Sunday, November 26, 2023

The 40th Anniversary of the Video Game Crash of 1983

 The 40th Anniversary of the Video Game Crash of 1983

 Back in 1983, I was 16 years old and living the dream. I had a car, I had money, and I was unencumbered by a spouse, kids, or anything else resembling real responsibilities, or than my job as a Quality Supervisor at a barbeque restaurant. Yes, at the ripe young age of 16, I was telling 20-, 30- and 40-somethings what to do. (They loved it, let me tell you, he said sarcastically.)

Before I digress into my life story, let’s zero in on a certain newspaper ad I saw during this time. Yes, teenagers and even people younger than that read the newspaper in those pre-social media days. Not only for the funnies, and not only for baseball box scores, but also for celebrity gossip, headline news, local interest stuff, and more.

Each Sunday, the paper was massive, thanks in part to ads from retail stores. I would scour these ads for gaming bargains, and one day I found a whopper: a variety of Atari 2600 titles for $9.99 to $14.99 each, including popular first-party titles like Asteroids and Space Invaders. This was a huge discount from the regular selling price of $30 to $45 or so for most video games.

Over the next few weeks and months, I began seeing titles for the Atari 2600, Intellivision, ColecoVision, Odyssey 2, and other consoles selling for $4.99 each…then $2.99…then .99 cents. Yes, brand new video games for under a buck! I’ve spoken to certain people around my age who recall seeing new video games marked as low as .25 cents each. Amazing!

As a hardcore gamer and collector, I was driving from store to store, adding to my collection. I would buy pretty much any game that looked fun to play, and I would buy pretty much any ColecoVision game no matter what it was because that was my favorite console. Stores like Toys “R” Us, Kay Bee Toys, Circus World, and even Walmart and Target would have huge bins with tons of discount games, and I would practically leap into these pits and swim around, catching as many “fish” as I wanted and throwing back what looked unappealing.

It was exciting and fun, but I had no idea what it all meant beyond being able to purchase video games for pennies on the dollar, amassing a cool collection, and playing a bunch of games that I would never have had access to without the Video Game Crash of 1983. I had no idea it meant the video game console industry in North America was dying. It didn’t really sink in for me until 1984, when the writing was on the wall that my beloved ColecoVision was on the way out. It was officially discontinued in 1985, and I was incredibly bummed. The Atari 2600 and Intellivision hung on for a few more years, but just barely.

Video game sales dropped 97% from $3.2 billion in 1982 to $100 million by 1985. The reasons for the Crash are many. Too many random companies had jumped on the video game craze of the early ’80s and were cranking out lousy games for the Atari 2600, the most ubiquitous console of the era. There were also too many consoles on the market in general. This created consumer confusion and dissatisfaction, and retailers struggled to find adequate space for new games on store shelves.

Two of the most highly anticipated 2600 titles, Pac-Man and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, were big disappointments as the former was a bad port and the latter was confusing for most kids who played it. These and other titles were over-produced, and Atari ended up burying thousands of games in a landfill in New Mexico, as told in the 2014 documentary, Atari: Game Over.

By 1983, many gamers who had grown up with the Atari 2600, which was released in 1977, were moving on to other interests like cars and dating. The 1982 follow-up to the 2600, the Atari 5200, was largely a bust, thanks in part to its fragile, imprecise, non-centering joysticks. Coleco had announced they were going to produce a Super Game Module for the ColecoVision that would have meant games with more levels, better graphics and sounds, etc., but they cancelled that eagerly anticipated peripheral and released the Adam Computer instead. While great in theory, the Adam was a huge failure because so many units were bug-ridden or downright inoperable right out of the box.

Speaking of computers, they were a big reason for the Crash. Many parents felt more comfortable purchasing a computer for their kids than a “mere” video game console. Most of the big consoles at the time promised computer add-ons, but those were all unsuccessful, such as Mattel’s Entertainment Computer System for the Intellivision. The Odyssey 2 had a computer-style keyboard, but it was a video game console, not a fully-functional computer.

The Commodore 64, which Guiness cites as the top-selling computer model of all time, played a big role in the Crash. Why buy a console when you can get a computer that also plays games that are at least as good as the ColecoVision and in some cases better and more sophisticated? And you can pirate those games for free? I saw evidence of this first-hand. After my best friend’s dad brought home a C64 with around 200 games copied illegally onto floppy discs, his family rarely touched their ColecoVision.

While the video game market in North America crashed in 1983, the industry didn’t stay dead for long, thanks in large part to a certain Japanese company’s cool console, savvy marketing, and mustachioed Italian plumber. Test-marketed in 1985 and released nationwide in 1986, the Nintendo Entertainment System, which was the North American version of the Japanese Famicom, introduced a new generation to video games, with Super Mario Bros. taking center stage. More than any video game before it, SMB dazzled gamers with expansive gameplay, cartoonlike graphics, hidden secrets and surprises, and pitch-perfect controls.

