Friday, July 29, 2011

Thrill of the hunt and the murder of the hunter!

As an avid video game hunter, I enjoy watching other people make videos of what they've found during their hunting adventures. Its something I wish I could do for both TVG and just for my own personal finds that don't really fit the criteria for TVG. Youtube is rife with people uploading weekly, monthly or just the occasional video of what they've found in flea markets or thrift stores. Even Gamester81 seems to have caught the bug and now has his own finds videos.

But last night, while on my usual youtube "finds" rounds, I saw a video that made something clear that I had never really thought about before. PenguinNintendoAge said he found an SNES game at Goodwill, but it had been a long time since he actually saw a video at Goodwill since they started using their online auction site, because they send all their games to be sold on there. His sentence only sat on my brain for mere seconds before it completely clicked. Goodwill has dried up because they do send all their stuff to be sold online!

I've found very few and far between deals at Goodwill and extremely rarely have I seen vintage games. Recently I bought some NES games from one Goodwill, some Gameboy and GBA games at another, and even a Genesis game at another! But for the most part they are over run with overpriced PS2 and Xbox/360 games. I do understand that it all depends on what is donated, and trust me throughout my adventures I've learned that no matter what you find on a shelf that doesn't mean you're going to find anything more than just that (such as an N64 controller doesn't mean the system or games were donated as well, etc).

Here is where this turns from frustration to anger. Goodwill gets all the good stuff! I'm not even joking, when I started watching there wasn't a single week go by that they didn't have at least 1 NES 2 (aka Top Loader) listed and sold it for an insane price. So it breaks down that people just dump boxes off at Goodwill and Goodwill makes a huge amount of money off of these things. (100% profit, remember?)

I am dying to get my hands on some pretty rare things that just don't show up in places like Disc Replay or even flea markets, without there being a hefty price tag alongside them. I thought Goodwill was going to be my ticket past this nightmare and I guess I was wrong. In life there are no free rides and nothing comes cheap, Goodwill is really proving that everyday with their business practices.

I have no choice but to keep my eyes open and go to as many Goodwills, and other thrift stores and flea markets as possible, in the hope that I can find what I'm looking for. Now when I look at the lack of video games I'll browse through and wonder how much of that stuff (sold locally) may have been at my finger tips, had it not been for money hungry Goodwill and their ebay rip off.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Travel, through video games.

I take it as a personal challenge to try any game labeled as a GTA Clone. It is true that I love the GTA series, and that may be a large portion of why I try these games. I also feel as though there is a deeper connection within myself that these games expose and utilize to make themselves more fun. I am a complete sucker for an open, expansive environment in a video game, because it taps into my desire to travel and explore different places.

Outside of gaming I love to travel, and nothing compares to a good road trip. There is nothing like getting in a vehicle and hitting the open road, listening to music, slurping down a cheap gas station soda and just watching the miles pass. And maybe I'm the only one, but I think video games offer forms of travel not too much unlike real travel. Obviously games have new lands, whether or not they're inspired by real life locations, to explorer and many different things to interact with.

I can remember as far back as the Sony Playstation there were a handful of games that got me started. While normal gamers might play through the missions and explore the game's landscape later, I would spend all my time literally following traffic laws, stopping at stop lights or stop signs and doing the speed limit. I loved pulling into random drive ways and just pretending I was getting out of my car and going into my house. Sound crazy? Yeah, I know!

With the leap from games like Driver, The Italian Job, Auto Destruct and naturally the original GTA games (all PS), the first 3 of which only offered car exploration and GTA was merely top down exploration, to the era of being able to get out on foot to explore seemingly endless scenery. I've spent countless hours walking around in games like Driver 2, GTA 3 (VC and SA), Scarface, Total Overdose, Driver: Parallel Lines and even The Great Escape and Prisoner of War! These games just open a door to places I've never seen before. It just seems that no matter how many times I've been somewhere within the game, if I push back the boundaries just a little more I always find something new.

Some games such as Total Overdose and Scarface have terrible handling cars, so sometimes its just more fun to get out and explorer places on foot. While games like Driver 2 and Driver 3 have terrible walking abilities, so I try to keep walking to a minimum and take more advantage of the bounty of cars these games offer. GTA San Andreas is one game that even after years of playing that game, I'm still finding new places.

