Video stores were a completely new thing at the time and after having dropped $1300 for a VCR only a few months back, my dad had been making frequent trips to one of the few local video stores to rent movies. This store, "Minnesota Fats", was a pool table specialist that saw an opportunity in the home video and home videogame market and jumped on it. While you had to navigate your way through scores of pool tables to get to the video stuff, the selection was decent and the company eventually hit it big as the "Video King" only to die a quick death along with videogames in the early 80's. In fact, that's one aspect of the "great crash" that most people overlook - much more than just videogames were affected by it.
So anyway, I tagged along this Saturday and got my dad to play a little Intellivision Major League Baseball with me - he was instantly hooked. We took the system home that day along with the baseball cartridge. I remember playing the system until way past my 14-year-old bedtime that night. So long, in fact, we encountered a somewhat common problem with early Intellivision systems in that it overheated by the end of the evening and we found ourselves exchanging it for another system the next day.
Getting more cartridges for my system required a bit more creativity on my part as dad wasn't springing for them very often. Intellivision's library is strong in the sports game department which made for easy pickins' with dear old sports fan dad, but if I wanted anything else, I was pretty much on my own. I remember starving through most of my freshman and sophmore years of high school as I would sock-away the two bucks a day mom gave me for lunch and use it for a new game every three to four weeks.
My collection of games grew steadily. Titles such as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Sea Battle, and Night Stalker were all huge hits from the non-sports-game library. The classic sports games such as Major League Baseball, NFL Football, NHL Hockey, and Auto Racing couldn't be touched by anything I saw on any other system. Even my 2600-owning buddies had to concede defeat when it came to sports games. I can recall playing Astrosmash until a good 3am trying to reach the one million point minimum for entry in the Astrosmash contest with mom nagging at me every 20 minutes or so to go to bed and scrambling for the Polaroid to take a picture when I did make it. As pathetic as it may sound, my first experience in "puppy love" saw me at around 14 or 15 letting the girl of my dreams beat the tar out of me at Utopia. Damn, if I only could have put rebels on my own island!
New titles for the system seemed to take forever to show up. The convenience store at the end of my block was a sure place to find me hanging out around the first of every month waiting for the new issue of Electronic Games to show up. I usually had it read from cover-to-cover before I even walked the two blocks home and always complained to myself about how many more new games were coming out for the 2600 and how few "my" system saw. I always liked the ads more than the actual content of the magazine as they would list new games for sale that I had been waiting for or hadn't even heard of before. Companies such as VideoLivery were notorious for shattering my hopes by listing games as "coming soon" that would never see the light of day. Slowly some third-party stuff by Activision and Imagic started to hit the store shelves but never even close to as much as was available for the Atari 2600.
Now when the Intellivoice was released in 1982, I was stylin'! Only three games were initially released, B-17 Bomber, Bomb Squad and Space Spartans, but this thing could TALK! Stick that in your 2600 and smoke it boys! Yeah, so the speech was kinda cheesy and the things they said could just as easily be displayed as text on-screen someplace, but we needed "stuff" for our system. Mattel almost simultaneously dropped the computer expansion but very little concrete info had been made available about it so this was no great loss.
Intellivision II showed-up in 1983 and I remember not quite being able to form an opinion of it. It didn't really "do" anything new as it played all the same games and wasn't capable of playing anything enhanced so why would I want to spend my money on it instead of more games for the system I already had. I found the answer in one word - computer! This system's computer was actually released and it had a whole new baseball game available for it (among others) that looked very cool in that the game used a 3D perspective. It's mine!
The Intellivision and a few select (read lousy) games made it into the local paper and soon enough my trusty system was gone. I was left with just enough dough to pick-up an Intellivision II sans computer and I ran (or rather asked mom to drive) right out and picked one up. The controllers had a strange feel to them that I didn't like. The keypad buttons no longer "popped" when you pressed them and the disc seemed kinda wimpy. And what's with this on/off switch? You have to hold it down for three seconds to turn the system off? I wanna be able to SLAP that baby after I've locked myself in a corner with a cop in Lock N Chase - not sit there and patiently wait three seconds when it's time to "get away" from the system lest it finds itself broken! Talk about bummed!
In a couple months time, my faith in Mattel was restored when they announced the System Changer that would allow me to play Atari 2600 games on my Intellivision II. This beast would not work with the original Intellivision so I "would have had to upgrade anyway" now wouldn't I? Atari 2600 games were starting to show up for around ten bucks for "some reason" now, so I started to pick-up a few here and there. My opinion of them was that the vast majority of them sucked with a few exceptions in the likes of Circus Atari and Adventure. Although I was buying the bottom of the barrel stuff so I got what I paid for I guess.
