Posted on March 20, 2017
Fultonbot’s 1983 Atari VCS Quest: The Absent Minded Collector
The “pile of stuff” in the photo to the left is a collection of 36 years worth of “absent-minded” Atari 2600/7800 collecting. I say “Absent Minded” as I was never really serious about collecting games. My feelings for the VCS/2600 and 7800 were what I would call “uncomfortable nostalgia”. I loved my Atari video games in their halcyon days, but after I discovered computers, and after the original Bushnell founded Atari Inc. morphed into the Frankenstein’s monster of the Tramiel led Atari Corp., I was less thrilled by the thought of Atari. As pointless as this may seem, I became more of an “activist” for the memory of the first great video game company than just a fan of the games.
This was especially true in the late 80’s, when Nintendo dominated and it felt like the entire industry I knew as a kid had been totally forgotten. The whole “Atari buried games at Alamorgodo” rumor that floated in the ether unconfirmed for so many years, bouncing around the echo chamber of Atari fandom, only made this image of a metaphorical “burial” feel more like a real, actual thing (which it turns out, it kinda actually was.)
By 1984, the era of “my” games was dead, put in the ground, and would never been heard from again.
I felt like my devotion to the memory of Atari was a bit silly. I questioned if the strong feelings I had for the games in my youth were just a factor of my limited resources, limited world view, and limited experience, more than anything that was really special about the era. But then I was never truly convinced either way.
Over the years I have dabbled with retro Atari video games mostly through emulation. The “game collections” that appeared with the PSX and PC in the 90’s, all the way through the recent releases on Steam and PS4/Xbox were my idea of an comfortable compromise. With those collections, I could get a bit of the nuance of those old games, and maybe have a laugh at them too. They were not really “good” were they? Compared to the 33 years history of gaming after the fall of Atari Inc., they were embarrassing, right? They were 78 RPM records, Beta-Max, 8-Track Tapes: curious links to the past, but with no real relevance in the modern world. Their impact on culture long-since forgotten, by-passed, or paved-over by the advent of post-modernity.
So I was absent minded about my collecting. It felt like my love for Atari was more lyrical than practical, More poetic than playful, but at the same time, more important than simple nostalgia. I didn’t want to make a checklist of games I needed , I wanted to make a checklist of feelings and emotions tied to my life growing up playing those games. I wanted to figure out why Atari meant so much now, not just explore it’s impact 30 years ago. I wanted to take a look outside to see what factors led to the “meaning” I felt in my head, even though from the outside it have must looked look so silly and inconsequential.
In 2017, I’m being far more concrete about my love for Atari. I’ve decided that I want to replace all the games I “lost” in the 80’s by embarking on a quest is to replicate my collection as it was in 1983. I’ve made an actual checklist, and I want to find some actual games. However, I still feel like I need to catalog my feeling about said games as I find them. I have come to the conclusion, as well, that I ultimately want to find what is known as CIB versions of the games (Complete In Box), as opposed to loose cartridges. However, I will collect a loose cartridge if that is the only choice.
From my search through all of the Atari stuff I found in the garage in the pile above, this is what I found:
Football (M-Network Korea),AstroBlast (M-Network),Armour Ambush (M-Network) *2, Chopper Command (blue cart),Adventure *2 ,Video Pinball,Space War,Breakout (yellow text label),Donkey Kong,Berzerk *2 (one gross one okay),Super Challenge Baseball (M-Network),Space Jockey (vid-tec, us games),Football Realsports Soccer (1988),Space Attack (M-Network),Demon Attack (one silver one blue),Encoungter At L-5,Video Olympics,Asteroids (Tele games),E.T.,Ms. PacMan,Atlantis,Trick Shot,Outlaw (no top label),International Soccer (M-Network),Grand Prix (blue),Haunted House,Moon Patrol,Star Castle,Space Cavern (no top label),Warlords (tele games),Ice Hockey (gross),Space Invaders (1980),Kangaroo (1987),California Games,Raiders Of The Lost Ark,Combat (01),Realsports Vollyball x 2 (1982 and 1987),Megamania (gross),Cosmic Ark,River Raid (Blue),Super Breakout,Bugs,SSsnake,Vanguard (1987),Boxing (Acitivsion blue),Riddle Of The Sphinx,Night Driver,Fire Fighter,Empire Strikes Back,Realsports Tennis (1988),Yars Revenge,Midnight Magic (red)
Commando,Realsports Football (1988),Battlezone (1983),Space Invaders (red 1988),Pac-Man (1988),Phoenix (1988),Dig Dug (1988),Ms. Pac-Man (1988),Galaxian (1983),Jungle Hunt (1988),Enduro (poor),Kangaroo (1988),Defender II (red 1988),Gravitar (red, 1988),Super Football (red, 1988)
So from the above, it looks like I have found about 1/2 dozen of my old games in boxes. But if you looks closer, some of those games are not from the correct era. Many of the games that have the date 1988 attached, and are Atari Corp. (not Atari Inc.) re-releases that have different packaging than the ones I had from 1981-1984. If I want to be a true stickler about this, true my roots and true to the nuances of the classic games and packaging, I probably can’t accept those games as true representations of my quest. If I could not buy it back in the correct era, it’s not a real replacement, is it? The jury is still out and I reserve the right to change my mind because I’m making up the rules here.
After all of that, here is the current status of Fultonbot’s Atari VCS quest:
Current Quest Status (As Of 3/18/2017)
Color Coding Key:
X = No copy of any kind
X = Copy has some issues (loose, back condition)
X = Acceptable , but might not be correct version
X = Exact right version from pre-crash era
So yeah, there is still a LONG way to go in this quest. Interestingly, I’ve just received a lead on a few more CIB (Complete In Box) carts that could put a significant dent in the missing games on the list.
I’ll have another update soon.