriceCharting and was happy to see that most prices were pretty much in line with guidance. Even on CIB (complete in box) offerings like Turtles in Time, the asking price was just a few dollars over guidance– which was fine, considering the condition of the box and game. All of the cartridges that I looked at had clean contacts, and the discs were in good to great shape.

As the name of the store implies, video games aren’t all that’s available here. There was a rather impressive amount of toys on display; many of the Star Wars-related items caught my eye, but I’m not really a toy/figure collector. A nice selection of movies was also available, alongside the games, but I admittedly didn’t take much time to look at them.

The employees there were fantastic to talk to. There wasn’t any upselling and there was no pressure to buy anything. In speaking with the owner, I found out that the store is an expansion of a successful online sales business. The store just opened on July 1st, so inventory is still being shifted around. This store is a great opportunity for people to come in and buy directly, which helps to alleviate shipping costs and logistics. It helps that the store looks clean, there is a lot to look at during a visit, and the staff actually looks forward to having people come in.

Pickups

This is what I came away with. I spent $20 for all three games, plus state sales tax. If I had a little more money with me, I had my eyes on more NES games, including both Tiny Toons games, both Ghostbusters games, and Stinger (from Konami), just to name a few. I could have seriously gone hog wild in here.

For the month of July, the store is open from 10am until 8pm, so it could make for a nice day trip for those of you here in Southern New England or perhaps in the New York/New Jersey area. The inventory is impressive, the staff is genuinely nice, and the pricing is reasonable. Bear in mind that this isn’t a swap meet; you’re not going to find a copy of Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak for $5 here.

My Retail Review Grade for this store is an A-.

While the pricing could seem high to some retro game buyers, I found it to be generally fair market value and did not diminish what I considered to be the rather impressive inventory or the genuine nature of the staff. For me to know that I’ll certainly be making a return trip to this store– despite it being more than 50 miles away from where I live– I think that means it’s worth a visit for you, too. Just don’t buy all the cool stuff before I get back down there, okay?

Note: The display case image was taken from the store’s Facebook page. The second image is my own, taken in my car.

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