Retro game collection and enjoyment has become a heck of a thing lately. You might have noticed your friends all getting into the retro craze, collecting old consoles and games, or even gotten into it yourself as a way to check out all the old titles you missed. And when it comes to retro gaming in Australia, Ausretrogamer is the number one source for information, articles and collection envy.
You might recognize the name, or have even seen them around! First and foremost, the website is a dedicated E-Zine bringing all the best retro game news and reviews, as well as bits and pieces about retro game culture and collection. Outside of that, you may have even seen them in person around your local conventions. Notably PAX Aus, as the team runs the retro game area which is always full of playable games from all consoles and generations, as well as amazing displays that always bring a tear of jealousy and admiration to my eye.
Recently, I got to have a bit of a chat with one of the driving forces behind the website. Alex Boz is co-founder, editor in chief and one heck of a video game historian who’s always more than happy to talk about all things retro. So I did just that and got to talking a little about his personal collection, as well as tips for starting your own amazing collection!
Player Attack: When did you decide collecting was the hobby for you?
Alex Boz: Collecting started to become a hobby, or as I would like to call it, a lifestyle choice, around 2012. I was relatively late to the whole ‘collecting’ side, but the passion burned strong to hunt games, systems, arcade and pinball machines from my youth that I could not otherwise afford. I had always yearned for the old classic games, but it wasn’t till my wife encouraged me to start collecting and also connecting with people online that I truly got right into it. I am still astounded how things have just snowballed (regarding the collection and ausretrogamer) since then. My wife deserves a lot of kudos for setting me on this awesome path.
PA: Is there a specific console you love and keep an eye out for? Or maybe just a series of games?
AB: I am a generalist, so I pretty much love anything game related that tickles my nostalgic nerve. I am not a completionist, so I tend to go for games and systems that trigger a fond memory. Having said that, anything with Commodore and Atari on it usually gets my attention.
PA: Have you ever collected a piece for the fun of it? Because it’s just novel, or perhaps a notoriously bad game?
I would love to say that I have self-control to not have gone down that path, but the truth is, I have – many times! There are plenty of terrible games in my collection (not looking at you Double Dragon on the C64!) and equally terrible pieces of gaming systems, including Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and also the failed Nuon. Having said that, I do enjoy playing on hardware that didn’t do too well on the market, I just wish the Virtual Boy didn’t make me sick after 2 minutes of playing!
PA: Have you managed to get your hands on anything particularly rare?
AB: I have a few rarities in the collection, but the one that stands out and gets a lot of attention from family/friends/gamers is the Pioneer CLD-A100 LaserActive player. The Pioneer LaserActive is a laserdisc player which has interchangeable packs (PACs) that allow PC-Engine/TurboGrafx and Sega Mega Drive / Genesis game cartridges, CDs and also Laserdisc games to be played on it. It is a big beast, so it stands out quite a bit.
PA: What’s it like being able to open your collection to the public at events like PAX?
AB: Being into retro gaming has given me (and the ausretrogamer team) the opportunity to meet lots of great people that have now become great friends of ours. I have to say, it is the people that we meet that gives us the biggest buzz. The community (in Australia and worldwide) is just awesome, so when PAX came to us to see if we would be keen to co-host the Classic Gaming area, we didn’t hesitate. We love seeing people of all ages come through the area and enjoy the classic games from decades ago. We especially love seeing families come through, as the parents get excited at showing their kids the systems they played on at their age.
PA: Do you have a personal favourite piece?
AB: That is a tough question! It’s like asking me to pick my favourite child. But if I have to, then the Commodore 64 (which I have kept since I was a kid) holds the most sentimental value for me, as I have precious memories playing games on it with family and friends. From a monetary perspective, the rarer gear along with the Neo Geo MVS arcade machine and the pinball tables are highly prized.
PA: With the rise of the retro phenomenon, has it been more difficult to get your hands on things?
AB: I was a latecomer to collecting having started to collect seriously in 2012, but I still managed to amass a sizable collection in a few years without breaking the bank. However, in these last 4 years I have noticed that costs have risen astronomically for retro gaming items, which makes collecting all that more difficult. But, if you are patient and keep an eye on the market, then I guarantee you will find a bargain – they are out there!
PA: Do you have any sort of Holy Grail pieces you’d love to get your hands on?
AB: I have been lucky to have snagged a number of items from my Holy Grail list. But I still tend to find things to add to this list, which is quite dangerous! I say it’s dangerous, as prices for the more exotic gear tends to go up exponentially as the years go by. Having said that, I would love to find a Sharp Super Famicom SF1 TV and the very rare Commodore 65! I won’t be holding my breath though.
PA: Is there a good way to sort trash from treasure when it comes to retro collecting?
AB: Absolutely! As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure! Actually, I would say never consider anything as trash till you have done some research. The advent of the internet has put information at our fingertips, so research that item that may be considered trash, as it may turn out to be something quite special. I recently got contacted by a reader of our site offering their “trash”, which turned out to be a boxed Vectrex with games and a boxed Amstrad PCW 8256 with games and magazines! I informed them that these items were quite rare, but they reassured me that if I wouldn’t pick them up, they’d end up on the street for hard waste collection. I am still pinching myself over that one.
PA: Finally, what are your top tips for someone who wants to get into collecting?
AB: Patience and vigilance are important traits in this caper. You will not find a bargain or that special item by being casual. You will have to put in the time to do research and keeping an eye on the market every day – be it an online store/forum or a physical location (store/market). The patience part is the hardest, as you may be waiting a while to find that special something at the right price. Another tip is to engage with the community on social media (there are heaps of us on Twitter and Facebook), as people are happy to sell (at reasonable prices) or swap items with their fellow retro gaming enthusiasts. At the end of the day, have fun and don’t collect stuff if it will be sitting on the shelf – if you don’t play it, then you probably don’t need it.