The Duffel Bag
by Rob "Dire 51" Strangman
Back in 1987, I was refusing to embrace the new generation of consoles. "You guys can have these new games that put all their focus on graphics," I sneered to my friends at school. "I'll stick with my Atari, thankyouverymuch." A couple guys laughed in my face, and I heard several others snickering behind my back as I turned away. The NES (and to a lesser extent, the Sega Master System) was the future, and they knew it. I'm sure a lot of them wondered why I couldn't see that.
As the months passed, I became known as "the Atari guy" in my school (Dr. Charles E. Murphy Junior High School in Montville, CT., for those of you keeping score). This turned out to be quite beneficial to me. As so many of the guys at my school were embracing the NES, they (and their families) were turning their collective backs on the systems they'd been loving just a few scant years before. As such, they wanted to be free of the games that were now collecting dust in the odd corners of their attics, closets and garages. Most were happy to find someone who would actually take these games off their hands, and none of them charged me more than a couple dollars per game, if that.
One day, while I was sitting in science class, I got to talking with a guy I knew (I think his name was Matt). I don't recall the specifics of the conversation, but at one point he asked me if I was still collecting Atari games. I said that I was, and he asked me if I'd be interested in a few games his relatives had left at his place. "How much?" I asked. He shrugged and said "You can have them. We don't want them."
Upon hearing that, I enthusiastically agreed to take them off his hands. I didn't bother to ask him specifics, because hey - they were free. The possibility existed that they might all be games I already had, but at that price, who cares?
A few days later, Matt walked into science class with two duffel bags. I recognized the one he always carried, but didn't pay much attention to the other until he set it down on my desk and said "Here you go."
My eyes almost popped out of their sockets. "You mean...?"
"Yep. Just bring the bag back tomorrow."
I thanked Matt profusely, then unzipped the bag. There had to have been close to fifty games inside, several with their manuals. I thought to myself "if this was his idea of 'a few games', I wonder what his idea of 'a lot of games' was?" I recognized several titles immediately (Defender, Asteroids, etc) but there were a lot I'd never heard of... Mountain King, Fathom, Cosmic Creeps and so many others. I could barely wait to get home.
My brother and sister were amazed when I walked into the house with a duffel bag full of new Atari games. We tried all of them out, and played the most intriguing ones well into the evening (I tell you, our old VCS had NEVER gotten a workout like it did that night in the whole time we'd owned it). The best part was that well over half of the games in the bag we'd never seen before - and because of that, I had to build a new shelving unit in shop class just to hold our collection.
Since then, I've received several similar surprises during my career as a gamer. A lot of those surprises have been quite nice and worthy of discussion in their own right, but I have to admit, nothing has ever quite topped the duffel bag.