The System Changer never saw much use around here and even the Intellivision itself was starting to get dusty from time to time except for the occassional challenge to a game of baseball from the old man. I'm proud to say that in the 3 or 4 years the system was in use around my house, I never lost a game of baseball and it drove my dad nuts!
As 1984 rolled around I had started to discover something a bit more seriously than I ever had before - girls! Slowly but surely videogames became less and less a part of my life. In hindsight, I've often wondered just how much of a role "growing up" played in the crash of 1984? I mean I'm SURE I wasn't alone in discovering, or trying damn hard to, the opposite sex. I got a computer for Christmas (a TRS-80 Color Computer of all things) in 1984 so the gaming time I did have was spent on the computer more in search of ways to create my own games than play games others had created. The CoCo wasn't the system of choice and I refused to be in the "minority" again so I sold-off all of my Intellivision stuff and got myself an Atari 8-bit computer. Videogames were dying a painful death by this time and it seemed even computers weren't going to resurrect them so the 8-bit just kinda sat there. I never had a disk drive and only had a handful of cartridges for it. Whatever the reason(s) for the crash, and whethr I knew it or not, I agreed with them and dark ages of games around the Kelly household commenced.
By late 1986, my parents, along with the rest of my family, had moved away to Toronto and I was living in an apartment my dad had built for me in my grandma's basement. Somehow or another a catalog from INTV corp, who had purchased the rights to Intellivision from Mattel, made it's way to me. INTV was selling a few new enhanced titles that could even be found in "Toys R Us" for a short period of time. For the most part, their enhancements consisted of adding a computer player to the more popular two-player-only sports game titles as that was one of Mattel's biggest problems - the vast majority of their popular games needed two human players. INTV did release a few original titles such as Hover Force, Super Pro Decathlon, Spiker Volleyball, Body Slam Wrestling, and even a sequel to the popular Burgertime in a Congo Bongo-like Diner.
At any rate, this catalog was like a coccoon that eventually became the collecting bug. Why the hell did I ever get rid of all those awesome Intellivision games I had? I began my quest to get them all back and started scrounging the flea markets every Sunday morning for them. It was awesome! Only a few short years ago I was paying $30-$50 apiece for these games and here they were again at the flea market for 1/10 or less that pricetag! Now I had both the Intellivision 1 and 2 as well as more games than I ever saw for my systems way back when including many I never even knew existed. Apparently games had "died" for me a little earlier than everyone else and Mattel was still producing games even after my system was filed away - how dare they?!
My interest in computers took a much shorter-lived vacation. By the time my videogame collecting was in high-gear, I was running a BBS on my Amiga 500 that I advertised as having a "Classic Videogames" section on it called "The Classic Games Survival Group". Many people that are now considered big-time collectors could be found hanging out there in their early days. Our own Clint Dyer was a frequent visitor as well as both Bill Zandrew and Jerry Griener who were both just "thinking about" getting into it. Shit....what DID I put in the water there??
As collecting started to become a bit more popular, I was turned-on to both Digital Press and The 2600 Connection. What's this?? *I* am not the only psycho in the world looking for this stuff? There were "dozens" of people just like me out there in the trenches looking for the stuff although the trenches were much more plentiful in 1989 and 1990 mind you! The problem with these folks is that they all wanted Atari 2600 stuff and I had none to offer them. How in the world was I going to get them to look for Intellivision games I wanted when I couldn't offer them anything in trade for it? Needless to say, I started picking-up 2600 games I ran across in my scrounging and things just got way out of hand from there.
Things are quite a bit different nowadays. There are literally thousands of people collecting videogames with new faces showing up all the time. With more eyes looking, more stuff has shown-up but it has also made games in general much more scarce. Certain games are more prevalent in certain areas of the country and, as it turns out, certain games were only released in certain countries.
One of the most beneficial aspects of how the hobby has grown is the wide variety of people involved. Emulation is a whole new ballgame and only became possible due to very talented programmers showing interest in "the old stuff". There's an emulator available for just about every system you will find in these pages including Intellivision.
The Intellivision emulator was originally written by Carl Mueller and sold the the Blue Sky Rangers (a group of former Intellivision programmers that have kept in touch over the years) for commercial sale. Currently there are only two different demo versions of the emulator available which feature a small handful of built-in games that can be played on it. As of this writing, the Blue Sky Rangers seem to have vanished from the face of the earth so it is unknown as to whether or not the full-blown emulator will ever see the light of day. Even if it does, playing classic videogames on a PC just doesn't cut the mustard for many collectors. All the emulation going on seems to have had a minimal impact on collecting in general.
Videogame collecting has become serious business to some. When extremely rare cartridges can be seen selling for close to or surpass the $1000 mark, the hobby has reached a plateau in which a set of guidelines can come in handy. Without further delay, here you have our take on the Intellivision scene as it stands today.....
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