We give a hearty congratulations to David Vulich, of Fresno California, who has put hard work and incredible skills into becoming the newest member of the Max-Out club, joining such luminaries as Jonas Neubauer, Harry Hong, Alex Kerr, Ben Mullen, and a few others. Credit due to Alex Kerr, whose ‘Kitaru’ persona keeps a great record of these things over at TetrisConcept
I’d like to take this wonderful opportunity to introduce everyone to John Hancock, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting a couple of years back on a trip to the gaming expos up there during the promotions of Ecstasy of Order. John is one of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever had the honor of coming across in all of my years. Not only is he a legit lifetime gamer, but his heart is even bigger than his collection. He tirelessly works in the service of others, performing counseling and support for local youth, and he also takes it to a whole new level with a local Expo up there that raises funds for Childrens Justice and Advocacy Center (CJAC), a tremendous charity organization that has immense value. He does all of this while raising his own little ones. Truly a wonderful human being, if you ever have the opportunity to meet with him at PRGE or Cowlitz Gamers for Kids shows, definitely do so, the expos are great, and John is a gamer’s gamer.
Without further ado, here is the interview that I put together with a Q&A session. Thanks for looking, and be sure to check out the pics of his ludicrously amazing collection of classic gaming goodies! If you have the chance, he also has a wonderful series of DVDs on collecting that are very worthy indeed.
Question 1 : Tell us a bit about yourself and how you discovered gaming.
My earliest memories of gaming go back to when my father bought us a TV scoreboard Radio Shack Pong clone. Between that and going to my cousins house to play Atari 2600, that is what I consider my first gaming experiences. About the same time, I got to experience some great arcades in town, but those rarely happened. I consider myself, part historian, part serious collector, and 100 percent passionate about videogames. I have been lucky to have began a journey of collecting retro videogames nearly 20 years ago. I started off collecting videogames by myself in Northern California in the mid 90s. I mostly was collecting games to add to what I already owned, which was some Sega and Nintendo games that I had in high school. By 2002, I connected with other gamers online and pursued some more obscure gaming consoles and systems, such as the bally astrocade. I focused my collecting on entire released US sets, and scoured the West Coast looking for items to add to my collection. Nearly 98 percent of my collection was purchased in person, and not online. In 2005 I moved to Washington where I got connected to Rick Weis. I started helping with video game conventions which made my game collection grow substantially more. It is a hobby that I am passionate about in which I have got to gain many great friends and experiences that I will never forget.
Question 2 : What were some of the favorite games you played growing up, and do you still go back and replay them now?
Growing up, my favorites were Berzerk for the 2600, Castlevania on the Nes, Blue Max on the Atari 800, Herzog Zwei on Genesis as well as Dark Wizard for the Sega CD. I still make time to play Berzerk for the 2600 and occasionally play Blue Max when I can. Of course, I still love to play pong like I did when I was a child and am up for a game with anyone who wants to play. The game still does not get old to me.
Question 3 : How do you think gaming has evolved over the years?
Gaming to me has evolved to encompass a wide variety of gameplay and options. In the beginning, games were limited by graphics significantly. What you saw on the cover of a videogame was nothing like the experience that you played. Now the game can look BETTER than the cover. At the same time, I also think that games have come full circle. Some types of games(many indie titles) have gone back to the simple mechanics of 2D games that were easy to get into but difficult to master. We have so many choices of what type of games to play, that it is a great time to be gamer.
Question 4 : You have THE most profoundly awesome collection I’ve ever seen in classic gaming. How many years did it take to get where it is?
Thank you for your most kind words. I am just happy to have amassed what I have done over the past 20 years on a budget.
Question 5 : How do you think the recent and current systems will be on a collectible basis?
In time, I think that the current crop of systems and games will be collectable. I think that there will be an added bonus to find a non modded original 360 system that still works lol. There are so many system variants compared to the previous generations that just collecting hardware alone will be a fun and challenging project.
Question 6 : What would be some examples of absolutely amazing games that are hidden gems that many/most don’t even know about?