When I received my NES for Christmas in 1987, I barely believed what I was seeing. The closest experience I can think of to playing Super Mario Bros. for the first time was my initial reading of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland—simply mind-boggling!

Numerous great games followed on the console, including such legendary titles as Contra, Castlevania, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros. 3, the last of which was heavily marketed in 1989’s The Wizard. An entire culture was built around the NES. Players would exchange tips and tricks for beating games (as well as call Nintendo’s hotline number), bring issues of Nintendo Power magazine to school, rent games from movie rental stores, pause their system all night so they could continue that long adventure game the next morning, etc.

Even more than Atari, Nintendo brought video games into the mainstream, and the industry has been thriving ever since.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Nostalgic 1980s ColecoVision Story by ChatGPT

I asked ChatGPT to tell a nostalgic story about playing ColecoVision during the 1980s, written in the style of Dr. Seuss. I think it’s actually quite good (if a little disturbing). Let me know in the comments what you think.


In the quirky, colorful era of the 80s, lo and behold, A box called ColecoVision, stories untold. With buttons of fire and a joystick to steer, It was more than a console, let's make that quite clear.

Post-school, children would gather, winding down the day, In a living room beaming with game's vibrant display. Donkey Kong flinging barrels, or a cosmic ride, In the realm of pixels, we would confide.

Harrowing moments and triumphant feats, Our hearts would race with every end beats. High scores were like treasure, locked in our hearts, A tale of our childhood, where memory starts.

Eyes wide and twinkling, in the TV's soft glare, Two-dimensional worlds, we'd bravely dare. There we'd be, joystick in hand, In our own universe, spectacular and grand.

The 80s may end, and the children do age, But in our hearts, ColecoVision, our kind-hearted sage. Its keys unlocked chapters, experiences, and more, A flashback to a time, truly we adore.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

ABC To The VCS: A Directory of Software For the Atari 2600 by Leonard Herman - New Foreword By Brett Weiss


Introduction (a foreword to the foreword, if you will)

The Atari 2600, originally released as the Atari VCS, is one of the most important video game consoles of all time. Not only did it popularize home gaming, and not only did it make “Atari” synonymous with the word “videogame” for a decade (among countless other accolades), it was the first console to inspire a complete reference book for its library of games. Said book—ABC To The VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600—was written by my good friend and colleague Leonard Herman.

Herman’s titanic tome was a huge inspiration for me, and it was an historical first in an industry I love, so imagine my delight when he asked me to write the foreword for the new edition. It was a huge honor and one I’m extremely grateful for.

ABC to the VCS was out-of-print for years (too long, if you ask me), but now it’s available on Amazon for anyone who wants to grab a copy. If you want to read my foreword to the book, you can do so as I’ve reprinted it in its entirety below.

As always, thanks for reading! And thanks to Leonard Herman for the honor! 


ABC To The VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600

The reference volume you are holding in your hands is nothing less than historic.

When the groundbreaking first edition of ABC to the VCS was originally published way back in 1996, it was the first book of its type: a complete guide to a videogame console—the Atari 2600, of course—with a write-up for every game for the system. To my knowledge, no one had attempted such a herculean task up until that point, and certainly no one had followed through.

The book is also historic in nature because it was written by Leonard Herman, rightly dubbed The Father of Videogame History. “Lenny” earned this moniker with the 1994 publication of Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames, the first lengthy and serious history on the topic. (I was the fourth person to purchase a copy of the original Phoenix from Lenny, but that’s a story for another day.)

During this same time period—the mid-1990s—I was working on a book of reviews of Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games, but I couldn’t find a publisher. That’s because retro videogame books—and videogame books in general—were barely a thing during this era (with the notable exception of tips/tricks books and strategy guides). Sure, there were a few titles here and there, but nothing like today, where several publishers, including McFarland and Schiffer, have entire lines devoted to retro gaming books. There are even publishers, such as Bitmap Books, who publish almost nothing but books in this category.

Lenny couldn’t find a publisher for his books either, but, to his credit, he forged ahead and self-published them, which was a much harder, much more complex task back in the ’90s before the days of such convenient services as Lulu and Amazon Createspace. Further, before the internet really took off during the late ’90s, it was much more difficult to do research. Remember the days of calling up the local library’s reference desk to get information about various topics? Remember studying old magazines and newspapers via clunky microfiche machines? I’m sure Lenny remembers!

 Regarding ABC to the VCS specifically, Lenny wrote it years before you could hop online and find instruction manuals (HTML and PDF) for every Atari 2600 game. It’s true that many games for the console are of the pick-up-and-play variety, but some are basically incoherent without the manual, and many are more fun, more playable, and easier to write about when you know all the intricacies detailed in the manuals, such as the storylines, gameplay variations, and the like. Lenny also wrote the book before you could play the games emulated on other devices. In short, it was much more difficult to research for and write such a book back then than it is now.

Without ABC to the VCS and Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames (which is now in its fourth edition as Phoenix IV: The History of the Videogame Industry), my own Classic Home Video Games books series might not exist.

