Finding Loot In All The Wrong Places: Where’s The Strangest Place You’ve Found Games?

Recently, I was sitting in my tiny, over-packed game room, thinking to myself that I’m lucky to be surrounded by all this cool stuff I’ve amassed over the years. I’m solidly in the “Collection Curator/Maintenance” phase of video game collecting, with all my big scores likely behind me and new purchases serving to fill small holes on the shelves. While I still love the thrill of the hunt, the ability to both play and gaze upon what I’ve already hunted is not a bad position to be in. I do feel akin to an old-timey big game hunter, and every trophy mounted on the wall (in this case, cartridges, discs, and consoles on the shelf) has a story to tell. Among the most interesting of those stories are recalling where some of those items came from. While some were found in the usual hinting grounds, like random yard sales, flea markets, and retail stores, some items have a deeper history and were found in some very strange places.


One of my other hobbies outside gaming and collecting said games is messing with old cars. I grew up in a “car” family, and my father before me was a gearhead. When I was a kid, I was car-obsessed just as much as I was video game-obsessed, and my family always jokes that I could tell what kind of car drove by from the shape of its taillights, in the rain, and at night, by age 5. When I became old enough to play with motorized things, I found myself taking trips to local you-pull-it salvage yards with my dad, and later, my friends, to look for parts for whatever derelict vehicle we were working on at the time. At these junkyards, I learned a lot about cars and how they were put together by observing various states of disassembly, and by taking things apart myself.



Some people like to take long walks on the beach to soothe their souls. I like to take long walks in the junkyard. Does that make me weird? Probably, but it's a lot of fun if you are a car guy!

Something else that intrigued me shortly after making these initial trips to the local junkyards was piecing together how that car’s former owner lived by observing personal items left in the cars. It was fun trying to piece together the events leading up to a car’s last ride to meet its fate between the jaws of the crusher. Sometimes, it was easy; a pile of unpaid parking tickets or a set of deployed airbags and severe body damage would signify a reason for it to get towed away. Other times, you would find an old car in seemingly great shape that was simply thrown away, often with household items tossed in to bolster the scales for that all-important scrap value. And more than once, in cars like this, I’ve found gaming gold.


First, it was a Sega Nomad battery pack. That was found sitting on the passenger seat, along with a Prince cassette, in a 1988 Subaru XT Turbo.


Let's take a minute and talk about the Subaru XT Turbo. Known as the Subaru Alcyone in other parts of the world, it was a quirky 80's wedge that you may have piloted in one of the Gran Turismo games. They were weird and cool at the same time, and nearly extinct on American roads today.

The interiors on these cars were so strange! Take a look at that asymmetrical steering wheel, for instance. WTF is going on with that? And there's more buttons and switches in there than on a contemporary fighter jet. Right on a passenger seat just like the one in the picture was a Prince cassette and a Nomad battery pack. If I was going to find a quirky handheld accessory, it totally makes sense for it to be in a quirky car.

The car I found had the optional digital dash, which looks lust like this. The gauge cluster looks like a video game in itself! It reminds me of the old Atari arcade classic Roadblasters.

And there it is, THE battery pack I found. This thing holds SIX AA batteries, which have a life expectancy of about 30 minutes of play time with the Nomad going full tilt. The Nomad itself was a random find at a Gamestop of all places back around 2005. They didn't know what to do with it, and sold it to me with an A/C adapter for $29.99. Thanks to that Subaru in the boneyard, it is now complete!

Then, my friends found a big box of NES stuff. There was one NES, a pile of controllers, and about 20 games. These were sitting in the back of a late 1980’s Chevrolet G20 Conversion Van. This one I let my friends snag, as it was all stuff they needed.



If one were to find video games in the junkyard, it 100% makes sense that they would be inside one of these, which are basically rolling 1980's living rooms. Most of them had small CRT TV's with VCR's and lots of luxurious velour and wood paneling, just like home!

But the ultimate find… that was the most unexpected of all. This one came from out-of-the-blue quite literally… out of the blue interior of a blue 1966 Rambler Classic 660 Sedan!



