RB Retro Collecting Interview 002
I first discovered Tyler’s Youtube Channel, iretrogamer, when I stumbled on his visit to the Sega feature at Disney’s Epcot Center. I was fascinated by all this original footage from somebody’s childhood that felt like going into a time machine and re-living the Golden Age of Sega and Nintendo’s console wars. It was a dive into the rabbit hole from there as Tyler shared so many interesting movements from his childhood that shaped not only his gaming lifestyle but his relationship with his family.
Now being in full adult mode with two kids of my own (nearing 5 and 3 at the time of this writing), I can greatly appreciate seeing Tyler’s father’s enthusiasm for capturing life’s moments in video. I personally, have tried to routinely capture even simple moments with my kids and then carve out a nicely edited view of the past year for their birthdays. They always get a huge kick out of it and it will make a nice archive (in addition to occasionally flipping through old raw clips).
Watching Tyler’s footage of his time with his family has given me not only inspiration for the types of things to document with my family, but also the interactions that can make a family stronger. These often aren’t the grand gestures, but making the most of the moments we are given and building on the connections we have with different family members. As is the case with Tyler’s immediate and extended family, video games can often be a common thread to start conversations and keep family connections going.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this interview with Tyler and be sure to check out his Youtube channel at some point.
- Name: Tyler / iretrogamer
- Age: 32
- Collecting For: About 30 years
Retro Game Collecting Background
What was the first console that you owned?
Technically, it was the Sega Master System. My Dad had bought the Master System for me Christmas of ’89, but after a phone call to Sega verifying the discontinuation of the console, Dad returned it and got a Nintendo instead.
That’s pretty interesting and understandable considering the investment at the time. (Fun to think about the process of learning about these things pre-internet). Do you remember any more of the conversations about that decision to go Nintendo instead and how it made you feel (or was it pretty hard to remember that far back)?
I was so young at the age of 3, and Dad only told me about the return when I was maybe 8 years old when I started getting interested in collecting for the system. Honestly, it fueled my intrigue for the system because it was almost like finding out you could have been part of another family from the start… the SEGA family!
What percentage of your collection is from your pre-adult years?
90% of the collection is from my days as a kid collecting games with my Dad in the 90’s. As an adult I did a lot of NES cart hunting on my own and also some eBay, but most of it is from when Dad bought the games NEW.
While you really seemed to be involved in actually collecting early on: was there a certain age you really kicked it into gear/purchasing addition items yourself?
I’d say Dad and I really started “collecting” in 1994 with the Atari 2600. I was fascinated by this console that my cousins owned which was released before I was born. I brought it up to Dad one day because he recorded us playing it in my cousins basement when I was four years old. I was so curious! It was at that moment Dad seized the opportunity for the hunt, and we began looking for these treasures at pawn shops, yard sales, old retail stores and mail order houses. By myself I got into using money from my paid job to buy NES games I was finding in the wild around 2004.
We have discussed briefly about how your dad and you would often pick up import games before many of us ever considered it. What systems did you import most frequently and what types of games did you focus on most?
I think we acquired more Japanese Sega Saturn games than any other imports. The Saturn was just a different beast altogether in Japan. It was quite the success, and many great arcade ports and 2D powerhouse titles were released exclusively in Japan. The Japanese library of games for the Saturn push it over the edge. It KILLS the Playstation when you include the games!
What do you most wish to add to your collection that you don’t have right now?
I really want to focus on obtaining Sega Genesis games I missed out on owning. Dad and I played a lot of Sega Genesis games through the Sega Channel service back in ’94 / ’95 that I wish I owned. Plus, I love collecting Japanese Mega Drive games! The box art is so awesome.
I would also like to shoot for a full sub-set of Black Box NES games, Complete in box. I think it is a pretty realistic goal to attempt to achieve.
Retro Game Collecting Philosophy
How do you think your collection differs from the typical retro collection?
Simply put, most of my collection is in mint condition and has been owned since the games were released originally. I think most collections were formed by gamers who had already sold off their collections and wished to get the games back or obtain games they always wanted but never owned. There’s something VERY special about being able to play games from your collection as an adult that are the actual copies you owned as a child.
You have mentioned that you are proud of your Sega CD collection. Can you share the backstory of the collection?
