Student Builds Collection of Old-School Games, Consoles

Brian Smith with his retro consoles, (left to right) SNES, Sega Genesis CD/32X, Famicom, NES, Super Famicom, Atari 2600 and Sega Master System (Photo: Courtesy of Brian Smith)
Brian Smith poses with his retro consoles, which include SNES, Sega Genesis CD/32X, Famicom, NES, Super Famicom, Atari 2600 and Sega Master System. (Photo: Courtesy of Brian Smith)

By Caroline Glenn
Central Florida Future

A fire breaks out and you can only save one material object: Your first instinct is probably to divefor your laptop, iPhone or maybe your Xbox or Playstation. Brian Smith, on the other hand, would brave the flames for his copy of Super Mario RPG Legend of the Seven Stars, circa 1996.

Just one of the items in his collection of more than 1,000 video game consoles, games and memorabilia, Super Mario RPG came into Smith’s possession when it first came out almost two decades ago. Likely the most valuable game he owns, it is still one he plays today — on his Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which debuted in 1990. He also owns the Japanese version of the system, the Famicom, which Smith bagged during a trip to Japan’s Super Potato, a retro gaming store in Akihabara.

“I have seen recently that it can go to the upwards of $200 or so for a complete in-box copy … ,” the 29-year-old explained. “I knew I was going to love the game even before it came out, so I just made sure to buy it as soon as I saw it in stores.”

With 25 systems, more than 100 NES games, around 70 Atari games and between 60 and 70 SNES games, plus the first Final Fantasy still in the box, Smith’s collection first started on Christmas 1989 with the gift of a Nintendo Entertainment System from his parents.

Although he’s never had his collection appraised, its value is measured in the memories he’s made, and those to be made in the future.

“It’s more about the nostalgia for me,” he said. “If anything, I want my kids to play the games I played as a kid.”

In fact, the senior interdisciplinary studies major joked that video games are what convinced him his wife was the one. While dating his now-wife Allaina, his future mother-in-law stumbled upon an entire collection of Atari games in her home.

“She just had it sitting in her garage,” Smith said. “That might have been why I married her.”

Among the dusty cartridges was Atari’s E.T., a 1982 release also known as one of the worst video games ever released. Widely blamed for the start of the Great Video Game Crash of 1983, E.T. was treated like an unwanted blemish Atari giants quickly wished to cover up, explained UCF graduate teaching associate Nathan Snow. In lieu of a mother-in-law’s cluttered garage, Atari chose the New Mexico desert, where, in the dark of the night, Atari executives buried the embarrassing failure.

Similar to the fate of Smith’s copy, years later, the sandy cartridges would be unearthed during a 2013 dig, documented through the film Atari: Game Over.

Although some of the items found among his shelf of treasures may not have been popular when they first came out, their stories bring color to his collection. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, a failed portable game console, for example, is a visor-like contraption that was released in 1995 and discontinued after only a year.

“The Virtual Boy is kind of considered to be one of the worst systems ever made, and especially by Nintendo. Most people didn’t want to own one and it lost the company a ton of money,” Smith said of the item. “It basically had no good games and gave people migraines to play, so there is really no reason to own one other than as a collection piece.”

Smith swiped his from a Walmart closeout sale for only about $20, and Snow says the “immense flop” is one of his favorite items from his student’s collection. But its unique “other-worldly” look is what makes it so cool, he said, in addition to its sad story. The console was the last thing Gunpei Yokoi designed, and soon after, he was killed in a tragic car accident never to redeem himself.

Not one to directly seek out collectibles, Smith came across most of his items by surprise. He recalled the day a man walked into a GameStop, where he used to work, with a fully operational Sega Master System. The system predates the days of Sonic the Hedgehog as part of a simpler time when Alex Kidd served as the company’s mascot, Snow said.

He was hoping to trade it in, Smith said, but with a release dating back to 1986, Smith offered to take it off his hands. His wife still finds retro games tucked away on thrift store shelves from time to time.

As an only child, Smith’s main form of entertainment was video games — as well as a source of education. Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, in which the player has to find Mickey’s puppy playmate Pluto, motivated him to learn to read. His copy of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? even came with an encyclopedia.

Smith plans to keep adding to his collection as new games and consoles come out, but he usually has one response when people ask him if he’s played the latest release.

“I still have NES Nintendo games I need to beat.”

This article was republished from the Central Florida Future. See the original article, which was posted on March 19, 2015.

UCF’s Video Game School Ranked 2nd in North America


By Mark Schlueb
UCF Today

For the second consecutive year, the University of Central Florida’s video game graduate school ranks No. 2 in North America, according to The Princeton Review and PC Gamer magazine.

This is the fifth time that The Princeton Review has ranked graduate-level video game development schools, placing UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy – or FIEA – behind only the University of Utah for 2015. The school has been ranked in the top five every year since the rankings began.

“With our 10-year anniversary approaching, it’s great to see The Princeton Review continue to recognize the outstanding work of our faculty, staff and students,” said executive director Ben Noel. “We’re proud to be part of Central Florida’s growing digital economy.”

Since opening its doors in 2005, FIEA has graduated 412 alumni working at more than 125 companies around the world, including Google, Electronic Arts, Blizzard, Bungie, Zynga, Ubisoft, Disney, Microsoft, Bethesda, n-Space and Industrial Light & Magic.

“FIEA’s exceptional faculty members, first-class facilities and close connections with the gaming industry’s top companies have propelled the school to one of the very best of its kind in the country in less than 10 years,” said UCF Provost and Vice President A. Dale Whittaker. “This is a testament to UCF’s success with location-based education and valuable partnerships – our students thrive in the classroom and in the job market when they learn in an environment so closely immersed in their industry.”

The average starting salary for recent FIEA graduates is $60,359 and they are working on some of today’s most popular projects. Those games include NBA Live 15, Diablo III, Sunset Overdrive, Skyrim, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Star Wars 1313, Borderlands 2, Battlefield 4, The Walking Dead, Gears of War 3, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Bioshock Infinite, Transformers 3 and Dead Space 3.

The school is located at UCF’s Center For Emerging Media building, located in downtown Orlando near UCF’s future downtown campus. FIEA is designed to graduate talented and well-qualified professionals to work in video games, new media, film and simulation industries.

The Princeton Review chose the schools based on a survey it conducted in 2014-15 of 150 institutions offering game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States, Canada, and some countries abroad.

In addition to being published today on The Princeton Review website, the listing will also be featured in the May issue of PC Gamer magazine, on newsstands March 3.

View the full rankings.

This article was republished from UCF Today. View the original article, which was posted on March 25, 2015.