During the late ’90s and early 2000s, I wrote for the All Game Guide, a late, lamented website devoted to cataloging, describing, and reviewing every game for every console and computer. The company was working on a book series as well, which I was up to my elbows in cartridges helping write. When the books were cancelled, it gave me the idea to do the project on my own, and ABC to the VCS gave me the confidence to tackle entire console libraries by myself. “If Lenny could do it, then maybe I could do it,” I surmised. Thus, in 2007, my first book, Classic Home Video Games: 1972-1984, was published.

In ABC to the VCS, which I had been badgering Lenny to reprint for years (thank you for finally doing so, Lenny!), you’ll find objective, no-nonsense summaries of more than 700 games. Lenny writes clearly, concisely, and without pretension, which betrays his former vocation as a technical writer. This isn’t a book of reviews. Lenny has said something to the effect of, “Who am I to say if these games are any good or not—why should my opinion matter more than anyone else’s?” He wants people to explore the games and form their own opinions, and ABC to the VCS is an excellent reference guide pointing players to the Atari 2600 titles they may find interesting or entertaining. It’s also a useful book for tracking your collection and keeping the memories of these games alive.

I’ve known Leonard Herman for 20 years. I met him back in 2003 at the first Classic Gaming Expo I attended, and I made it a point to shake his hand. We’ve been friends ever since, sharing a booth and panel at Too Many Games, traveling together, hanging out at Corgs, PRGE, and other gaming expos, corresponding online, and in general having a good time. He even wrote the foreword to my third Classic Home Video Games book!

 There are several authors today writing complete guides to various videogame consoles, but Lenny beat us all to the punch and did something historic in the process.

 There’s that word again. “Historic.”

 There’s a reason Leonard Herman is called The Father of Videogame History.

 And I’m proud to call him a friend and colleague.

 ~ Brett Weiss


Brett Weiss has been a gamer since 1975 and a professional gaming writer since 1997. He’s the author of 13 books, including The NES Omnibus Vol. 1-2, The SNES Omnibus Vol. 1-2, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, and his latest, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1988-1998. With his Classic Home Video Games series, he wrote the world’s first complete guides to numerous video game consoles, including the Atari 5200, Atari 7800, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Vectrex, Odyssey2, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Neo Geo, TurboGrafx-16, and Sega Genesis. He also wrote the world’s first and only encyclopedia about the rock band KISS. He’s had articles published in countless magazines and newspapers, including Game Informer, Old School Gamer, Filmfax, Fangoria, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, to name just a few. When not writing, he uploads videos to YouTube for his Tales from a Retro Gamer show.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1988-1998 by Brett Weiss - GET YOUR SIGNED COPY!


Thanks to everyone for your kind words, your orders, your reviews, your support, and much more!

Reminder that signed copies are available direct from me!

***PayPal $50 to

(Includes US shipping)

***Or pay via credit card HERE

*272-page hardcover book

*Hundreds of full-color photos

*Box art, screenshots and vintage magazine ads

*Essays, nostalgia, history, and deep-dives on the greatest games for PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo, Nintendo NES, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, and other awesome consoles

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Adam F. Goldberg Wrote the Foreword to My NES Book!

For my book, The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 1 (A–L), I wanted someone famous to write the foreword. I considered reaching out to actor Sean Astin, who narrated a gaming documentary I was in, and The Angry Video Game Nerd, the most influential of all retro gaming YouTubers.

But then Adam F. Goldberg, the creator and producer of The Goldbergs television series, fell into my lap. (Thankfully, he did so metaphorically). My buddy Sean Tiedeman, who directed The King of Arcades (2014), suggested Mr. Goldberg and got me in touch with him. Much to my surprise, Adam was delighted to participate in the project and has been very supportive.

The Goldbergs, which captures the zeitgeist of the 1980s in fun, over-the-top fashion, is an homage to Goldberg’s decidedly nerdy childhood. The show has featured the Nintendo NES prominently, as well as classic ’80s-style arcades. There was even an episode with a Tron theme. Best of all, Goldberg, who co-wrote the screenplay for Fanboys (2009) and has produced several video game documentaries, is an avowed NES fan.

With his super geeky street cred, Goldberg, a gifted writer, had all the potential qualities as a forewordist for a retro gaming book. And, unsurprisingly, he turned in an absolutely killer account of his days growing up with the NES and the impact it had on is obviously fun childhood.

Without further ado, here’s Mr. Goldberg’s fantastic foreword. The dude really loved him some NES! And shouldn’t we all!


By Adam F. Goldberg

“Dude, look at those graphics! It’s like having an arcade in your house!!!”

Those were the EXACT words I screamed when I laid my eyes on the Nintendo Entertainment System for the very first time. The moment has been vividly burned into my brain. It was January, 1986. I was sleeping over at my friend John Gaines’ house. I assumed we’d spend the night making prank calls, eating Fritos, and playing his ColecoVision, as we did at most of our sixth-grader sleepovers. But my pal had a new game system, one that he boldly declared was infinitely better than ColecoVision, Intellivision, and Atari put together. It was called NINTENDO.