Many of you are probably saying to yourselves, "WTF is a Rambler", right? Well, It's complicated. Back in the 1960's, Rambler was an "also-ran" automobile brand and an outlier of the "Big Three" of the Detroit automakers (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler). Toward the end of the 1960's, they re-branded with the name of their parent company, American Motors Corporaton, or AMC for short. They built some cool and quirky stuff, like the Mustang-like Javelin, the strange Gremlin, and the even stranger Pacer. They also pioneered all wheel drive in passenger cars, with the Eagle 4x4 wagons popular in the early 1980's. Today, one of their brands lives on as a successful car company under the Fiat-Chrysler America brand: Jeep. In short, Rambler/AMC was basically the NEC/Turbografx 16 of the American car landscape.


Back around 2010, my friends and I made a trip to a junkyard that was a little further out than the usual ones we frequented. This one had a reputation for having a great antique car section, and going there was like stepping into a strange classic car museum where you could not only touch the cars; you could take them apart and buy parts as souvenirs! So, as we were making our way through row after row of classics, we stumble upon something unusual: a 1966 Rambler Classic 660 4-door sedan. Although not a particularly desirable vehicle, it was in fantastic condition, and stood out from the rusted hulks that surrounded it like a beacon in the night. It looked as if someone drove the car from their house, drove it into the yard, parked it there with the keys in the ignition, and just walked away. So naturally, we started to look over the car. We popped the hood to find a minty Rambler/AMC straight six engine, and the interior was pristine. The only area of concern was the back seat; the bottom cushion of the bench was lifted up off of its base, and there was your typical household debris scattered about. My friend peered in through the window and decided to open one of the rear doors to inspect it further, looking for a clue as to why this thing was just sitting there looking like grandma drove it in earlier in the day, mistaking the junkyard for a church. Then, the plot thickens. My friend pops his head out of the car, yelling to me, “Hey, come check this thing out! I found a weird little TV!”. He emerges out of the back seat and in his hand is the very last thing I ever expected to see anywhere in the wild.


A VECTREX.



Want to know why ancient gamers chose the Vectrex over the Atari and Intellivision? It’s because it’s a miniature arcade machine with vector graphics! Seriously, in 1982, nothing was as badass as the Vectrex. It had arcade ports of vector games that looked and played almost exactly like their coin-operated counterparts. It even had a handful of raster graphics games like Scramble, Berzerk, and Pole Position converted to vector graphics! Although it was black and white, each game came with a plastic overlay for the screen that colorized the game. As lame as that sounds, it was awesome, and it still is. Also, the lady in this ad looks like she’s going to eat the souls of everyone else in the ad, Kirby style, to gain their powers. I’d stay away from her.

And not only was it a Vectrex, it was a complete unit and in nice condition! I explained to my friend, who was also a gamer, what exactly he was holding, and gave him “first dibs”. He deferred, and told me, “You know what it is, and obviously you want it, so it’s all yours!”

Again… HOLY CRAP, A FREAKING VECTREX!!! One of the rarest, most sought-after gaming systems I have ever hunted for was in my hands!


Immediately, I hauled my rear up to the scrap office, and put the trophy on the counter. The guy at the counter was puzzled. “What is that thing? An old TV?” So again, I explained what it was. I asked how much it would be to take it home. “Just take it, that way we don’t have to recycle it”.


You have to be kidding me.



This is that exact Vectrex. The only flaws with it are that the joystick is missing the knob, and that the volume potentiometer is a bit scratchy. Also, that controller is among the first analog joysticks ever used on a console. Unlike the terrible Atari 5200 analog stick, this one is self-centering. The Vectrex has one built-in game, Minestorm, which is a clone of Asteroids and a ton of fun. It also has a cartridge port on the side for playing additional games.

So, now it sits, prominently at home as one of the crown jewels of my collection. And yes, it still works!


See? It still works! Also displayed is the overlay for the racing game HyperChase, which plays a lot like the arcade and Colecovision classic Turbo. Funny story about HyperChase... When I first started dating my wife, I was telling her about how I love video games, and she started telling me about this weird old console she played at her dentist's office in the waiting room when she was a little kid. She said it was black and white, and she would purposely crash the car into objects because that was more fun to her than playing the game to win. I could never figure out what it was. When brought this thing home for the first time a few years after having that conversation, she said, “THAT’S IT!!! That’s the game system from my dentist’s office!”. After doing some digging and showing her clips on YouTube, we identified the mystery game as HyperChase. I picked up a copy for us to play, and she sat there for an hour just crashing the car into stuff like her 5-year-old self.

So, where's the craziest, strangest place you've found games? Let us know in the comments section!

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