Even when GTA uses the same name for a city but changes the landscape (Liberty City/LC Stories and Vice City/VC Stories) they do it in such a way that it stays fresh and even though I've seen 90% of that city before, I still enjoy exploring it all over again, just a few years before my last visit (or was it first visit..?). As I said before some cities are modeled after real places and others are fictional and this really adds to the overall excitement of exploration.

From time to time I get the urge to pop in these games and travel through the worlds they offer as if I were going back to visit an old friend. Sure its fun to play bumper cars with the vehicles and see if pedestrians can outrun you before they become roadkill, but each game gives off an enveloping feeling to suck you into the environment and bring you into it's world. The sandbox style of game has a deeply rooted place in my heart and I will always try them out, because no matter how bad the game play may truly be, I am a sucker for a city waiting to be explored!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A collector's nightmare!

Remember the childhood memories of opening up the box and pulling out that brand new NES game, popping it into the system and playing until your thumbs hurt and your eyes bled? How about when you grew away from the NES and took all your old games and systems to your local game resale store to put the credit into a more modern game or system? Remember them giving you an ultra low (often times insulting) offer, and when you told them you would rather not sell any of it they handed you a receipt and shoved you out the door? I do!

I was always late into the console wars, except when I was 16. With my summer job money I bought a brand new Sony Playstation about a year or so after it's release... that was new to me! (The PS later became my down payment for my first guitar!) After playing some games I borrowed from friends, I wanted to start building my own collection and since my NES and Genesis were just sitting there collecting dust, they were the keys to getting credit for my new collection. I did what any other absent minded teenager did, I took everything in a large box to FuncoLand (now ShameStop) and awaited the fortune they were about to offer me so I could clear out all of their Playstation games.

What really happened was a lot less exciting. The store didn't even want my Genesis simply because I didn't have the OEM power supply, however they didn't have any problem offering me pennies for the games, controllers and everything else. During the "think it over" time they allotted me, I was busy pondering whether I should take the credit and buy Resident Evil or just take everything home and save up to buy RE on my own. I decided I didn't want to part with my goods, but as I turned around they shoved a long receipt in my hand and told me to have a nice day. I didn't even get the chance to open my mouth and say what I planned on saying!

I remember trying to correct him and telling him I'd rather not sell my stuff, as he handed back my Genesis, to which I was quickly shot down with a "Too late man!". All that was left was to just go ahead with what I came there to do, buy Resident Evil. I can remember the game was used and it was $14. To tell you how bad it honestly was, I still had to pay almost half of that out of pocket! That day I walked out of FuncoLand with a Genesis deck and Resident Evil, in the wrong case.

Most of the NES games I lost weren't brand new, but they did have their boxes and manuals because I bought them from a local video rental store that was selling off their old games and systems. I had games like Wayne's World complete in the box but since the game sucked I didn't worry (at that time) about passing it off to get a game I would rather play. To be honest, I love Resident Evil. I played it all summer and didn't give a single thought more about being completely and totally screwed over by FuncoLand, it was over and done with as I was shooting Zombies and solving puzzles through a giant mansion out in the middle of nowhere.

As time went on I never really cared about what games I kept and what games I let slip through my hands, all in the pursuit of something I wanted or just the fact I'd forgotten what I had. Many times I sold games to help buy a new guitar and other times I lost games through no fault of my own. An example of  this would be my first Atari 2600 and games (including Harbor Escape!), which my dad forgot was stored inside an old truck he owned and he sold it with everything still inside!

Today I wish I had a tighter grasp on the games I let go, games that I can never get back in the condition I parted with, without shelling out a small fortune. Recently I was just messing around online to see which of my current games might be the rarest, as suggested by an online rarity guide. While going through the guide, I noticed many of the games I had lost; the CIB Wayne's World (NES), Harbor Escape (2600), CIB Final Fantasy 3 (SNES) are now worth huge bucks, and that is just to name a few.