At that point, the system only had a handful of titles to its name—but that didn’t matter—because one of those games was Super Mario Bros. I vividly remember sitting on John’s bed, watching in sheer awe as that little plumber shot fireballs and dodged jellyfish and used drainpipes as warp zones. It really did put Atari to shame. The Mario brothers made Pitfall Harry look like a total ass clown. In that moment, I knew the future had arrived. And it was called Nintendo.

When my mom picked me up the next morning, I was fully converted to a Nintendo kid and never wanted anything more in my life. Just one problem. My frugal father had JUST upgraded me to an Atari 7800 for Hanukkah, which at that moment I thought was the future of gaming. Murray Goldberg could not understand how the new and improved Atari was deemed obsolete a mere two weeks after he purchased it. I desperately tried to explain that the Nintendo had superior graphics and cooler games. Hell, it came with a friggin’ gun that let you hunt ducks and a robot named R.O.B. that…did something. No one really knew, but still! Owning a Nintendo system was like having an arcade in your den! Think of all the quarters our family would save! It pays for itself! What’s not to understand!?

Naturally, my old man refused to make the leap to Nintendo because our family had already invested a pretty penny into the Atari. I had a ton of games, an official Tron joystick, and a sweet hard-shell carrying case to lug around the Atari console. Buying an NES game system was a battle that raged on in the Goldberg house for the next four agonizing years. Luckily, my best friend Chad Kremp lived across the street, and he owned a Commodore 64, which his parents had bought in 1982. The Nintendo upgrade was a much easier sell to his parents. The moment Chad got a Nintendo for his birthday, it meant that I owned a Nintendo by proxy. It didn’t matter that I mostly sat and watched him play. I was thrilled to be Nintendo adjacent, and it was glorious!

I’m proud to say that many of my fondest childhood memories center around playing video games in my best friend’s room. I’m convinced that Chad and I are so deeply bonded largely in part to beating games like Contra, Mega Man II, Kid Icarus, and Metal Gear. Even though, again, I watched most of the time. We had inside jokes for each game. To this day, we still randomly call each other and say, “I’m still in Okinawa,” a reference to how we could never beat the typhoon level of the Karate Kid game. We even came up with our own nonsensical lyrics to the chiptune game soundtracks, my favorite being “RAMMA LAMMA JAMMA!” from the castle level of Super Mario Bros.

Chad and I even spent an entire summer creating our own Legend of Zelda map, planting bombs on every screen to uncover every single secret cave. The idea was to sell photos of our map at school, netting us a pretty petty. Unfortunately, Nintendo Power released an awesome three-page foldout cheat map, instantly destroying our brilliant business scheme. Most people would say that we completely wasted three months of our lives charting a Zelda map, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The greatest part of creating The Goldbergs TV show is that I’ve met many people on Facebook and Twitter that cite the NES as a formative part of their childhoods as well. I always thought I was alone, but it turns out that being an NES kid is a universal experience. One we all still cherish to this day.

Being a NES Kid means you know the Contra Code by heart and you had a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine.

It means you smacked the power pad with your hands because it made the games easier, and you madly blew into the guts of your cartridge when your Nintendo would glitch out.

It means you desperately wanted a Power Glove after seeing The Wizard…even though you never actually ended up buying one.

It means you felt a rush of adrenaline every time your player got into a hockey fist fight in Blades of Steel.

It means you never felt as cool as when you taught a friend the Infinite 1-Ups trick in Super Mario Bros.

It means you bought an NES Advantage because it would help you cheat in Track & Field.

It means you played countless rounds of Ghosts ’n Goblins but never could get past stage one, because “F” that game.

It means you know that repeatedly punching in A-B-B-A gives you endless lives in Ikari Warriors…unless you accidentally reappear behind a wall, which meant game over.

It means you still debate to this day if Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is better than Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Not that I actually played either. I just had to sit and watch Chad play. But part two sure looked better!

It means that your friend had an uncle who had a brother who had a second cousin who could actually beat Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! Of course, you knew this was impossible because you typed in the 007-373-5963 code a million times and still never came close to beating the lightning-fast dude.

In late 1989, we Goldbergs finally became a Nintendo family. My mom was tired of hearing me say, “I’m going over to Chad’s to play Nintendo” every weekend. All Beverly Goldberg ever wanted was to have her kids under her roof, and it drove her bonkers that Nintendo stood in the way. Naturally, my Dad was beyond aggravated that my Atari 7800 had spent the last several years collecting dust in my closet. Thanks to pressure from my smother, Murray Goldberg finally broke down and bought me a Nintendo Entertainment System for my birthday in eighth grade. At long last, I would be playing with power!

For a few months, at least.

In 1991, the Super Nintendo was released, and dammit, I never wanted anything more. Needless to say, my Dad was not receptive to the idea of upgrading our now-obsolete NES to the newer, cooler, 16-bit Super NES. I tried to explain that the SNES actually did have the graphics of arcade games, if not better. Yes, I may have said that when the NES was released—but this time it was true!

