VGT – A Video Game Extravaganza

2013-07-13 14.03.15

Jackson, Ted, and Nate

I’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on a recent video game extravaganza weekend that I had with both my son and my nephew, jackson.  It’s often funny how events work out the way that they do.   I remember how I found out that Jackson had become a bit of a Zelda fanatic – it was during a visit at my Dad’s house.   I can still see him with his Nintendo 3DS handheld sitting on the sofa.  He was playing Ocarina of Time and he wasn’t merely interested in the game, he was obsessed with it.  He was talking about Hyrule and Gerudo to anyone who would listen.  Nathan and I were probably the only two people in the entire group who understood what he was talking about!  It is a testament to a well-designed game when it can cross several generations.

This summer I learned that Jackson have been given a classic NES console with several games.  He became interested in playing many retro games.  I think it is extraordinary when an eleven year old can find an interest like this.  It would seem to me that there are so many other, newer systems out there that would be far more interesting to a young mind.  Yet the 8 bit graphics and sound seemed to captivate Jackson’s imagination.  He and I exchanged email addresses and we started to correspond.   Eventually we started to discuss the possibility of having him come to visit my house and see my game room.  So the plan was made and we found a weekend that he could come to my little town of McAdenville.  My wife, anticipating a weekend of a lot of video game action and noise, decided that a visit to the beach with her girlfriends was definitely in order.  So the plans were made, details were worked out and this is how our weekend went…

I decided to take a Friday off and met Jackson at a half way point.  His grandparents drove him and we had a nice lunch at a Golden Corral.  They also brought my niece Lexi and it was nice to visit with her.  After lunch, Jackson got into the car and we headed back toward Charlotte.  We talked about many video game related things such as Zelda timelines and various videos and memes on Youtube.  Before long we parked at one of my favorite Goodwill stores.  Part of the weekend was going to be spent shopping for retro games and items.   At the store, I discovered a unique looking rifle designed for a Wii controller and decided to pick it up.

Ever seen this before?

Ever seen this before?

Jackson found a Nintendo Max game controller for only five bucks.  Then he proved to me that he was a bona fide collector – he discovered another Max controller that happened to still be in the box at the same price.  He wisely put the first controller away and decided to purchase the one in the box.  That is an eleven year old retro game collector to the core!  He also picked up one of those Atari paddles that had games built into it such as Circus Atari, Pong, and Super Breakout.  After Goodwill, we also went to another one of my favorite video game stores – Gamers Alley.  We looked through their large selection of games.  Jackson bought a couple of NES games that were still in the box and Nathan picked up a game called Dragon’s Dogma for the Xbox 360 which he seemed pretty excited about.

When we got back to the house the extravaganza truly began.  Nathan plugged in Dragon’s Dogma downstairs on the Xbox but Jackson and I went up to the game room.   He was almost like a starving person who had not seen food for weeks.  He asked me to connect my Atari 2600 and then he went through cartridge after cartridge.  He was eager to see what new classic game he was going to discover next.  After playing ET, Pitfall, and Missile Command, we decided to plug in his little retro Atari Paddle which worked well except for the fact that it was single player only.  What fun is Pong by yourself?  The next system he was interested in was my Nintendo 64 .  For some reason that game system from the nineties captured his attention and he tried out several games from my collection.

Some great 64 games

Some great 64 games

We then went downstairs, ordered pizza, and watched Nathan play some missions on Mass Effect 2.  Nathan has been somewhat obsessed with the Mass Effect universe as of late and is particularly interested in sharing his experience with me,  So he is playing through the entire trilogy again with me watching.  For me, it is almost like watching a movie with me (Ted Shepherd) as the star.

On Saturday, my friend Squiggly came over.  We played the next four hours with a focus on multiplayer gaming.   First, we needed to give the Wii U some love so we played some of the mini games in Nintendoland.  There were definitely some good moments as we played the Zelda game and the Pikmin game.  After a while “Retro” Jackson went upstairs to hang out in the game room for a while.  So downstairs, we played one of the Burnout driving games downstairs.   We just played some of the levels in which you are trying to cause as much wreck damage as possible at an intersection.  We would each take a turn, and then passed the controller to a buddy all for the bragging rights to the highest damage score.

Nathan had mentioned that a game called Castle Crashers was a fun multiplayer game so I downloaded it to my X Box 360.  That game  literally took over the rest of the weekend.  We played it up until the time that Squiggly had to leave and continued to play it late into the night Saturday.  I got tired and went to bed but Nathan and Jackson  stayed up even later and watched Netflix.

The next morning we played some more Castle Crashers and got right up to the final boss.  However, Jackson was holding us back  because he wouldn’t buy any potions.  He said he was wanting to save up to buy a pet pig in the game (which was kind of a useless pet).  So gameplay consisted of Jackson dying and subsequently we would risk our lives trying to resurrect him and thus get killed.  (Later that week Nate and I beat it)

Jackson kept asking when we could go back to the Goodwill store so that he could buy a Nintendo 64 for himself.  It just so happened that I was at a yard sale about six months ago and I picked up an additional system.  Here was a kid who is interested in retro gaming and I had an extra system.  So while he was playing a 64 game, I pulled out the complete system and told him that I was giving it to him. It was one of the more touching moments of the weekend when Jackson, too overcome for words, simply came over to me and gave me a sincere hug.