My Sega CD collection is 100% the original games my Dad and I bought through the system’s lifespan. At around 90 titles, all in mint condition and many rare, it’s just a very special collection for me to still own. Sega CD was filled with such innovation and newness back in those days. Dad and I marveled at the cut scenes and CD quality music. For some reason, that system more than others really creates nostalgia in me.
With some oddball titles in the Sega CD and the love/hate relationship the gaming community has had with the Sega CD, how has your view of the Sega CD evolved over the years?
I really don’t understand the hate for the system. I talk with my cousin Manny on a regular basis about how blinded and wrong the general public are about the system. I feel like most opinions were formed based on the system’s overall failure, the FMV games, and the marketing.
Well, at least this last year (especially with the Night Trap Remaster), we are starting to see some appreciation for the FMV genre, the limitations the Sega CD has to work with and some of the gems the platform had.
What has been your recent goals for adding to your collection?
I’m currently focusing on on obtaining Complete in Box SNES and NES games that I had as a child. I still own those games, but they are loose. I’d love to have them CIB like they were the first day I got them!
What is your typical collecting / acquisition strategy currently? How did that strategy differ 5 to 10 years ago?
For me, I just don’t have time to go to garage sales like I used to, and pawn shops that have retro games are a rare breed. With that in mind, I usually save up money for when I go to conventions or I talk with like-minded gamers on Facebook groups. Then there’s always EBAY! It’s just not as fun to collect as it used to be honestly. Back in the 90s, and early 2000s, now THAT was a golden age for collecting Atari, SEGA, TurboGrafx–16, SNES, NES… you name it!
What types of games/items are you an absolute sucker for?
Sega Master System games were for YEARS my “go to” games to collect. Something about the console was so charming and I just love rooting for the underdog! Discovering the vast array of PAL territory games only released in Europe and Brazil was a revelation! There are so many variations and different accessories and weird foreign differences… it’s just such a FUN system to collect for!
How many consoles do you have hooked up an ready to go at a given time?
Between five and eight systems usually. A few of the modern and clone consoles hooked up to my modern HDTV and a few retro consoles (like Sega CDX, Atari Jaguar, Dreamcast) on my 32” Sony Analog TV from 1990.
Do you ever sell or trade off items?
I recently made a huge life decision to accept a new job and move my family out of state. Unfortunately, the cost of making such a move is very expensive, so I had to sell a large number of my rare games. I still have some of the rares I just could never part with, but the collection definitely took a hit recently.
I feel your pain. I sold off most of my Sega CD, 32X and a handful of nice Saturn games when I made a similar move in my early twenties (15 years ago!)
What types of items are the biggest collecting challenges for you?
Collecting for Turbografx–16 has gotten so hard just because of the scarcity and price. I remember when you used to be able to find this stuff on the cheap, but now it seems conventions and eBay are the only way to find these games.
Collecting Games With Your Family & Documenting with Video
So how did your dad originally get into video games?
Dad was a twenty-something when Atari became a household name. He and his sister (my Aunt) would buy Atari games all the time. It was a spectacle! They loved experiencing Pitfall, Yar’s Revenge, Berserk… all those games were just so groundbreaking and they loved it all. My family was into gaming from the start. They were just very fun natured… big kids!
While we now we have more things to think about when having our kids play videos games (whether its content or complexity of controls), do you know if your dad had any rules of thumb for parenting in the gaming world?
Dad, even in the days of the NES and Sega Genesis, was mindful of what I would play. I remember him returning Robocop on NES to the store because he felt there was too much violence with actual weapons against human enemies. I also remember him telling me while I played GTA 3 “Why don’t you play the actual story? You’re just running around killing people. It’s like a murder simulator.” Obviously, that whole debate is still a huge topic of contention these days. Dad liked fantasy violence (sci fi movies, action movies, zombie movies), but wasn’t a fan of realistic violence (IE The Devil’s Reject, Hostel)
Going back to your early (first?) My Retro Life video, “Sega Genesis Power Team”, your dad was almost like a gaming Youtuber well over a decade before YouTube existed. How do you think his style and enthusiasm has transferred to you?
Oh, I try to be every bit as enthusiastic and fun as he was in that video when I’m recording for the channel. He taught me everything I know about how to act on camera!
How does your taste for games compare now to your dad’s gaming tastes?
Dad was never good at the fast paced platforming games I would play. He always marveled at my ability to run through Super Mario Bros 3, jumping on platforms without hesitating! His favorite games were the slower, more methodical one’s like Flashback, Snatcher, or Tomb Raider. I still love platformers, but now that I’m an adult, I appreciate and actually love to play those games that were a little too complicated for me as a child.