Goes without saying, but I never got my Nintendo upgrade and still have my classic NES from 8th grade. To this day, I am still an NES kid and still love those old-school games…even though Chad was the one who actually played them as I sat and watched. Not sure if I mentioned that.

***Adam F. Goldberg created the TV series Breaking In, Imaginary Mary, and The Goldbergs, as well as the spinoff Schooled.  Adam wrote the screenplays for Fanboys, Aliens in the Attic, and How to Train Your Dragon. He also produced a number of retro video game documentaries, including The New 8 Bit Heroes, Button Bashers, Bits of Yesterday, and The Power of Glove.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Hangin' with The Last Starfighter Cast - Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart - at the Houston Arcade Expo

This past year was incredible for retro gaming conventions. After numerous covid cancelations the previous couple of years, gaming cons were back in full force, and I got to attend many of them as a guest author, gaming historian, and YouTuber.

None was more special than the Houston Arcade Expo (held November 11-13 at the Houston Marriott Westchase), where I got to hang out all weekend with actors Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart, stars of the 1984 sci-fi classic, The Last Starfighter, one of my favorite films. The plot borrows from Star Wars—frustrated young man living in small town gets recruited to fight in an interplanetary war—but with a video game plot device.

Guest is also known for appearing in Jaws: The Revenge (1987) and Halloween II (1981), and he played Johnny Cash on Broadway in the musical, Million Dollar Quartet. He’s a fine, often-under-appreciated actor, and he’s a heck of a nice guy.

I’m certainly a fan of Guest, but I was even more excited to meet Stewart, star of such films as Night of the Comet (1984), one of my favorite B-movies, and Weekend at Bernie’s (1989), where she starred alongside Andrew McCarthy. I discovered Stewart when I was a teenager and saw her play Kayla Brady on Days of Our Lives, which my mom watched religiously. I was struck by Stewart’s beauty, found her to be incredibly likeable onscreen, and quickly developed a crush. At that point in my young life, it never would have occurred to me in a million years that I’d get to meet the gorgeous actress, much less hang out with her.

Since Guest, Stewart, and I were guests at the Houston Arcade Expo, along with such luminaries as Mortal Kombat artist Paul Niemeyer and NBA Jam voice actor Tim Kitzrow, the five of us spent a fair amount of time together throughout the weekend. Our tables, where we signed autographs, posed for photos, and talked with fans, were lined up in a row, and we spoke periodically during breaks in the action.

Among other fun facts, Stewart and Guest told me they weren’t gamers at all. Stewart said she recalls playing Pac-Man a little back in the day, but that’s about it—she joked that the other games were too complicated. In Night of the Comet, she was an expert at Atari’s arcade hit Tempest, but she told me she wasn’t actually playing the game. She was just going through the motions, and Hollywood magic did the rest. My son Ryan, who helped me at the show, joked around with Guest about the fact that Jaws: The Revenge is hardly a great movie, but that he loved it and watched it over and over when he was a little kid.

The Houston Arcade Expo is hardly a typical gaming con. It is more like a weekend-long party, with live music, confetti and glowsticks, long hours (vending, gaming, and more goes on late into the night), plenty of drinking and revelry, and in general a highly festive atmosphere. The Saturday night cover band was a big hit, with convention goers dancing to the music. Lance, Catherine, Paul, Tim, and I gathered near the front of the stage during the set, singing along and having an absolute blast.

And then something unexpected happened: Lance got up onstage and jammed with the band. He played guitar and took lead vocals on three tunes, including an inspired take on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Last Dance with Mary Jane.” As he belted out the tune, I was wedged at the front of the stage between Cathy (as she told me to call her), who was dancing along, and Keith Christensen, who was rockin'
his head off. Keith runs the show, and I’m eternally grateful to him for inviting me to such an awesome event--what a fun and absolutely unforgettable time!

A man who loves to party, Keith got onstage and sang with the band. Cathy also joined in, playing guitar, and Paul and Tim took turns playing drums. Did I get up onstage? Heck no! The only instrument I know how to play is the stereo, and trust me when I say that no one wants to hear me sing.

While hanging with fellow guests was the highlight of the weekend, the 2022 Houston Arcade Expo was a great time all around. I got to play modern and vintage pinball machines, I did a panel on the 40th anniversary of the ColecoVision, I had some great conversations with attendees about retro gaming and other topics, and I sold a bunch of books. As they say, a good time was had by all!

At the 2021 Houston Arcade Expo, which narrowly missed being canceled because of covid, I had the pleasure of appearing with fellow guest Sam Jones, who played Flash Gordon in the 1980 camp classic. That was amazing, and he was super cool and friendly--we even worked out a trade: one of my books for a signed Flash Gordon movie poster! Since Flash Gordon is one of my favorite fictional characters, and since I love that film, I couldn’t imagine anything topping that, but the 2022 show was even more exciting.