The weekend went by much too quickly and I was happy to spend some time with my nephew.  I have given him a new nickname, “The Jacksonian Institute of Video Game History”.  For me, video games were just the medium for establishing and building a relationship.  Some people may think that video game players are reclusive and lonely, but I have found in my experience that game players are some of the most social people you could ever come across.  After all, I think relationship is what life is really all about.  Jackson, Nathan, Squiggly, myself, and many others have this common love of games both old and new.  It was great just hanging out together!

VGT – Local Store: Tastebuds Popcorn

Tastebuds in Belmont

Gamers need good gamer grub and Tastebuds Popcorn is a great source for premium snacks.  I love this store!  After it opened in October 2011, I drove by it many times and then finally could not resist stopping by to see what was inside.  I was not disappointed.  Going to Tastebuds Popcorn is not just a purchase, it’s kind of an experience.  First of all, you walk in and see this wall of popcorn flavors and you are greeted by the friendly staff.  You can try two samples for free.

150+ Flavors

There are over 150+ flavors to choose from so it can be a difficult choice.  What flavors!  Everything from salty to savory to sweet to sour to chocolaty…….   I’ve been to the store several times now and I make a point to try something new every time.  Some of my favorites are Salt & Vinegar, Reese’s, Carolina’s Mix (a combination of sweet and salty), and Andes Chocolate Mint.  My wife really likes the White Chocolate Peppermint.  We have also given flavors such as Dr. Pepper, Cookies & Cream, and Fourth of July mix as gifts.

Mountain Dew Flavored Popcorn!

What flavors will gamers appreciate?  Hands down it would have to be Mountain Dew flavor!  Another strong contender would have to be Sour Patch Kids.  Can you imagine having some friends over for a video game extravaganza and having awesome snacks like that?  One important thing to note, is that these are considered to be gourmet snacks.  Gourmet is not going to cost you the same as store bought microwave popcorn.  I bought the three bags in the picture below and paid almost $30.  It’s not cheap, but it’s oh so good.

Some of my favorite flavors

If you are ever in historic downtown Belmont, it is worth the stop to check out Tastebuds Popcorn.  I think you will like it too.  Now, back to some more Carolina’s Mix….for breakfast.

Tastebuds Popcorn Information:

208 North Main Street

Belmont, NC 28012

VGT – Local Store: Gamers Alley

Gamers Alley in Cramerton, NC

I live in McAdenville, NC.  It is a small town just south of Charlotte.  About a year ago I discovered a great local resource for gaming – a store called Gamers Alley – owned and operated by Scott Crager.  Located at 202 Market St in Cramerton, this local business is right between Georgio’s Restaurant and Market Pizza.  The store buys/sells games, consoles, accessories, and movies.  I like the arcade machines he has set up in his store.  These machines have many options for classic games.  I always bring a few quarters so I can feel like a teenager again.  For some reason, I have been playing Scramble lately.  I have also played a Street Fighter 2 few times against the owner.  He beat me soundly but I let him win because he was putting his own quarters in!

A customer plays an arcade game

It seems like every time I go there I find some new system or game that someone has traded in.  I recently saw a Sega Master System – but it was not for sale.  Scott is a collector just like me.  I also have seen a Turbo Graphix 16 and a Neo-Geo Pocket.  Those weren’t for sale either.  Come on Scott!  Sell one of them to me.  He does sell some of the systems.  The last time I was there I picked up an original XBox for $24.99.  I don’t want you to think it’s only used games and systems for sale there.  I bought my Nintendo 3DS at Gamers Alley.

He put a power glove over the checkout scanner!

Scott is a family man and I will sometimes see his son or daughter there.  He has also learned the value of community and utilizes Facebook as well as a website.  He posts recently traded items, plans tournaments, and also gives a 10% discount if you “Like” his Facebook page.  His store also provides a community for gamers both old and young.  Whenever I go to the store, there is always someone just hanging out.  I always learn something new just by talking with other customers.  Yesterday I learned that Atari made a wireless joystick for the classic 2600 system.  I need to see that.

A young customer at Gamers Alley!

I have been enjoying the Gamers Alley rental program.  It’s just $16 (after tax) a month for unlimited used game rentals.  I am in paradise!  I am able to walk the aisles, select a game, check it out, and then go home and play it.  This has been perfect for me with games that have value, but are not necessarily my taste.  For example, I have rented games such as the latest Deus Ex, the Mass Effect series, and Skyrim.  I can try all of them and then go back for more.  This rental program has saved me a lot of money and given me the opportunity to try out lots of games.

Paradise on earth!

So if you are ever in the Gastonia/Belmont/Cramerton area and you love all kinds of video games, check out Gamers Alley.  My only complaint is that my spell check keeps wanting to put an apostrophe in their name!

Gamers Alley Information:

202 Market St

Cramerton, NC 28032