Review: Collecting Classic Video Games

When you start collecting old video games, it’s good to have some sort of reference to assist. Most of us rely on the Internet now, but that wasn’t always the case; the great resources we have now weren’t always there – books were the only way to go. If you were going in blind (like me for anything pre-NES), having a book to guide you is mandatory. This is where books such as Collecting Classic Video Games come in.

Collecting Classic Video Games was written by Billy Galaxy, a collector who also runs a shop in Portland, Oregon which is best described as some form of nerd Mecca. The book was published by Schiffer, a small publishing house which has produced a number of titles for collectors of pinball machines and popular toys like Transformers and comic book action figures.

The book is essentially a collection of over 1,000 full colour photos of video game consoles, peripherals, games and related memorabilia relating to the pre-NES period with a price guide thrown in for good measure. Credit has to go to the author for being particularly thorough – there are pictures of the original hardware boxes, nearly every piece of software is featured in box, and a lot of variants have been noted and photographed.

Pictures of memorabilia and promotional items are the book’s greatest asset; it’s great to see that the author wasn’t focused on just the games, but on the gaming culture of the time. It’s scary to see how many spin-off products there were from popular video games of the time, but not nearly as scary as the prospect of what one could end up spending looking for some of these obscurities.

Not everything an avid collector would want to see is present in the book. You’re out of luck if you were hoping to see pictures of oddities such as Chase the Chuck Wagon and Mangia. More concerning is the lack of informative text – each section has a brief introduction of what the system is, but beyond that, the book is really just a bunch of pictures with prices attached with little context. The book would be much stronger if it gave a little more information as to what each object is.

Other problems with the book are mainly related to obsolescence of printed information. Price guides are neat and all, but the problem with the collector market is that those prices are essentially out of date by the time the book hits the printing press, rendering them useless. Strong online resources for this information are now at your fingertips and accessible without charge, whereas this book is out of date and a little pricey at $US29.95.

Collecting Classic Video Games‘s excellent memorabilia section makes it worth a brief look, but the lack of pictures of major curiosities and the fact that the majority of the book’s content is out of date and available online free of charge is should be enough for one to rule out committing to a purchase.