Keith has yet to announce his special guests for 2023, but he has posted on social media that the show will be held the weekend of November 10. That’s obviously a ways off, but I’m already counting down the days. Will Keith top 2021? Is it even possible to top 2022? I can’t wait to find out!

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Clearing the Air: Pat Contri, a.k.a. The NES Punk, Trashing Me On His Podcast & YouTube Channel

Proof that Pat considered me a "backbone" of his NES book during the writing and editing process and was very happy with my reviews, saying I did a "great job." He even included my reviews in the second edition of his book. He only started trashing me after my Omnibus books starting coming out, and he began seeing me as competition. 

Years ago Pat Contri, who plays the character The NES Punk on YouTube, asked me to contribute to his then-forthcoming NES Guide Book, which came to be called the Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library (1985-1995). It was released in 2016. I wrote 60 reviews and reflections (nostalgic stories, cultural impact, etc.) for the book and was proud to take part. Pat was and is a popular YouTube personality, and I was excited to be part of such a high-profile (relatively speaking) project. Pat was fun to work with, and he was actually a pretty good editor on the project, making some suggestions for me to beef up some of my reviews with more detail.

Unfortunately, a few years after the book was published, things went south. He deleted my reviews from the third edition of the book (which was his prerogative, and which I wouldn’t have minded if he would have handled it better), began ghosting me at video game conventions (which got awkward), and starting saying nasty things about me on his podcast and YouTube channel (which was part irritating, part amusing).

In his comments about me on his podcast, he would refer to me sarcastically as “the famous author,” and he even called me a “passive-aggressive asshole.” I always assumed he didn’t mention me by name because he didn’t want to draw attention to my YouTube channel or my books, which is probably true. I think he began viewing me as a competitor instead of a friend once my Omnibus books started coming out, which I’ll get to in a bit. However, in a recent podcast/video, he threw the gloves off and called me out by name and said some things I’d like to clear up and correct.

To answer a few quick questions brought about by Pat and his pal Ian’s recent take on me, here you go:

1. Yes, I played all the games I reviewed in Pat’s NES book thoroughly, though I didn’t beat them all. Yes, Pat paid me to write the reviews upfront, and I never expected royalties (sorry if this was ever unclear). I genuinely liked the oft-criticized Magic Johnson’s Fastbreak, though I admit nostalgia for the game colored my opinion. (I would have given Double Dribble 4 stars, BTW.) Pat rewrote my Rad Gravity review and gave me full credit for it--that’s the type of thing editors do sometimes, so not a big deal.

2. As far as I can tell, Pat thought my reviews were perfectly fine (he even said I was doing a good job) until he saw me as competition when my Omnibus books started coming out. After that, he called them “garbage” on his podcast. If he thought my reviews were garbage, he wouldn’t have published most of them in the SECOND EDITION of the book as well. My reviews in his NES book are no better or worse than his or Ian’s or the other writers—they’re about on-par with the other entries (this isn't rocket science), which you can see for yourself if you have either earlier edition.

Further, and this is the most important point, in a friendly email marked Dec. 07, 2016, he implied that he WANTED ME TO WRITE FOR HIS SUPER NINTENDO BOOK MONTHS AFTER HIS NES BOOK WAS PUBLISHED. This proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was happy with my reviews in his book until he saw me as competition. It also shows that I was forthcoming in telling him I was working on a large SNES book with high production values.

3. I don’t have “animosity” toward Pat because of him deleting my reviews from the third edition of his NES book. I was irritated and in fact felt betrayed by him for not telling me ahead of time (or ever) and having to discover it on my own. He subsequently ignored my very polite DMs inquiring about it, and he even ignored a message I sent congratulating him on his highly successful Kickstarter for his SNES book. He had every right to do with his book what he wanted, including removing my reviews, but he didn’t handle it professionally in my opinion.

4. After Pat deleted my reviews from his NES book without telling me, and without answering my DMs about it, and ignoring me at conventions, I made an objective, extremely fair video about who wrote the first complete NES book (it’s complicated), giving credit to several authors, including Joe Santulli, Jeff Wittenhagen, and Pat himself. Each of the NES books by these authors has merit. I could have simply trashed Pat in the video, but that’s not my style, and I didn’t view him as an enemy or anything like that anyway. I figured an objective video with some history was more useful and more substantive than a drama video, but the latter would’ve certainly gotten more views. I try to get along and be reasonable and civilized with everyone, and I never take personal shots at those I disagree with (which they do briefly admit to in their recent video). I suppose this is one reason why Pat and Ian call me passive-aggressive.

5. They said in the video that I “suddenly glommed onto the Intellivision Amico” immediately after they got skeptical about it. That’s completely untrue. I’ve been a fan of the original Intellivision since I first played it in 1980, and I love the idea of retro-reimagined games. My interest had nothing to do with them, and I was onboard with the idea behind the console the first time I heard about it. When they started making nasty remarks about the Amico and former Intellivision CEO Tommy Tallarico (which turned out to be justified in many cases), did I root even more for the console to succeed? Yes, but that’s much different than me being for the Amico simply because they were against it.