So many games on so many systems that get overlooked. I will narrow it to 10 that I consider underappreciated. I could easily have a 100 list but here it goes:
Atari 2600: Gravitar
Intellivision: Hover Force
Colecovision: War Room
Odyssey 2: Freedom Fighters
Sega Genesis: Jewel Master
Sega CD: Android Assault
Super Nes: Choplifter III
Sony Playstation: Silent Bomber
Nintendo DS: Retro Game Challenge
Question 7 : What advice would you give to an aspiring collector?
Collaborate and network with others. Join a local facebook group as well as videogame forums. Collect because you want to. There needs to be alot of patience involved, as alot of games I got were over many years. Dont fret if you cant get every game you want right now. Educate yourself before any buying so that you know what you are getting and what a fair price is.
Question 8 : As parents with kids of our own now, how do you involve gaming in their lives?
My son is now almost 5, and is starting to get a little more into games. I started showing him classics such as pong and atari when he was younger. I think for me, the answer is gradual. I know that my hobby will probably be different than my sons, but I am happy to share with him if he wants.
Thank you John Hancock for spending time with us today! Readers, check this out :
And finally, to close it out after that epic collection : John at work doing what he was born to do! Helping people AND being a cherished member of the gaming community!
Erik Ackerlund – Reblogged from our friend Patrick Scott Patterson regarding Losthammer’s own Robin Mihara.
Classic video gaming accomplishments and records have been all across the mainstream media for the past few years.
From the battle for the top spot in Donkey Kong to new champs on games like Frogger or Pac-Man, films such as The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade, and the upcoming Doctor Kong have helped the champions of the 1980s classics gain much mainstream attention in the modern day media.
Champions from the 1990s, however, are not yet the media darlings that many of the classic 1980s gamers have been. Outside of the 1990 Nintendo World Championships and a few later Nintendo contests, very little history from the last decade of last century has been passed along to historians of the gaming industry today.
Matt: Hi! I’m a big fan of competitive video games, I’ve been spending some time trying to dig up info about the 1990 championships but everything seems to link to a few sources that have conflicting details. I’m hoping your crew of experts can clear up some things, or point me in the right direction.
Erik: “Will do our best”
Matt : Specifically, I’m confused about this:
“There was no official competition round to crown a single winner. However, after the competition ended there was an informal face-off between the three winners, with Thor Aackerlund taking first place, Jeff Hansen taking second, and Robert Whiteman finishing third.”
Matt: Jeff Hansen went on as America’s representative to Japan to win the World Championship title again in Tokyo, Japan, and again in Las Vegas at a rematch with the Japanese champion, Yuichi Suyama.”
Do you happen to know where I could find information about the Tokyo competition? Everything I’ve been able to dig up points back to that same passage in Wikipedia, which doesn’t cite a source so I’m not even confident the Japan competition existed. If it did, do you have any idea why Jeff Hansen (11 at the time from what I can tell) went to represent?
Thor: “No idea on why Nintendo choose Jeff Hansen.”
Erik: “There was very very little in the media when it was happening, I think Nintendo wanted to control it, and keep it close to the belt, we did not even know about it until well after it had taken place, it was not on the scale of the massively publicised 1990 Nintendo World Championships were.”
Matt: Wikipedia also claims the winner won a car and a TV in addition to the savings bond. The savings bond I’ve found other evidence of, but again no source on the car/tv thing and no mentions of it aside from this wiki article that everything seems to copy. People are fond of citing the time Carmack gave away his Ferrari as the first instance of a car being won in video games, which makes me wonder if that is true also.
Thor: “The winners also recieved a 1990 Geo Metro Convertible, this would predate Carmack giving away his Ferarri. They had a GeoMetro convertible in yellow for all of the contestants to ooh and ahh at, just out side the StarTrek Theater at Universal Studios, A bunch of the contestants at one point decided to lift the car off the ground!”
Erik: “If I remember right the savings bond was for $10,000, which had a pretty low cash value, the TV was a Panasonic 42″ it replaced Thor’s 13″ Color TV of the time. There were some other things the winners got, A Mario trophy, and a Panasonic Boombox. ”
Matt: I know these are weird and specific questions, and appreciate any insight you can give. Hope the gaming blog goes well, I love reading about all kinds of game competition and retro gaming.
