HAMBURG, NY—Most anyone familiar with Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in history, and Billy and Benny McCrary, the world’s largest twins, grew up reading The Guinness Book of World Records, an annual reference volume that began in 1955 and is now published as Guinness World Records.
The Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, a concession to modernity that began in 2008, tracks such achievements as high scores, bestselling games, largest tournament, and longest winning streak. The 2011 release included a feature called “World’s Largest Videogame Collection,” a feat attributed to Richard Leece of Florida, a father of two who owns more than 8,000 games and also deals in rare coins.
Enter Michael Thomasson, a collector who believed—correctly—that he had a bigger collection than Leece. Recently, after doing an official count observed by several witnesses, including Jon-Paul Dyson, Director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, and Leonard Herman, author of Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames, Thomasson discovered that he owned 10,607 games.
Despite the fact that Thomasson trumped his accomplishment, Leece doesn’t view the New Yorker as a competitor or a rival. “My congratulations to a fellow collector,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s very impressive and I'm very happy for him. (Getting the record is) something I did for my own enjoyment. I applied for the Guinness book for my kids so that years from now they can look back and say, wow, my father was in the Guinness Book of World Records.”
In addition to amassing the world’s largest officially recognized video game collection, Thomasson is a GameStop employee, graphic designer, freelance writer, and adjunct professor of video game design and history at Cansius College, the largest private college in Western New York. Thomasson also owns Homebrew Heaven, an online video game retailer specializing in new titles produced by independent publishers for vintage consoles.
Thomasson’s first game was Cosmic Avenger for the ColecoVision, a then-cutting edge console that came out in 1982. “It’s my first love so it’s sentimental,” he said, referring to the ColecoVision. “(The games for the system) looked good, they played good. For the time they sounded good for the bleeps and blips of the ’80s.”
Carrying an estimated value of $700,000 to $800,000, Thomasson’s collection includes all the common stuff, of course, such as carts for the Atari 2600 (1977) and discs for the Xbox 360 (2005), plus he owns rare games for such obscure consoles as the Fairchild Channel F (1976) and the Japan-only Casio Loopy and Pippin, both released in 1995.
“I have games on cartridge, laser disc,” he said. “I have VHS-based games, cassette-based games.”
Thomasson also owns rare video game-related merchandise, such as a leather jacket from Don Bluth Studios that was worn by the team during the production of Dragon's Lair (1983) and Space Ace (1984) and hand-painted art cels from the early 1980’s Donkey Kong Jr. cereal commercials.
When considering Thomasson for a world record, the Guinness World Records officials adhered to a strict set of guidelines. Downloaded games, duplicates, and unreleased prototypes didn’t count, nor did computer games. The latter is why Syd Bolton, a computer museum curator who owns more than 15,000 games (as featured in the September, 9, 2013, issue of AntiqueWeek), would not be considered by Guinness as having more video games than Thomasson. Many of Bolton’s games are for computers, not consoles.
In the time since the official count took place, Thomasson, who is married and has a five-year-old daughter, has added hundreds of games to his collection, which now surpasses 11,000 titles. However, he has toyed around with the notion of liquidating the bulk of his inventory.
“I might be putting it up for sale,” he said during a recent interview with Steve Tripi of the 97 Rock Morning Show in Buffalo. “I can’t afford to insure it.”