6. Were Pat and Ian ultimately right about the Amico in many respects, such as it not coming out? And about people getting screwed out of their investments and pre-orders? Sadly, yes. I thought the Amico was a cool idea, especially early on, but Tommy and Intellivision mishandled it horribly. As such, I did a video on the mistakes they made and how I canceled my pre-order. I never got hateful toward Tommy about the Amico—I simply stated my views as objectively as I could—which I guess makes me passive-aggressive.

7. My video about the Play Date was actually pretty even-handed. I said I didn’t “get” the handheld console, the same way a lot of people didn’t “get” the Amico, so I could empathize. Was my Play Date video a response to Pat and Ian’s video about the Play Date? Not really, as I recall. I simply thought the system was an interesting parallel to the Amico: an underpowered, overpriced console that I wasn’t interested in, compared to the Amico, which I was interested in, despite it being underpowered and eventually overpriced. I saw some irony there and felt it was a good topic. I was honest in my assessment about the prospective Play Date at the time, based on what I saw of the thing in action on YouTube. I was unimpressed with the tiny (if clear) black-and-white screen and the awkward crank that shook the system when you played it. I would have said so if I thought that it looked cool—I try to be as objective and as honest as possible in my videos.

For some added perspective on all of this, let’s go back to the first time I met Pat and our subsequent encounters.

I was a vendor at the 2009 (or perhaps 2010, I forget which) ScrewAttack Game Convention in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This was a fun (and fondly remembered) show hosted by Craig Skistimas and company. Pat approached my table, said hello, and started flipping through a copy of my then-most recent book, Classic Home Video Games:1985-1988 (the cover dates refer to console era—the book features a write-up for every US release for the NES, Master System, and 7800). He told me that he was planning on writing an NES book of his own, but that he had something bigger in mind: a full-color hardcover book with screenshots and the like (my CHVG book is more like an encyclopedia with game synopses and relatively few black-and-white images).

At some point—I can’t remember exactly when or where—Pat asked me if I’d like to write some reviews for his book. He said he would write the majority, but that he was going to include some contributing writers on the project. I expressed interest, and we had a series of highly congenial phone calls. We share a lot of common interests and had some interesting conversations about writing, pop culture, the NES, and more. He had a clear vision for his book, and I was excited to take part. At the time, I was a full-time freelance writer and always grateful for paying work as well as added exposure. We agreed on a sum that suited us both (he paid me upfront for my work as I turned it in), and over the next few months, I played and replayed more than 60 games and wrote up my reviews and reflections for those titles. I repurposed some of my reviews from my previous projects, which I told him upfront I was going to do, such as the website (the late, lamented All Game Guide) that Pat references in his recent video, but I played the games anew and polished up my reviews accordingly. Admittedly, some of my opinions of retro/vintage games are colored by nostalgia.

When Pat’s NES book came out in 2016, I was super excited and did an unboxing on my YouTube channel. The previous year, I promoted the book on my website. I shared the full Kickstarter campaign on my website (which I deleted when it was no longer relevant). I even included the book in a roundup of retro gaming books I did for the Fort WorthStar-Telegram and a few other outlets, being sure to include a disclaimer that I was a contributing writer. I didn’t expect further compensation—no royalties or anything like that—but I was happy to help promote the book without him or anyone else asking me to. I was just pumped up about it!

From time to time, Pat and I are guests at the same retro gaming convention, such as the Portland Retro Gaming Expo and the Midwest Gaming Classic. We always said “hey” to each other in the past, and sometimes people would bring me Pat’s book to sign. I would also tell people to check out Pat’s book if they hadn’t already. I asked Pat at a PRGE if he wanted to do a book panel sometime, and he said no, which of course was his prerogative—not a big deal. One time at Retropalooza, I volunteered to take him to a shop to get his phone repaired, but he had already called an Uber. He did a panel at Classic Game Fest, and I stood in line to ask him a question. When it was my turn to as my question, he referred to me as the author of The 100 Greatest Console Video Games, which I thought was cool. I texted him from time to time, and he would usually respond. In short, we were what I considered to be acquaintances and even friends. Pat published a second edition of the book, and most of my reviews and reflections were in that edition as well.

Then things got a little off-kilter, which I’ll explain in a bit. Instead of doing a fourth volume in the Classic Home Video Games series, I decided to do a full-on Super Nintendo book, complete with box art, cartridge photos, screenshots, vintage ads, and the like. I also included Insider Insights (supplemental stories about certain games from other content creators), the idea of which I got in part from the stories in Rob Strangman’s Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman book. I was also inspired by the “Lore” stories from Digital Press. I didn’t pay for these Insider Insights, but the contributing writers were very excited to tell their stories and see them in print, especially in a professionally published (by Schiffer) book that would appear in actual brick-and-mortar stores, such as Barnes & Noble. These “contributions” were literally that: contributions.

