February 18, 2008
THE COLLECTOR'S PITFALL
If you still own a copy of Pitfall! for the Atari Video Computer System then there's a chance that you're a geek. But when it's autographed by game designer David Crane, such a cartridge serves as legal proof of inexorable geekery in most states. I recently stumbled upon this monogrammed game of mine which inspired me to track down and blog photos of my visit to the 1999 Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas where I earned this nerdiest of treasures. My search yielded disappointingly pathetic results. Even so, I'll go ahead and present you with two unremarkable photos and a scan of the cover of the official expo program.
David Crane signs a game cartridge. Why did I even take this? Why not just wait for him to finish so that he could look at the camera? Anyway, I got a kick out of hearing panel discussions on the golden years of home gaming. Activision was the first company to credit individual game designers and in turn, they were treated like rock stars. Million dollar parties accompanied each new game release. Multiple hotel ballrooms were filled with foliage and live jungle animals for the debut of Pitfall! and when Barnstorming came out, creator Steve Cartwright landed at the red carpet in a real biplane.
They also discussed the sudden downfall of the industry in 1983. The panel cited a massive influx of inferior games as the primary cause of the crash. One programmer recalled how he knew it was all over when he saw copies of Parker Brothers Star Wars series of Atari games on sale at Toys "R" Us for $3.00 apiece– and each box advertised a $5.00* mail-in rebate! (*Those numbers may not be exact, but I know they're close)
This shoddy snapshot pretty much sums up the dealer floor– tables and tables of old software and software related ephemera. I quite enjoyed it, and I did come home with that Q-Bert coin bank in the foreground. But the real purchasing action took place deep in the night in the designated trading room. I got some crazy-good deals one night from a fellow who was gleefully liquidating his collection at near giveaway prices. Ah, vacation memories.
As promised, here's that program booklet. Having seen this display of memorabilia, I'm confident that you now feel as though you were actually there.