One of my huge loves is what I call “portable nostalgia”. Portable nostalgia is condensing all the things I treasured from my childhood into one small and transportable yet full form so that I can experience it wherever and whenever I am. This is my personal unified field theory, and the desire for it or something like it has been a part of my life for as far as I can remember. When I was a teen, I was super excited to get Raiders of the Lost Ark on VHS because that meant I could watch it “whenever I want”. That longing to have something whenever I wanted it is the same longing behind portable nostalgia. It drove me to write my books ANESthetized and Arcadian, It has also led me to buy Brett Weiss’ Classic Home Video Games books.
Weiss has done something fairly incredible with this three volume set. He has not only identified the major consoles of three distinct video gaming eras (1972-1984, 1985-1988, and 1989-1990), but he has also written a synopsis for every single game on those systems. You read correctly. EVERY SINGLE GAME! For systems like the Atari 7800, that’s not such a big feat. But for systems like the 2600 or NES, that is huge. This huge thing is what Weiss has done, and he has been rewarded for it by video game guru Walter Day, as he discuss on his blog, Brett Weiss: Words of Wonder.
The books follow a real simple, practical pattern. Brett talks about a console for a little while, then breaks into the game section. He gives us the basic info, like the title of the game, the publisher, how many players, what type, etc., then he gives his synopsis. Each synopsis is fairly short (about a page on my Kindle), but it gives a good overview of the game. Weiss also lets us know about any other versions of the game as well as sequels and sometimes similar games. There are even pictures of some of the games throughout the books.
My only gripe with these books is that I got the e-versions. I mostly like e-versions and prefer them to the hard copy, but since these books are really reference books and thus something you’re more likely to browse through than read cover to cover, I would have liked to have the hard copies. It’s much harder to browse on an e-reader. The good news, though, is that the entries are so short yet interesting that I didn’t mind not being able to browse. In fact, I approached the 7800 section with the intention of reading only the entries that interested me and skipping the others. As it turned out, though, I kept getting interested in every write-up, even if I had never heard of the game being covered. The end result was that I read the entire section.
I don’t think it is false praise to say that these books are landmark achievements for retro video game lovers. They put every game in a small package that we can consult at our leisure, which makes them not only an invaluable resource but also just about the supreme example of portable nostalgia. If you love that nostalgia like I do, pick up either the hard cover, soft cover, or Kindle version at Amazon.com or at Brett’s site .