And I am eternally grateful for the from-the-heart work people have written for the Omnibus books. The Insider Insight writers list reads like a retro gaming all-star squad. Everyone from Kelsey Lewin to John Riggs to Shawn “RGT 85” Long to Console Wars author Blake Harris to Intellivision programmer David Warhol to New York Best-Selling Author John Jackson Miller has contributed awesome tales about games they had a particular interest in. And this just scratches the surface—I have had probably more than 200 contributing writers, most of whom have worked in the industry in one way or another. Pat is always quick to ridicule me for not paying these contributing writers, but I’m not forcing anyone to do anything they don’t want to. The contributing writers have been extremely supportive, and many share my posts and videos. I've had my publisher send some of them review copies as well.

After The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A–M) was published in 2018, Pat stopped by my booth at a show and flipped through a copy, and we spoke briefly. The encounter seemed friendly enough. I went by his booth later to get a pic with him and his NES book and me with my SNES book. I sort of detected he wasn’t thrilled to be in the pic, but I may have been misreading the situation (so to speak)--I wasn’t sure. Regardless, he did take the time to be in the pic.

As I referenced earlier, my Classic Home Video Games books, while professionally published (by McFarland), are relatively simple guides to numerous old consoles, with brief write-ups for each game. Pat didn’t seem too concerned about those books. As a matter of fact, he once told me via FB messaging that my CGVG 1985-1988 covering the 7800, NES, and Master System “wasn’t an NES book.” However, my Omnibus books are very slickly produced with deluxe hardcover binding, thousands of full-color photos, hundreds of thousands of words, etc. As far as I can tell, Pat’s attitude toward me changed when he saw my first Omnibus book. I believe he suddenly felt like I was competition, and he didn’t like me encroaching on “his” territory, even though I have been at it much longer than him. My Omnibus books are fairly similar to his Guide books in terms of basic structure but with plenty of differences to make them stand apart. You can check out sample pages on Amazon too see the differences.

After Pat saw my SNES book(s), I saw his behavior toward me begin to change. The timing sure seems to suggest that, anyway. He suddenly stopped mentioning my name on his podcast when he would talk about guests at video game conventions we were both doing, and he started acting strangely around me at said conventions, like he would rather be anywhere else than around me. I would still try to make small talk with him, but he seemed uncomfortable. He also blocked me on social media. And then the trash-talking on his podcast began. My support for the Amico and his conflict with Tommy, who I was friends with for many years before the Amico debacle, only made things worse. Somehow, things have gotten to point where we are what…enemies? Seems silly, really. I don’t like drama, nor do I see Pat as an enemy, so I hope we can at least be polite to one another moving forward, but that’s entirely up to him.

Pat can always reach out to me via social media or give me an email ( if he wants to clear the air. He can also call me any time. It’s possible he has misconstrued what has transpired over the past few years regarding all of this, and I’ll be happy to discuss it. It’s possible I have misunderstood his perspective as well. If his attitude towards me changed for reasons other than him seeing my Omnibus books as competition, I’d appreciate him telling me. After all, there are two sides to every story, as they say. Or am I just being passive-aggressive?

Thanks to everyone who has made it this far, and to everyone for your continued support!



Sunday, January 8, 2023

My Video Game Convention Plans for 2023 - Guest Author & YouTuber Brett Weiss

I'm so excited for convention season!

Here’s my schedule for 2023 so far:

*Midwest Gaming Classic (Milwaukee): March 31-April 2

*Corgs (Columbus, OH): May 13

*Classic Game Fest (Austin): July 22-23

I'm sure I'll be doing several more. If you're a gaming/pop culture convention promoter and would like me to come to your event as a guest author/YouTuber, feel free to give me a shout, and I'm sure we can work something out. Thanks!

Here's my updated bio: National columnist Brett Weiss has been a gamer since 1975 and a professional gaming writer since 1997. He’s the author of 13 books, including The NES Omnibus Vol. 1 and 2, The SNES Omnibus Vol. 1 and 2, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, and his latest, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games:1988-1998. With his Classic Home Video Games series, he wrote the world’s first complete guides to numerous video game consoles, including the Atari 5200, Atari 7800, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Vectrex, Odyssey2, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Neo Geo, TurboGrafx-16, and Sega Genesis. He also wrote the world’s first and only encyclopedia about the rock band KISS.

A frequent guest at video game and pop culture conventions around the country, Weiss appeared in the 2021 documentary “Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story,” and he was in The History Channel’s Nintendo episode of “The Toys That Built America: Snack Sized.” He’s written for countless publications, including Game Informer, Fangoria, Filmfax, Robot Magazine, The Writer, Mystery Scene, The Comics Buyer’s Guide, Alter Ego, Back Issue, AntiqueWeek, Video Game Collector, Video Game Trader, Classic Gamer Magazine, Game Room, The Pingame Journal, and Old School Gamer Magazine. He’s also worked for AtGames and Opcode Games as a consultant, editor, and writer, and he’s the host of the YouTube show, Tales from a Retro Gamer.