Ha! That’s so fascinating to hear — almost similar to different musical tastes, which I’m sure both generation and age influences.
I noticed you got a lot for Christmas and your parents have made mentions of your “list”. Did they base a lot of the game gifts on a wish list of yours? If so, do remember how you ended up deciding which games to put on your list?
When I was very young (late 80’s, early 90’s) they would help me create my Christmas list. Dad would suggest games he knew were great ones! As I got older, I’d read gaming magazines with him and aside from a few games I would ask for, Dad came up with most of the purchases. He was just a very knowledgeable hardcore gamer in those days!
I love some of what I like to refer to as the “time machine” moments that are showing in some of your videos. Little pieces of life that show glimpses of what life what like in the decades past — especially outside of home. An example that comes to my mind is when your dad picks you up from school in your Atari 2600 video. What other bits stand out to you that are nice nostalgic nuggets in your footage that isn’t game related?
My family walking through malls and amusements parks in the late 80’s during the “Arcade Games” episode really strikes me. I also love the clip of me and my cousins having lunch at Wendy’s in 1993. The “Disney Afternoon” episode is loaded with Disney pop culture stuff and I love seeing and reliving those memories through the clips. My family was a huge “Disney”-loving family.
I know you mention your cousins in a handful of your videos. How often did you guys play games together and how did their collection influence your collection, if at all?
Even though they lived in New York and we lived in Texas, we called and spoke to my cousins ALL THE TIME. They would tell us about all the latest games they were playing, and we would tell them about our latest discoveries. We were, as a I said before, a family of gamers, but their tastes leaned more towards RPG’s and Adventure games while ours was more Arcade and Action Platformers. The diversity was great though, as they would often send us VHS tape recordings of them playing games we’d never otherwise check out.
When did the idea to start the My Retro Life series enter your head as a solid idea?
Before I rebranded the channel as “iretrogamer”, it was an all “Sega Channel” and the first episode of “My Retro Life” (Genesis Power Team Vol 1) was just a one-off. I wanted to show my audience my life as a gamer collecting Sega games with my Dad. After the video went up, it was a major success. It was featured on Kotaku and I was even interviewed for an article on The Guardian. I knew I’d hit upon something special, and I also knew that there was an entire home video library of footage from which I could tell these stories of my gaming life. Thus, the series was born.
That’s awesome! How has your expectations for the project’s results differed from your initial expectations?
I always knew that if I handled these videos with care and made them from the heart, they would succeed on some level. It was basically a case where I knew I had something really special that a lot of gamers could get behind. Now, I will say, the comments I’ve received from viewers sometimes touch me on a personal level. The videos have this way of transporting the audience back into their own childhood. Even though these are my memories, people sort of relive their own memories through the videos. It’s such an awesome thing and it honestly is a blessing for me to be able to create something so special for others.
I know the Sega Master System is a big part of your gaming history and your collection. Personally, I never really heard much about the Master System when I was a kid in the 80s and 90s. Did you know anyone else in your school that had a Master System and/or what did your friends think of it?
I only knew one kid in grade school who owned a Sega Master System. Everyone else had to be educated… in the US it was all about Nintendo. As a small child, one of my introductions to video games was playing my neighbors Sega Master System. These four boys who lived next door had Space Harrier, Rambo, and Ghostbusters. Those three games are in fact some of the very first games I ever played. In fact, the reason my Dad originally bought a Sega Master System for me Christmas of ’89 was because it was the system my neighbors had. It’s a shame in some ways that my Dad returned it after realizing it was to be discontinued… I almost was a Sega kid from the start!
Obviously, your connection with your Dad was really strengthened by game play and discussion time with him. How has that effected your perspective on parenting?
With my daughter, I definitely try to play games with her and introduce her to pop culture the way my Dad did with me. She’s only three years old but already loves video games. She has a bit of trouble with the controls and often times just wants me to play while she watches. It’s an incredibly surreal thing for me, being a gamer Dad and watching her grow with not just video games, but the games from my childhood that I played with MY Dad. His legacy lives on.
That’s great, Tyler. Thanks again for sharing your stories and perspective. It’s been a pleasure to see the connection of video games and family over the years. Everyone, be sure to check out his Youtube channel, iretrogamer (and specifically the My Retro Life series as it relates to this interview), if you haven’t already.