Through ignorance of my own as well as other's, I've lost a ton of games. Whether or not most of those games had any value beyond the pleasure they brought me as a child, I'm not sure but I know that from here on I'm going to make sure I keep a tight grasp on what video games I own. I've learned my lesson, and even when adding to my modern game collection I want it all to be as close to complete as possible or I'll just pass it up. I know someday I will look back and be glad I had saved them in the condition I did and never sold them off. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sports and their video game counterparts.

With lockouts threatening both the NFL and NBA seasons, I've taken it upon myself to play more sports games on my classic consoles. Most collectors will know that there is absolutely no shortage of sports titles for the classic systems. In fact, some collectors even hate the bountiful plethora of sports titles because they often get in the way of finding the good games, out numbering them by quite a large margin. I could personally take them or leave them. If I find a sports title I don't already own for a good price (a couple bucks max), I'll buy it.

Recently I've found myself playing a lot of NBA Jam and NHL games for my Sega Genesis. This is probably due mostly to the fact that I know I can use my Genesis 3, and it now has sound! Since my living space is kind of cramped, I need to put everything away in boxes and I find myself putting my Genesis 3 in a box right on top, along with everything I need to pull it out and plug it in straight away.

Lets talk about sports. You see all the superstar athletes doing their job and living their high paid lives in the limelight, then when it becomes about money they throw a tantrum. I don't fully understand why there is a lockout and to be quite honest I don't care! As a kid you played sports because they were fun, not because you drove your pimped out Hummer H3 to 3rd grade everyday and ate your lunch off silver platters. Why is it so different when you're a grown up?

I understand we all need to make a living, and sports stars are considered celebrities to some, but lets be honest about the payment ratio here. As my brother said to me, who is more important a trash man or an NFL MVP? Does your trash man get much camera time? No. Does your trash man live a glamorous life? Probably not. If the NFL MVP went on strike would you be stuck with mounds of rotting and decaying trash in your front lawn? No! Do we see an issue here?

Sports are suppose to be fun activities and somewhere along the line they were transformed into careers. Not to say I don't like watching a good sporting event, but I would rather know the player is having a good time instead of worrying about what diamond studded, golden chain necklace he is going to buy after the game. With everything being said, I've decided that regardless of whether there is an NFL or NBA season, I'm not going to get caught up in it. Instead, I plan on playing out my own season with my classic video game systems, they don't run crying to lawyers when money becomes an issue.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oh thrift stores..

Thrift stores and I used to have a wonderful relationship. Back when they all smelled like moldy cheese under your 400lb Uncle Lou's fat rolls and I was too young to understand the value of a dollar, everything was great! Thrift stores personified the old saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure!", but over time they've lost touch with reality and think they're bigger than they truly are.

Now, I'm sure we all know how a thrift store operates, but let me quickly refresh your memory. All items within the stores are donated at no cost to the desired thrift store and priced to sell to help keep the store afloat and help a worthy cause. Goodwill used to boast they were helping the mentally challenged and these days the only mentally challenged people I see in Goodwill are the ones who are mentally challenged through faults of their own. Throughout the course of this entry you will need to constantly bear in mind, no thrift store ever pays a cent for the items they sell, this is resale and not retail.

Locally, there are three main choices of thrift stores, I assume only two of which are big names throughout the rest of the United States; D.A.V., Goodwill and Salvation Army. As often as possible Goodwill and Salvation Army will use their causes to get you to donate, and as long as these causes are in fact being aided I see no problem with helping them help the cause, as long as prices are fair. Oh, but fair pricing shouldn't be a problem, after all every single sale is 100% profit, so why wouldn't pricing be fair?


Goodwill is seemingly everywhere! I frequent about 5 or 6 Goodwill stores locally and on occasion possibly up to 7 or 8. Goodwill offers a weekly 50% discount on all items with a certain tag color, as well as every first Saturday of the month everything is 50% off, this is a great idea to help clear the shelves to make room for new items. Now, Goodwill has a complete and utter lack of knowledge of what they sell and nothing is tested, it simply gets priced and tossed out on the shelves. This can play into and out of some people's favor, as you might find a great deal on something that was way under priced, yet you're most likely to find items are extremely over priced.

