Sunday, January 27, 2013

Twin Galaxies Classic Gaming Extravaganza

A couple of weeks ago, Charis and Ryan went with me to the Twin Galaxies Trading Card Premiere at Pinballz arcade in Austin, an event honoring people--mainly Texans in this case--who have made "important contributions to the global video game culture."
I would have been happy to simply squeeze in at the autographing table and sell a few books at this fun event, but legendary video game scorekeeper, film star, patriarch, and all-around-nice-guy Walter Day honored me with an award for my book series. And it was a great honor. As a writer, I spend a lot of time in isolation, reading, writing, researching--things I love--but it was nice getting some public recognition for my work, especially from someone like Walter.
I was nervous during my acceptance speech, in which I briefly discussed how my book series filled a gap in the publishing industry (movies, sports, etc., have comprehensive reference guides, why not video games?), but I managed to get through it without clearing the room or throwing up. :)
High score champion and industry activist Billy Joe Cain.
The guys from Gaming World Wide, a charitable organization that makes the world a better place through video games.
Walter Day presenting an award to International Video Game Auction House owner Ben Gold, who won the "That's Incredible" video game championship back in 1983.
Pinballz is a great arcade with more than 250 pinballs and arcade cabs, but I spent most of my day there selling books, talking to people (such as "Night Stalker" champion Matt Miller, pictured above), and just hanging out.
As always, Charis, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, offered her love and support.

 Ryan getting some time in on his favorite pinball machine: South Park.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

International Video Game Auction House

Celebrity gamer Ben Gold has started a new venture called the International Video Game Auction House (, whose mission is to “promote and preserve the heritage of gaming through the creation of a vibrant marketplace for unique gaming items.”
Ben Gold is hardly a household name, but video game fans who were around during the early 1980s—the Golden Age of the arcades—may remember him for his 1983 appearance on That’s Incredible, where he won the first televised video game championship.

Prior to that, Gold appeared in a group photo in the January, 1983 “Year in Pictures” issue of LIFE magazine, along with such high score champions as Ned Troide, who once played Defender 62-and-a-half hours on a single quarter, and Billy Mitchell, world-class Centipede, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong player.
That LIFE magazine photo was shot in Ottumwa, Iowa, a.k.a. “The Video Game Capital of the World,” which was an actual mayoral decree issued on November 30, 1982 by Ottumwa Mayor Jerry Parker. Ottumwa was dubbed as such because of Walter Day and his late, great Twin Galaxies arcade, where Day essentially invented the now-commonplace phenomenon of tracking high scores on video games.

The first IVGAH auction ended Saturday, December 15th. Several of the marquee pieces went unsold, including two Walter Day items: his iconic referee uniform ($5,000), which he wore during the filming of Chasing Ghosts (2007) and The King of Kong (2007), and his Lifetime Achievement Award Trophy ($1,000), which was given to him in 2010 by the International Video Game Hall of Fame.
 Another big ticket item that didn’t get any bids was a neon Aladdin’s Castle sign ($4,000), which hung over the door of an Aladdin's Castle arcade in Southeastern Pennsylvania from 1994 until 2004.

Whether these items were overpriced, or they were simply not viewed by enough hardcore collectors, is unknown at this point—the industry itself only goes back a little over 40 years, so the sale of unique video game memorabilia is in its infancy—but, as with any new auction house, it takes time to get the word out, so a lack of publicity for these items could be the overriding factor.

Fortunately, certain key items did sell, including the cabinet Hank Chien used to break the Donkey Kong world record at the first Kong Off competition in 2011. It sold for $3,500.

Other sales realized include: a Rastan world record PCB/motherboard signed by Rastan champion Cliff Reese ($200); a “Team Chien” Kong Off T-shirt signed by Chien and Billy Mitchell ($100); a trio of Tron items—a plastic movie cup, an arcade game sales brochure, and an arcade game operation manual ($100); a Space Ace coin-op press kit ($100); a grouping of Nintendo promotional brochures ($100); and a copy of the 1983 “Year in Pictures” LIFE magazine signed by 30 world class gamers ($275).

Gold has big plans for the fledgling site, which he’s confident will grow as more and more video game collectors learn about it, and as video game collecting itself matures as a hobby.

 “There are people who collect this stuff, and there are many sites that promote the sale of video games and cartridges,” Gold said. “However, until now, there has never been a centralized community that promotes not only the collector of such hardware as arcade cabinets and console systems, but also those that want to collect important items in the culture of gaming, such as rare posters, early competition artifacts, prototypes and early designs from manufacturers, and other eclectic items that help make the tapestry of video game history.”

Gold got the idea for The International Video Game Auction House from a conversation he had with his good buddy, Walter Day, in which Day kicked around the idea of selling Gold’s medal he won on That’s Incredible.
“Walter told me he thinks the medal is worth around $15,000,” Gold said. “My medal from when I won That’s Incredible is the first medal ever given for a video game competition. I never say I’m a big deal or anything, but that medal is historically significant. If promoted correctly, maybe it would sell for that amount. Memorabilia is all about presentation and connection to a bigger thing.”

Mulling over the possible sale of the medal, Gold asked Day what high-end auction house dealt in video game memorabilia, but Day had nothing.

“Walter told me no such place existed, that nobody was doing it,” Gold said. “There are so many eclectic items out there, but no centralized location to sell them. There are manuals, posters, motherboards, rare cartridges and consoles, demos, prototypes, hand-written notes by designers…so many interesting historical items.”

Prestige auction houses like Heritage sell thousands of pop culture items every year, including records, baseball cards, comic books, and celebrity autographs, but none of them have a video game division. Gold views this as a serious oversight, but is confident he can fill the gap nicely.

