Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pac-Man Champion Matthew Laborteaux of Little House on the Prairie Fame

Matthew Laborteaux, who played Albert Ingalls on was a champion during the early 1980s! He was also a big fan!

Click on the images to read the articles:

Monday, June 5, 2017

The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 - NOW ON KINDLE

My most popular book, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, is now available via Amazon Kindle, which is a FREE app on your smart phone, tablet or computer. You can "look inside" the digital version of the book on Amazon HERE. Just follow the link and then click on the cover. Thanks for reading! (The book lists the games alphabetically.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cloak & Dagger Filming Locations in San Antonio

One of the coolest hobbies my son Ryan has gotten me into is checking out filming locations from some of our favorite movies. This past weekend we went to Alamo City Comic Con in San Antonio, Texas and checked out some locations from the espionage movie (with some cool video game elements) Cloak & Dagger, a cult classic. 

The video game store in the movie was filmed in California, so we don't have photos from that location.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SUPER! BitCon 2017 Video Game Convention

Since last month’s Pop Culture Collective column (published in AntiqueWeek) centered around Dallas Fan Expo, I hadn’t planned on writing about another convention so soon. But then disaster struck SUPER! BitCon, the biggest and best annual video game tradeshow in Oklahoma, hours before I got there.

Flash back to Friday, April 28. In preparation for my usual role of vendor at SUPER!BitCon, where I sell everything from Atari to Xbox, along with autographing copies of my books about video games, I loaded my Chevy Trailblazer with as many boxes as it could hold. Instead of heading up to Oklahoma City Friday afternoon as per usual, I had to wait until early Saturday morning to leave because I had a family obligation that evening—my wife was being recognized as Teacher of the Year, and, since I have good survival instincts, that’s certainly something I didn’t want to miss.

So I got up at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday and hit the road at 4:30. My only stop on the three-hour drive from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City was a roadside casino to go to the bathroom and grab a free soda. Since casinos want you to stay put and keep feeding money into their machines, many of them keep customers carbonated and caffeinated with complementary fountain drinks.

The drive was uneventful, but when I arrived at the Oklahoma State Fair Park where SUPER! BitCon was being held (it’s a cheap venue for the amount of space you can rent), a cop stopped me at the road to the back entrance and told me a storm had ripped through the area earlier that morning, damaging the convention center and knocking out the power.

I told the officer why I was there, and he said, “There’s not gonna be anything going on here today.”

You can imagine how disappointed I was. In addition to supplementing my writing income and helping me promote my books, video game conventions are a blast, from panels hosted by popular YouTube personalities to arcade games set on free play to a huge room full of vendors selling a vast array of video games and accessories.

Load-in time was from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and I had arrived around 7:30. I checked the SUPER! BitCon Facebook page on my iPhone, and they had posted instructions for an alternate route that would allow vendors access to the convention center. I circled the labyrinthine State Fair Park a couple of times and finally found my way in, dodging tree branches and downed powerlines as I drove—I’m surprised we were allowed in at all.

The scene at the convention center was like some kind of fallout shelter, but colder and with less lighting. Since it had gotten into the upper 80s on Friday afternoon in Fort Worth, it didn’t occur to me to pack warm clothing—I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, which wasn’t nearly enough to counter the 47-degree temperature brought on by the cold front that had coincided with the storm.

I stepped inside the drafty convention center via a side door that was propped open. Since the only lighting was from several open doorways and the space left by an overhead door that had been torn down by the storm, I used the flashlight on my phone to look around, same as several other vendors were doing. Many vendors had set up the night before, but only one or two had lost any stock from water damage.

After wandering around in the barely lit darkness for a few minutes, I found my booth and then made my way to the front to speak with a couple of the SUPER! BitCon organizers. Obviously, they were a bit frazzled and shocked by the situation, but they were already expressing hope that the power could be turned back on later that morning. After all, Oklahoma gets lots of storms, and experienced emergency crews are always on call. I wished the organizers well and walked around a bit more, shivering as I went.

After speaking with a few vendors I knew, I went back out to my vehicle to dig through the boxes until I found the one marked “SHIRTS.”  I dug out a Captain American T-shirt and pulled it over the shirt I was already wearing for another layer of warmth. It wasn’t much, but it was something. I eventually decided to unload my vehicle and stack the boxes in my booth. At least it gave me something to do and kept me moving.

Finally, at 11:00 a.m. the organizers called a meeting and said they didn’t know when the power would be back on, and they were cancelling the show for the day. We could just leave our merchandise there in hopes of having the show on Sunday. I texted my friend, Delf Meek, who I was staying with that night, and who was going to help me at the show, with an update of what was going on, and he said to come on over—we could run around town, going to video game stores, thrift stores, used bookstores and the like. He also bought my lunch and let me borrow a coat.