With Goodwill, there is absolutely NO bartering, they will simply refuse to sell you the item, so you either pay the price or take the chance on waiting for it's discount time to come around. I've personally found quite a few great deals in Goodwill, but there have been times I have just flat out refused to pay their prices for some beaten down, broken, over priced junk. The tag it and shelf it policy really annoys me, because it shows they take money more importantly than they do trying to help the consumer and give them the best value possible.

Goodwill also offers their own version of online auctions. Most of the time these auctions are packed with really great items, yet everything starts at $5 and there is also a handling fee tacked on for them simply touching the item, the most literal sense of handling. If your local Goodwill's auctions are different, that is because I only check my local Goodwill's auctions because shipping is always twice as much as it should be, plus the handling fees, causing most auctions to exceed, beyond a reasonable amount, what those items should be worth.

Through my frequent trips to Goodwill I would say they're hit or miss with their value, but I can't say it has been all bad because I have gotten quite a few good deals there. Goodwill is trying to become the Macy's of thrift stores and it may be only a matter of time until their prices reflect just that. Goodwill does offer a return policy, but it is so stringent that its almost not even worth the effort to get a Goodwill gift card with your money on it (no cash back FTW)! The careless attitude and letting uninformed employees go wild with a pricing gun really brings down my respect for Goodwill, nothing in Goodwill is the holy grail, no matter how much they wish it were.

Salvation Army

It seems Salvation Army does do a lot of good for communities and that is something I can respect. Sure the stores aren't as brightly colored and tidy as Goodwill, but that means lower overhead and more reasonable pricing. Much like Goodwill, Salvation Army also offers a weekly colored tag discount as well as miscellaneous holiday discounts on certain types of items. Overall, Salvation Army is my favorite thrift store, even so that isn't to say they're not without their own set of problems.

There are only a handful of Salvation Army thrift stores that I frequent, and they all vary wildly from store to store. Generally there is a religious undertone, different to my own, that gives you the sense of a friendly, painless thrift store experience. Most of the time I find my trips to Salvation Army to be a very good experience and everything is quite hassle-free, but at one particular Salvation Army it has been nothing but a waste of time. This store refuses to offer much leeway in their prices, even though any profit is 100% profit (did you remember?)!

Salvation Army doesn't check their donations, so they too have the price it and shelf it policy I hate so much. But sadly, Salvation Army goes one step further and doesn't offer any guarantee on their items, nor will they allow you to return the items! Once you've finished paying for your items, they're your's and your's for good! No backsies!

I can't let just one store ruin my whole view on the company, and I don't! Salvation Army has been fair to me and offers extremely good prices on most items, as well as friendly staff (all but that one store!). I highly recommend Salvation Army out of all of the thrift stores around here, obviously with the exception of the one store every visit has been fun, even if I didn't buy anything.


DAV is a tiny thrift store (only 1 left open locally) but they still offer great deals. DAV offers 2 discount colors per week, one is 50% and the other is 30%, so you have an even better chance of finding a good deal. There isn't much bad I can say about DAV, they've always treated me well and I've never seen anything in their store that made me want to shout "WOW! THATS A HIGH PRICE!". Although I did hear directly from one employee they rent the name, which probably means they're not so much associated with the Disabled American Veteran organization.

DAV offers a lot of holiday discounts like Salvation Army and with each trip it is either hit or miss in the manner of finding anything worth buying. Sometimes I wait for things to go on discount and end up losing them, but that doesn't mean they were overly priced. To be quite honest, DAV has some things that are over priced, but it is a rare occasion that I am shocked at how much they want for something.

I'm not aware if DAV offers a return policy, so I assume that once again your purchases are now your's. Even so, the pricing tends to be fair enough that you don't sweat the whole way home hoping you're not stuck with a broken pile of junk.

In conclusion, I love shopping at thrift stores. Most of the time thrift stores are my only outlet to finding the vintage gaming items I really want to own, or else I could just pay an arm and a leg to find them online. I've found great deals, I've found ok deals and I've found total and complete rip offs, but usually I find things that I want to own and that is why I still search thrift stores. The thrill of the hunt!