“Fine antiques have Sotheby's,” he said. “Super high grade sports cards have Lelands. Rare autographs, movie posters, and other historical memorabilia all have special auction houses where collectors and sellers know they will find the finest selection of items relative to their interests. It is my hope that IVGAH site will become the place where gamers, collectors, and people interested in video games gather to consign or bid on rare pieces that have defined gaming over the years.”

Even so, Gold knows it’s an uphill battle and that his idea is a bit ahead of its time. “I think Walter’s jersey will one day be worth fifty or a hundred thousand dollars,” he said, “but today most people don’t understand the historical importance of the jersey. Part of the challenge is branching out beyond the hardcore gamer.”

Gold acknowledges that certain items, such as rare, factory sealed Nintendo NES games, sometimes go for thousands of dollars on eBay, but he believes his auction house will one day be the preferable way to sell video game memorabilia.

“EBay is a marketplace, he said, “but there’s no interest on behalf of the site to in any way promote the culture and history of video gaming.”

Which is exactly what Ben Gold, the winner of the first televised video game competition, wants to do with his International Video Game Auction House.

*Gold is preparing for the second IVGAH auction, which will begin January 26th. For more information, contact Gold at: or (469) 767-1358.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Texas State Trading Card Premiere

Schedule for the Texas State Trading Card Premiere:

11:30-12:15 event registration and set-up
12:30-4:00 contests, competitions, informal discussions, hanging out
4:30-5:30 Awards Ceremony honoring the day's winners and special guests that are there
5:30-6:15 - Panel discussion on some interesting topic about classic gaming
6:15-7:00 autographs etc...

Competition machines have been announced.

3 machines will be set up. This will be a modified "That's Incredible!" rule set.
One at a time, a person will step up to the start line, and when given the signal, the person arrives at game 1. The contestant's job is to get the designated score on game 1, then move onto to game 2, with the same task, and then the same on game 3. The fastest time of completion will win.

The games included are:

Pac Man

This historic event, featuring the retirement of Walter Day, will be at PINBALLZ ARCADE in Austin, Jan. 19.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I've been on the Comics Buyer's Guide Review Crew since August of 2001, and I've been a CBG reader since 1989. Today, they announced they are ceasing publication after more than 40 years. Sigh...Another print publication bites the dust.

Here's my last CBG review, reprinted from #1699, the final installment. It's a shame CBG couldn't have lasted just one more issue to make it to 1700. And it's a crying shame that the print industry continues its rapid downward spiral.
Kevin Keller #6
Archie Comics
$2.99, color, 32 pgs.
Writer: Dan Parent
Artist: Dan Parent
Grade: 3.5 Stars (Out of 4)
Kevin Keller #6, which guest-stars George “Sulu” Takei, has a good message about tolerance, diversity, and being true to one’s self, but it’s hardly subtle (though it does fit the story). Since Archie Comics are aimed at kids, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the adult reader may feel a little “preached to.”

Speaking of that, those who don’t want to “change the definition of marriage” may be offended by “By George,” which says it’s “okay to be Takei” (rhymes with gay). Those who feel that way can feel free to avoid the issue (so to speak), but it's to be hoped that kindness and acceptance trump bigotry and bullying every time.

In terms of entertainment value, KK #6 is clearly told, nicely drawn, and at times downright comical.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Classic Home Video Games, 1972 -1984 REVIEWED!

A new review of my first book, Classic Home Video Games, 1972 -1984, has appeared on Amazon, written by MachineGex:

"This book is a must own for any gamer out there. It is laid out extremely well and gives a nice description of each game that is spot on. I loved reading about all the different games for each system. I was surprised to see how many games the author and I agree on. I can spend hours going over each system and all the games for them. It is a great book that will help you build a better collection. If you love games, this book will help you discover some hidden gems that you may never have heard off and it will help re-connect you with the games we all grew up with. Highly recommended!!!" (5 Stars out of 5)

You can order the book HERE.
A cool new book has been published by TwoMorrows Publishing, written by Filmation co-founder Lou Scheimer (with Andy Mangels, a prolific writer, animation expert, and an all around swell guy). The book is filled with photos, history, anecdotes, and more related to all the great Filmation cartoons, such as Mighty Mouse, Star Trek, Flash Gordon, He-Man, and countless others. You can read a review of the book HERE

Thursday, January 3, 2013

100 Greatest Games

Hi Everyone,

In addition to working on the next volume in my Classic Home Video Games series, I've been working even more on a new book for Schiffer Books covering the greatest console video games released from 1977-1987 (exact title TBD).

The book will include, obviously, games for the Atari 2600, on up through some of the early titles for the NES. Numerous titles for the Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Odyssey2, Sega Master System, and Atari 7800 will also be included, along with various dark horse entries.

The book will include pricing, publishing history, extensive gameplay details, my opinions on the games, quotes from other sources (magazines, books, and websites), full color photography (including screenshots), and more. Each entry will be 800-1300 words in length.

The book will also contain 100 honorable mentions listed in the back. Breaking down the book to 200 titles has been a blast, but some painful decisions have been made regarding titles I enjoy, but that just don't make the cut. The bottom line is how much fun the game is today, but I'm also taking into account historical importance, graphics, sounds, and the like.

I'm about 70% finished with the rough draft, but there are still some titles to be added (i.e. more painful decisions about which games to leave out).

The manuscript is due in August, and the book should be out by early 2014. Yeah, this is a ways off, but I'm excited about the project and am glad another publisher is interested in classic gaming.

The Classic Home Video Games series is a reference tool like Leonard Maltin's movie books, but this new book for Schiffer will be a lavish coffee table book with lengthy entries and all the trimmings.

As always, thanks for reading!