Dawn of the Geeks, part two
By Damien Wilkens
02 March 2009 — The label of "geek" is one I've always worn with a bit of pride. The term itself implies a greater knowledge of something, a unique quality that causes you to stand above the pack. For years it was a form of judgment and ridicule, but recently people have learned to embrace their inner geek. After all, who wants to be normal?
Now, I wish I could give you some epic, sweeping tale about how I emerged from the womb with a Nintendo Power in my hands and went on to fame and fortune as the greatest video game player that ever lived, but that's not the case. I don't have a massive Gamer Score on Xbox Live (or even an account for that matter), I don't do speedruns and, outside of a rather unhealthy Street Fighter obsession, I don't even play competitively. I'm just a guy that loves video games, specifically their rich history.
I actually didn't play my first video game until I was nine years old. I was more than content with my Ninja Turtles and an overactive imagination. I recall that my uncle was having an argument with his then-wife, and she was demanding that he trash his video game collection. Though my uncle would later collect wives like I now collect cartridges, at this point he had hopes for his lady, and decided to hand his games over to his bright-eyed, curly haired nephew — a child that had no idea what he was in for.
Anyone born after 1990 will likely not comprehend the greatness of this collection, but the rest of you will understand the weight of this situation. I received an Atari 2600, a ColecoVision, a Commodore Computer, a Sega Master System and an NES. That year for my birthday, I also got a Sega Genesis. Oh yeah, and my uncle had over a hundred games. The combined awesomeness of said collection in 1993 is something that cannot be expressed in mere words. I, no lie, thought I had every game system in existence, and that would ever be made. Ignoring the fact that I was a rather foolish child, the sheer amount of glee that these games brought me cannot be overstated. Of course, my hopes of being an immortal collecting god were dashed when my friend told me he had a "Super" Nintendo, which I immediately thought was bullshit. After all, this was the same kid that told me his dad was a secret agent that bossed the president around and once wrestled a shark. Surely such a machine could not exist. But it did, and being the unappreciative little snot that I was, I became dissatisfied having only six systems and a constant feed of games from the infamous Sega Channel.
A few years later, there was a fire that destroyed pretty much everything my family had, my collection included. Whether it was fate, coincidence or an act of God, I saw it as a clear sign that my days as a gamer were over. So like Spider-Man tossing his outfit into the trash can, I hung my head low, and walked away a defeated man. For years my friends would invite me over, asking if I wanted to see their PlayStations. I declined. "Video games are for kids", I would say. "I'm too old for that stuff now." In the back of my mind, I knew that was a lie. The truth of the matter is that every time I looked at a video game system, it was like looking at an ex-girlfriend; yeah, she got better looking over the years and she knows some new tricks, but I didn't want to get my heart broken again.
A lot of people, when they turn 18, the first thing they do is buy a pack of cigarettes. When I turned 18, I bought myself one of those mystical Super Nintendos that had eluded me for so long. The first game I bought with it? A little gem called Chrono Trigger. Dozens of hours later, I was off the wagon, and knew that I needed all of those systems of my childhood back. During my research, however, I came upon a rather grim discovery; I, shockingly, didn't own every game system that was made before 1993. In fact, I wasn't even close. There was an Atari 5200? What the hell is a Fairchild Channel F? And a Vectrex? That sounds like something you clean your windows with. But alas, they all existed, along with countless others that had been released since.
As you would expect, I went on to collect a metric ton of games and systems, but that's not the important part. Quickly I learned that no matter how much I collected or how much I played, there was always going to be someone out there that plays more than me or who has unlimited cash and a significantly larger collection than me. There is a man in the United States that owns over 450 gaming systems. Getting more than him isn't important to me, because over time, I just became more obsessed with accumulating knowledge than I did games. Every little piece of information I can get my hands on is important to me, be it about an obscure / unreleased game, the lifecycle of a failed system, even the titles from the past that may have influenced the blockbusters of today.
For a medium that's only really existed for about 40 years, it's astounding to learn things I never knew about. Would I love to have over 450 systems? You bet your ass, but I'm just as content being that guy that everyone goes to for game suggestions, that can recite old cheat codes from memory or name 90% of the Master Robots. Is that normal? No, and I wouldn't have it any other way.