Antiques Peek: July 2019

Antiques Peek: July 2019

Game On!
by Jessica Kosinski

This issue is devoted to the “man cave.” Everyone’s idea of the perfect man cave is a little bit different. Others might want the largest television available for watching their favorite sports, but when it comes to adding a television to your man cave, you may have another ulterior motive. Video games are always better played on a big screen. Today’s video games are great. I play many of them myself. But adding games to your man cave that remind you of your childhood is also a great idea. Obviously, they are nostalgic, and many of them can also be quite valuable. I know from personal experience because my dad used to help build the game cartridges for Atari console games. We still own many of them. Additionally, many early video games spawned collectible merchandise that you can use to decorate your man cave. Let’s take a peek at the origins of the video game and some of the best vintage video games to collect today.


The True Origins of Video Game Consoles

A common reference many people use when talking about the earliest video games is Pong. It was a simplistic table tennis (ping pong) game where players controlled paddles on the screen and had to volley a small dot representing a ball back and forth. Pong was one of the earliest arcade games ever created. It was also the first video game ever produced by the popular video game company Atari. However, it was not the first video game ever made, as many people seem to think.

Atari actually released Pong in 1972 as an arcade game. A few years later, in 1975, it was released for the console, but Atari was not the first company to produce video games. In fact, Atari took its inspiration for creating Pong from the home console games of the Magnavox Odyssey console released in 1972. That was the first home video gaming console. Magnavox released 28 games on the Odyssey. Atari and Magnavox later got into a legal dispute over copyright infringement. Eventually, Magnovox allowed Atari to become an Odyssey licensee. Soon after, Atari itself began to grow and expand. With the release of the Atari 2600 console system in 1977, the first color video games were available for at-home play.

The Pioneers Behind the Video Game Movement

The origins of video game consoles for home use in the U.S. are important to understand when you want to collect and play vintage video games, but it’s important to pay homage to the actual people behind the earliest games. Those people were pioneering scientists who helped create the huge industry we know video gaming to be today. For example, British professor A.S. Douglas created a video game version of tic-tac-toe called OXO in 1952. Ten years later in my state, Massachusetts, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, more commonly known as MIT, another huge breakthrough was made. Steve Russell created a unique game called Space War! that was playable on multiple computers. Although those were great breakthroughs, Ralph Baer is the one widely called the Father of Video Games. He and his team created “The Brown Box” that later became the Odyssey home gaming system.

Video Games for a One-of-a-Kind Man Cave

You could have hours of fun playing any vintage video games on any consoles you want in your man cave, but what if you want the cream of the crop? You will have to be prepared for the expense involved because rare video games will cost you thousands of dollars. Here are some examples:

The 1990 Nintendo World Championships Gold Edition for NES used cartridges produces as prizes for winners and runners up of the World Championships that year. As you can imagine, only a few were made. As of 2018, they were valued at approximately $18,000 each.

Birthday Mania was an Atari game produced in 1984 by a programmer named Anthony Tokar. It was a custom-order game that allowed the person ordering to request the name of the recipient to be inserted into the game on the main loading screen. The game also came with other customized features like the recipient’s name on the box. As of 2018, there is at least one cartridge still in existence. It was recently valued at $25,000.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial also deserves a special mention here, even though its monetary value is only around $1,500, as of 2018. Adding it to your man cave can certainly make for a nearly one-of-a-kind experience as you and your friends marvel over how horrible it actually is and the intense legend behind it. Based on the Steven Spielberg blockbuster of the same name, this is known as one of the worst video games ever produced by any company. It was, in fact, so bad that Nintendo could not sell most copies and rumors stated the company wound up burying millions of them in the desert. Hundreds of the cartridges have since been recovered, proving the rumor at least partially true.

Top Vintage Video Games You Can Reasonably Add to Your Man Cave

Of course, for many of us, our budgets are not in the tens of thousands per game cartridge. If you are looking for some more affordable vintage video games to add to your man cave, some of your best options are the most well-known vintage video games. Their popularity meant many copies of most of them were produced. It also meant they were fun to play, so you are sure to have fun reliving your childhood playing them with friends and family members again now. There are many to pick from, but it’s always great to start with some iconic classics. For example, you might try Super Mario Kart for SNES. It and its various sequels, which are still being produced today, could provide you and your friends with hours of car racing entertainment.

Also incredibly popular still today is the maze-like, pellet-collecting Pac-Man franchise, especially Ms. Pac-Man, which was originally an arcade game. A home version was released on Atari 2600 in 1981 and is still widely available today in several different formats. Although, you may have to take some time to find an affordable original Atari cartridge. You could also go the more expensive route of purchasing the actual arcade game if your man cave is large enough.

Antiques Peek: July 2019