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My Collection - Birth of a Collector

1988: I was a freshman at Clemson University in South Carolina. Since I had applied for student housing late, and the regular dorms were full, I was stuck in an on-campus frat house. Neither my roommate nor I were members of the fraternity, and we had no plans to join. As you can imagine, we didn't want to be in that dormitory, and the Kappa Alphas didn't want us there, either. So, I spent as little time there as possible.

While wandering around the campus, not really wanting to go back to my room, I found the "Student Union", an activity center which had table tennis, billiards, pinball, and... video games. I don't recall all the games there, but they did have a Road Runner, a Bubble Bobble, and a Gauntlet II. I was very happy to find the Gauntlet II, as I had played the heck out of both it and Gauntlet while a teenager back home in Ohio. I thought I was pretty good at it, too. After all, my buddies and I could get to level 100 using only one $5.00 special from Aladdin's Castle.

I walked up to the machine, and thought I'd watch the guy playing and see if he was any good. Soon after my arrival, the Yellow Elf died, and only on level 26. I was surprised he didn't drop in another quarter and continue playing, but didn't say anything. He started another game, and I was soon dumbfounded to learn this guy was playing for 20+ levels on ONE credit! Amazing! I hadn't thought it possible! Over the next few months, he and I struck up a friendship, and we both were soon able to typically clear over 50 levels on a single quarter.

He and I developed a friendly rivalry, the record changing hands almost daily. He was the first to break the 100 level barrier, which he did soon after our discovery of how to get the 200 health foods. It was I who ended up with the record, when I determined the game began reducing the food on each level based on your score. It was actually beneficial to keep your score as low as possible to survive longer. Simply setting the death value to 1000, rather than 8000 was enough to get me to level 157, which is still my personal best.

1990: Some other friends and I were renting a house off campus, and started reminiscing about the "Great Gauntlet Rivalry". One of them who had not been present during my record-setting game refused to believe it could be done. The Gauntlet in the student center was long gone, of course, replaced by some silly Jamma game. We drove around to various arcades, looking for a Gauntlet so I could prove my abilities. None of them had one, since this was 1990, and Gauntlets had all been converted into Super Volleyball or Crime Fighters. The Putt-Putt in Greenville did have a Sinistar, and I was happy to play it, since we were there. I noticed it had a sticker on it: "FOR SALE - $150", and inspiration struck: "I'll just BUY a Gauntlet II", I thought!

When we returned to the house, I pulled out the Yellow Pages, and started looking for the phone numbers to arcades. After a few calls, I learned I needed to call the people on the other side, the distributors. Looking back, I realize how incredibly lucky I was. The third place I called said "Yeah, we have a Gauntlet in the back, but it's a Gauntlet I, not a II". Probably drooling at this time, I asked the guy how much it was, and was shocked to hear $400! I was expecting it to be in the $150 range of the Sinistar, but hardly hesitated before saying "I'll take it!"

After my friends and I learned the levels, we found that Gauntlet is a pretty easy game. There are no dragons, and no acid puddles, so most levels are pretty easy to clear. The group of us decided one day to see how far we could get on a single quarter. I started us off that afternoon, and played for about 6 hours, during which I had built the Elf's health up considerably. One of my friends took over, and played until late that night.

By this time, we had so much health we could just park the elf in a corner (after clearing all the monsters on that level) and go to sleep. We'd wake up the next morning, and he'd still be sitting there, although 20,000 or so health points leaner. One health point ticks off per second, assuming you aren't being hit by a monster, so 3600 heath was worth an hour's sleep to us. After 4 days, we finally reached level 999. There was much speculation about what would happen after exiting this level, and none of us guessed correctly. It takes you back to level 8, and you begin again.

1997: I move back to Ohio from South Carolina, and bring my Gauntlet with me. Unfortunately, I don't have room for it in my apartment, so I leave it at my parent's house, in the garage.

1998: My future wife and I move into a duplex, and there's room for my Gauntlet! Yay! I drive down to my parents' house to pick it up, and am floored with what I hear from my mother: "Sorry, Morgan, I sold that at a flea market for $50" She did feel bad about it, and she did replace it with another Gauntlet, although it isn't quite as nice as the first one I had. Soon thereafter, I start attending auctions, and acquire a few more games, and a few more, and a few more.

2002: I now have around 40 games, which is about 5 more than will fit in my basement, (and 15 more than the wife wants me to have). Spatial relations apparently are not my strong point. I keep thinking if I re-arrange the games, it will somehow create more space in my cramped basement. Damn those immutable laws of physics! I try to keep it current. I'm pretty near finished with my collection. Sure, I'll still grab an oddball game now and then, and yes, there are a few games I have on my want list that I haven't managed to find yet.

If you see me at an auction, come over and introduce yourself. I always enjoy chatting with other collectors.