Ninterview: Australian Retro Gamer
Posted by Damien McFerran
Retro gaming from down under
The next subject in our Ninterview chair is a retro gaming fanatic from Down Under known as Australian Retro Gamer - or ausretrogamer, for short. We caught up with this internet phenomenon to quiz him on his love of all things retro and Nintendo.
Nintendo Life: Who are you, and what do you do for a living?
Australian Retro Gamer: My name is Alex; I am a 30-something IT Consultant. My aspirations are to become a freelance journalist writing about retro gaming. This is where ‘ausretrogamer’ comes into play. ausretrogamer is my outlet for sharing my passion of old video gaming systems.
NL: What was your first gaming experience?
ARG: My earliest memory of gaming was seeing a shiny new Atari 2600 on the shelves at a department store. I recall begging my parents for one, but at a cost of a few hundred dollars (a lot of money in the early '80s), there was no chance. Instead, my parents bought me the Hanimex 666T, the perfect Pong machine. It did the trick for a while, but I knew I wanted a console or home computer to play the popular games at the time (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaxian and the like). I was also partial to table top games (especially Astro Wars) and Nintendo’s Game & Watch series. I would drool watching other kids with their Donkey Kong Multi-Screen. Once again, due to the premium price of Nintendo products, my parents got me Crazy Kong, a Game & Watch knock-off - which I still have.
NL: You've amassed a pretty stunning collection of gaming items. When did you start collecting, and what inspired you to do so?
ARG: I never really considered myself as a collector. I would describe myself as an enthusiast.
I have always had some sort of video gaming system in the house since 1982. I (foolishly) traded or sold systems along the way so I could have the latest and greatest new generation console or home computer. My interest in video gaming started to wane in the late 1990s and I actually sold-off my remaining Sega, Sony and Nintendo systems. I packed up the gear I didn’t sell and stuffed it in the garage at my folk's place.
I re-started my ‘collection’ in 2009 after I bought another Dreamcast (my first Dreamcast was sold to a friend, and I truly missed that console). After that, I got the bug to get the other systems that used to bring me such joy and pleasure as a kid. From there, it grew to obtaining systems I always dreamed of having as a kid (but could not afford). The rest, as they say, is history. Actually, it would be remiss of me to not mention my wife - she has truly indulged me and encourages me to pursue my passion for classic gaming systems.
NL: What's the most valuable item in your collection?
ARG: From a monetary perspective, it is the arcade machine. In terms of sentimental value, it has to be the C64; it has been with me since 1986.
NL: Is there an item you'd love to acquire but haven't so far?
ARG: The ultimate would be the SX64, but there is also the FM Towns Marty, Vectrex, and the prototype Konix Slipstream (Multi System). These systems go for a pretty penny, so my chance of getting even one of them is quite slim - and the Konix prototype probably doesn’t even exist.
NL: What is it about retro collecting that makes it so appealing?
ARG: It's the nostalgia - it's quite intoxicating. I associate the old gaming systems to a time in my life when I was having fun without any concerns in the world. Ah, to be a kid again. I do get a buzz out of buying something that I have been hunting for a while. The adrenaline rush associated with the transaction is probably on par with someone bungee jumping – it feels great. I often feel like a kid in a candy store.
Video games are now part of mainstream culture, and as a result people are paying more attention to past classics. Do you think vintage games should be given the same exposure and reverence as classic movies, books and albums?
Yes! Vintage games have a way to go before they get the same recognition as the classic movies/books/music but you have to remember, gaming is relatively young compared to the other forms of entertainment, so it is only a matter of time before classic video games get the same appreciation as the classic movies, book, and albums.
NL: What's your favourite Nintendo console?
ARG: Oh man, that is like asking me to pick my favourite child – totally impossible; I love them all the same. However, I spent countless hours on the SNES and N64 - so they would be up there for sure.
NL: And your favourite Nintendo game or franchise?
ARG: Nintendo are masters of creating enduring games and franchises. I always played on Sega hardware when I wanted a quick fix of one of their arcade conversions. But, when it came to playing for hours, it was Nintendo and the obvious game choice was Mario. From playing Mario on the Game & Watch to playing him on the latest hardware (3DS XL / Wii U), he never lets me down. If I had to choose one game, it would be Super Mario World on the SNES - it was (and still is) the perfect 2D platformer.
NL: You recently paid a visit to the Nintendo Store in New York - what was that experience like?
ARG: Visiting the Nintendo World store was an amazing experience. I actually went back to the store three times while staying in NYC! The ground floor had all the latest Nintendo wares that you could play and experience. For me though, the highlight was upstairs. Once you hit the second level and you go past the Nintendo clothing and toys (which I stocked up on), it’s like stepping into a Nintendo museum. There were glass cabinets housing old Nintendo hardware and cards, as well as their famous franchises. I took many photos and videos and have dumped them on my Facebook page for all to enjoy.
NL: What's the gaming scene like in Australia?
ARG: The gaming scene in Australia is alive and well, there are even a number of TV shows on mainstream channels. We recently had the ‘Game Masters’ exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) which proved extremely successful. We also have the PAX event coming to Australia. It will be the first international PAX event, and it will be right here in my hometown. I am in discussion with the PAX guys in regards to my involvement with this event. It should be huge. The retro gaming scene is still gathering momentum. This is where I want to help to promote retro gaming to get it on par with the entire gaming scene. We need to get people to come out of the retro gaming closet and share in this wonderful experience.
NL: What are your thoughts on the Wii U?
ARG: I have only played the Wii U on demo units. The controller is unbelievable. It is typical Nintendo ingenuity. I will wait for a price drop before I fork out for a unit (unless Nintendo feel generous and send one over to me!).
NL: What's your favourite thing about Nintendo? Why do you rate them so highly?
ARG: Nintendo represents premium and quality video gaming products. It is a brand you can trust. They have been around for a long while now, and I hope they remain in the business for a long while yet. I thank Nintendo for reviving the video games market in the mid '80s. Imagine if they hadn't been there to resuscitate the industry! One thing that always irks me is the erroneous belief that Nintendo only cater for younger players. This is totally unfounded. I know, some games may seem ‘cutesy’, but they are damn addictive to play. I see adults thrashing around with their Wii Remotes all the time!
NL: What elements of Nintendo Life do you like the most?
ARG: I like the fact that Nintendo Life knows how to connect with the gamer – a prime example, this Ninterview. Content is important of course, so I am always devouring the game reviews and (surprise surprise) the retro section. I enjoy the writing style; it is engaging and entertaining - the perfect ingredients.