Websites like eBay, Craigslist, and even MySpace and other networking sites seem like the obvious places to look for long-lost videogame treasures, old-school games for a long-dead consoles or the odd peripheral that has since gone the way of the dodo. But when sifting for the cultural remains of the ghost of gaming's past, one shouldn't overlook the traditional, and perhaps outdated, repository of discarded memorabilia: the yard sale.
Epic Yard Sale
In an effort to combine my hardcore gaming hobby, my journalism degree and a mild curiosity in yard sales, I decided to see what kind of videogame-related items were to be had amidst the assorted knick-knacks being cleared from the garages around Central Pennsylvania. I searched the lands for gems of the videogame world with only a pen, a notepad, a wallet full of small bills, the newspaper classifieds section and my Monty Python-esque haggling skills, and discovered a bit about gaming's history and perhaps my own in the process.
Gem number one
I dragged myself out of bed to begin my quest. Upon consuming my hero's breakfast (a bowl of sugary cereal), I was out the door and on my way to my first on-the-job yard sale experience. My first destination was the town of Woolrich, PA. This was no ordinary yard sale outing: On sale were the combined offerings of an entire 40-person community.
At one sale, I caught a glimpse of a small child holding one of the holy relics of the Nintendo Gamecube community: an unopened Legend of Zelda Collector's Edition that included The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: Link's Adventure for the Nintendo Entertainment System, along with Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask for the Nintendo 64, all on one disc. Previously only available as a reward for Nintendo Power magazine subscribers, this Collector's Edition frequently sells on e-Bay for as much as $80.
"So many classic games on one tiny disc," I thought to myself. "How could anyone sell this?"
Watching the cinematic opening scene in Ocarina of Time, visiting the majestic Gorons, winning Epona, discovering Dampe, the comical gravedigger, and his quirky and downright disturbing idiosyncrasies - those gaming memories alone were priceless. I wondered how much it would cost me to buy it off the kid.
I got closer to the boy and saw the $5 price sticker. I decided to try and see if I could bid him up. I opened my mouth, and before I could speak, he bolted, taking the game and my chances of acquiring a handy dwarfish sidekick with him.
Gem number two
I'd missed out on Zelda, but continued the quest. The blistering sun bombarded my skin and the near triple-digit humidity made me feel as if I was walking through a sauna.
In a black, dirt-covered plastic garbage can, I found my next quarry: one of the more spectacularly unsuccessful peripherals of the videogame world - a Nintendo Virtual Boy. I hoped I wasn't having heat stroke-induced hallucinations.
It wasn't the heat - or the humidity. Not only had I set my eyes on the mythical Virtual Boy, but all the accessories were there as well; including the manual, the controller, visor, stand and a game, along with a gumball machine, a neon wristwatch, a broken alarm clock and a set of non-related electronic cords, all for $0.50.
"I don't even remember buying that. I'm not sure if it works or not," said the man behind the table of the Virtual Boy.
I was more than happy to pay $0.50 for a Nintendo relic that could at worst be used as a decorative paperweight. The Virtual Boy was the only Nintendo system I never owned, because when I learned about it, the Nintendo 64 had already become the "new hotness," rendering its VR-enabled cousin culturally obsolete.
My brain was playing its own celebratory fanfare music. I didn't care that the Virtual Boy was a failed system with only 33 games; I didn't care that it was the butt of many jokes on online message boards; and I sure didn't care about the supposed retina-burning images - I only cared about it becoming mine.
It's hard to forget the magical feeling of owning a new console, discovering what exactly it can do and getting to physically touch it after drooling over pictures of it online and in magazines. Sure, the Virtual Boy wouldn't have that wonderful new plastic smell when I took it home, but the experience could still be wonderful. I quickly bought it and disappeared, fleeing into the crowd like the boy with the Zelda disc. I had gotten in touch with my inner-treasure-seeking-child.