Thor: “Thanks for your great questions, keep them coming”
Robin Mihara – As a NWC (Nintendo World Championship) finalist, the contest has always stayed with me. It has been a part of my identity in a way. From completely defining me in my younger years, to being an amusing tale in bars as an adult, I never shed the connection. Tetris was the most important game in that contest, and to this day, I believe the most challenging NES game ever. Even the greatest players still struggle with it’s sadistic timing.
About 2 years ago, I looked at a NES Tetris game on Youtube played by Trey Harrison with a score of 801,222. My high was somewhere in the 550k range I believe, and seeing this guy play was unbelievable. I had seen 3 players clearly better than me in the NWC, but those players (Thor, Jeff Falco and Kenny Welch) were always playing at the slower speeds (due to the time limit)… never to get passed level 12 or so. Trey got to level 29 that game (my highest was 26 I think) where I saw the “kill screen” for the first time (where the speed goes so fast you cant even get a piece to the side). On Trey’s description he wrote that he first became obsessed with Tetris during the 1990 NWC! I didn’t remember a Trey there, so I wrote him and asked what his story was.
He replied that he had come in 3rd and 2nd place in the final two cities and never won a regional contest of his own. He went on to say that he had even broken 3 million points (NWC cart score), which as far ask I know was only the 5th person to do so at the time (the others being the previously mentioned greats, and Jeff Hansen the eventual winner of the younger age group). Trey then said that if I wanted to see the greatest player he had ever seen, to look up Jonas. Jonas had maxed out the score at a million and had done it starting on level 19. Level 19, for those of you who don’t know, is the speed where Tetris gets really really hard. Impossible for most. Once I hit 19, I just scramble to survive, with an occasional Tetris from luck and inevitably a sad miss drop or brain hiccup that kills me 2 pieces later. It’s a nightmare usually, and I’m pretty darn good.
Trey and I emailed back and forth for a while, and both remembered Thor (a friend of Trey’s, and recent Nintendoage acquaintance of mine) claiming that he could get past level 29 into the 30s. It was that night that I realized that I really needed to see these guys play each other. To me Tetris is the thinking man’s game of today. The ADD version of chess if you will. Thor vs. Jonas would be like the Bobby Fisher vs. Boris Spassky of the 21st century. Even if not taken seriously today, the game would some day be talked about as the first true legendary heads-up contest* for the most played video game of all time.
There was only one problem: Thor was now a keyboard player (due mostly to convenience), and Jonas didn’t play anything except the NES version.
That was about the time I met Adam Cornelius. Portland filmmaker and Tetris player himself, Adam was already starting a documentary about Harry Hong – The first official maxout player according to Twin Galaxies record keeping. Adam was under the impression that Harry was the reigning king of NES Tetris (Harry had a small amount of internet fame from his climb to the million-point grail) and had started a low budget documentary about the maxout and Harry funded by Trey Harrison! I excitedly (and nervously for fear that my news would break his dream project) told Adam that there were 2 players that may even be better than Harry. He took the news well, and from there we fantasized about holding a live contest with all the greats, and having big screens, announcers, spotlights, all like we did in 1990. The next day I got a call from Adam. “OK I want to do it. You’re my star. You put it together” I was in my car speeding to his house in 30 seconds.
to be continued….
* no disrespect to the hard drop/hold chamber players of today. I just consider that version a different game entirely from the NES/Gameboy version I know as Tetris
Erik Ackerlund -Here is an unusual find that turned up on Ebay. A replica poster signed by Thor at the Nintendo AgeExpo. You never know what your going to find on ebay. Too bad it is not actually vintage. How many of you NWC veterans out there still have your original?
From the seller’s description, “The poster is 9″ x 15″ and is perfect for any Nintendo collector!!! Frame it! stare at it! love it! Definitely, a one of a kind item. The poster itself was fabricated in 2008 and came with the NWC game cartridge re-release from Retrozone, it has the retrozone seal of quality on it, it was signed at the AgeExpo 2008 in Knoxville, TN – brand new never used. ”