Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Eight-Bit Antiquities

Greg Tito | 24 Nov 2009 12:25
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The administrators of the NCHEG are gamers themselves, so they understand why having access to all of these games is inherently cool. But as historians, their collection sheds light on a more profound cultural shift than simply going from one console generation to the next. "The history of electronic games, written from a long-term perspective, will invariably be tied to the larger story of the transition from an analog to a digital society," said Wheeler when I asked him what the collection was all about. "Electronic games are a combination of technological advances and the cultural context in which they were created; they are a confluence of technology and play. The artifacts have stories to tell and lessons to teach us, if we allow them."

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Dan still displays his family's Atari by his TV, a reminder of his ill-fated experiment. But instead of being ashamed of its old-timey-ness, he shows it off as a sign of his geek credibility. Any nerd would be impressed by such a relic, one that helped shape the hobby that defines so many gamers' lives. To him, the Atari 2600 is not just a worthless paperweight - it's an important artifact that deserves a place of honor in his home.

Seeing it so proudly displayed reminded me of the treasures of an Egyptian pharaoh or a medieval scholar. My recent foray into ancient gaming pieces made me wonder what videogame hardware will be important enough to be sought after 100 or even 500 years from now. I realized that I had accumulated quite a collection of old game systems myself - nowhere near the size of the NCHEG's, of course, but more than those of most of today's gamers. In my cramped apartment, I've managed to save room for my first NES (with the lightgun and its original gamepads), a Super Nintendo and an aging Xbox. Mind you, none of these systems are hooked up to my TV - they're just collecting dust, waiting to be freed from their cardboard prisons and exhibited once again.

But perhaps that's about to change. It was always my dream to have a game room with a dedicated nook for each console and an A/V switch that would allow me to keep them all hooked up and ready to play. And since I've just relocated to a much larger apartment, that dream could become a reality. I've begun to look at my friends' old consoles with a collector's monocle and greedy hands. Dan's Atari 2600 was a prime target.

"Hey, how much do you want for that Atari? Twenty bucks? Sold!"

That's a cheap price for a piece of gaming history.

Despite working in New York City for 10 years as a freelance games journalist, playwright and theater producer, Greg Tito has a hard time convincing people that playing Grand Theft Auto 4 makes him feel nostalgic.

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