Delf and I spent the afternoon thriftin’, junkin’, game chasin’ and, to borrow a term from Larry McMurtry, book scoutin’, and it turned out to be a pleasant experience. While we were upset about the show cancellation, going from store to store was a fun, funny and even heartening experience as we kept running into vendors and others who had planned to attend the show but were left with an open afternoon.

The mantra among all the vendors was to “make the best of things,” and that’s exactly what we did.

The best stop of the day was a big, musty comic book store that reeked of old-school retail. Silver Age comic books lined the wall behind the cash register, supplementing boxes of less expensive back issues positioned in rows in the middle of the store. There were also disheveled shelves filled with action figures, toys, video games, superhero coin banks and other geeky gear. Most impressive was a row of vintage Ben Cooper superhero costumes still in the box.

The power at the store had gone out, so we used the flashlights on our phones to look around. After about half an hour, I got a headache from squinting at all that treasure, but it paid off. I found some cheap boxes of sports cards to sell by the pack in my antique mall booth, an issue of Pizzazz magazine that I was missing, and a copy of Movie Special Magazine featuring Flash Gordon (1980), one of my favorite films.

Best of all was a box of 70 Doctor Who paperback books from the 1980s. The store owner said he “doesn’t really deal in books” so to make him an offer. I got the entire lot for just $50. I’m just a casual Doctor Who fan, so the books aren’t for me—I can sell them at comic book shows for $6 each.

That night the SUPER! BitCon organizers hosted an after-show party at the local Main Event, even though there was no show. The party, where Delf and I hung out at the bar with YouTubers like The Game Chasers and 8-Bit Eric while others got their NES copies of Double Dare signed by Marc Summers, was a blast as we held to our “make the best of things” attitude. However, by this time we—or at least I—figured the show would be cancelled for Sunday as well. Despite the hardship, all the vendors, YouTubers and everyone else involved expressed far more concern over the fate of the organizers than their own lost revenue. After all, the organizers had much more invested in the event than we did.

As fate would have it, emergency workers managed to restore the power to the State Fair Park by late Saturday night, and, incredibly enough, the show was in full swing by 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. It remained busy all day, with attendees and vendors equally excited that the event was salvaged. The organizers were especially relieved—if Sunday hadn’t happened, there likely wouldn’t be a SUPER! BitCon in 2018.

While the lost revenue from Saturday still stings a bit, I’m grateful for the experience. Bonds of friendship were strengthened, it was nice to see the vendors more concerned about the organizers than themselves, and it turned out to be a heck of a fun weekend.

In all that darkness—both figuratively and literally—no one panicked, got overly discouraged or even had a bad attitude. Selflessness, unity and perseverance were on display everywhere as we did our darndest to “make the best of things.”

I call that a win.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

ColecoVisions Podcast #29 -- Miner 2049er & Quest for the Golden Chalice

Check out the new episode of The ColecoVisions Podcast, where Willie Culver, John "Gamester81" Lester, Robert Ferguson (of Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast), and I discuss a number of topics, including Super Bitcon, Miner 2049er, Quest for the Golden Chalice, and Adventure (for the Atari 2600). As always, we had a lot of fun talking about our favorite hobby. Thanks to Robert for guesting on the show, and to Willie and John. You can listen HERE.

VHS Rewind -- Interview

I was interviewed recently by Mark Jeacoma of VHS Rewind.
You can listen HERE.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Nostalgic Review for Encyclopedia of KISS

I love the nostalgic nature of this Amazon review of my KISS book, written by someone named Kris Anderson: 

I spent two years between ages 12 and 14 listening to KISS virtually every day. Alive II was on a constant cycle among me and my friends - so much so that we could speak and sing every word that was uttered on that album. It wasn’t the only one, but it was definitely part of the soundtrack of our lives.

It took some time for me to receive this book and it was worth the wait. So much so that I read it in one sitting! This is not your average encyclopedia. This is a very detailed; very cross referenced volume of information that is perfect for super fans and average fans alike.

Organized alphabetically, each entry covers any aspect of KISS that you can think of: personnel, events, music, songs, individual projects, related bands, former bands, venues, producers, merchandising etc.

Not only are these areas covered, they are cross referenced. Some entries are substantial. This is true in particular about the members of the group – original and replacements. Each is covered in equal depth.

What I loved the most about this book is that it is not filtered through the Gene Simmons/Paul Stanley prism. Equal weight is given to Peter Criss and Ace Frehely as there is to Eric Carr, Tommy Thayer and others. Too many times in “official” KISStory, the story cuts out the original members who we grew up loving.

This is such a fun read. I literally could not put it down and stayed up way too late absorbed in all the details. After I finished, I dug out Alive II and flashed back to my teen years – black light posters, incense and KISS! It rocked!

*You can order Encyclopedia of KISS HERE