The 13-year-old Retro Game Collector
The knob was pulled, the screen came on, and suddenly the room was enveloped in the sound of a static bliss that can only be captured from old rotary dial televisions. Its distant relative, the HD television, was only feet away when the hand of Dylan DeVivo, a 13-year-old from Dobbs Ferry, NY, decided he would play his Atari today, a game system made 24 years before he was born.
“I really like the Atari because you have to use your imagination,” said DeVivo. “We’ll never have that charm again because nowadays we can have anything we want all the way up to immersing ourselves in video games using the greatest of technology.”
DeVivo has been collecting old vintage video games since we was 8-years-old and has since amassed a collection of several hundred games. Despite being so young he is not only fascinated with the simplicity that games of decades past can provide but also their history, earning him the title of “a walking encyclopedia for video games” among friends and family.
“I look to older video games because it’s something that even today can still be enjoyed,” said DeVivo, trying to find a rhyme or reason for his love of the hobby. “It’s interesting to see how games started off and I just find myself more invested in a Super Nintendo game than an Xbox 360 game.”
DeVivo lives at home with his parents who have dedicated part of the family den to house his ever-growing collection of games. Just as family photos jostle for space on top of the furniture, a portion of DeVivo’s games are packed away inside the drawers below, with little room left to grow.
“My parents and the people around me are very supportive of my hobby,” he said. “But they’re getting somewhat nervous at the moment because of the amount of stuff I am getting.”
DeVivo is not the only collector in the family however. His dad, Darren DeVivo, 49, is a collector of old records and CD’s that fill an entire room in the family den. Custom shelving units tower from floor to ceiling, and not a glimpse of the wall inside can be seen beyond the vast expanse of CD’s hugging the wall. The overflow of boxes that hold part of his collection spill out beyond the doors that hold his mammoth library at bay from the rest of the home. “It really doesn’t surprise me that he has gotten into collecting and found his niche with video games,” said Darren DeVivo. “I guess the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”
Darren DeVivo started to notice his son was turning into a game collector when he would start buying old dusty game systems and bring them home before he even had any games to play for them. He is supportive of his son’s rapidly growing collection of games, but the rate at which Dylan DeVivo is accumulating stuff far exceeds where Darren DeVivo was at during his age when it comes to collecting. “He’s got me beat by at least 10 years,” said Darren DeVivo. “When it comes to accumulating stuff, he’s where I was in my 20’s and he’s only 13 now.”
In order to keep Dylan DeVivio’s collection in check and make sure it does not outgrow the home, certain measures have been put in place. “We actually have conversations about what it means to be a healthy collector and that occasionally he’s able to purge some things,” said his mom, Sherri DeVivo, 44. Dylan DeVivo’s ability to keep what is really wanted and getting rid of the extra stuff tells Sherri DeVivo that her son is able to balance his collecting and that it is not just about amassing as much stuff as possible.
Dylan and Darren DeVivo are not the only ones with a collection. Mom has one too – thimbles. Tucked away in small display cases on the dining room wall, her collection is compact yet full of personality from her world travels, collecting one thimble from everywhere she visited. “Thank god I don’t collect more than that because I don’t think there would be enough room between Dylan and his dad and me,” she said laughingly.
Sherri DeVivo noticed her son was turning into a collector during their visits to church and attic sales. “He would get really excited about this junky old looking thing,” she said, describing the games he would find in sometimes-terrible condition. The fact that Dylan Devivo was able to find games for fifty cents and brag about what it was really worth was the trigger point for knowing that he was turning into a true collector. “That’s when I think I realized, uh oh, I have two in the family now.”
Aside from a few games and controllers sprinkled throughout, the family den does a good job of masking Dylan DeVivo’s impressive collection inside of drawers and cabinets. His bedroom, however, is anything but reserved and shows his passion for not only games but his colorful personality as well.
“I’m trying to keep it under control and organize it,” said Dylan DeVivo, “but not only do I play games, I also buy memorabilia for games so it’s getting a bit crazy.” The walls are covered in advertisement posters, shelves support hundreds of toys and figurines, and drawers under his bed open to reveal a wealth of games jammed to maximum capacity.
“I want somebody to look at my collection and say ‘wow that’s really cool!’” He hopes that his passion and personality come across when showing off his collection to others. “I’ve always just wanted something that’s really unique to me,” he said. “I could have been into anything when I was little, I could have gotten into collecting vintage rocking chairs. Anybody can get into anything, and what I decided to get into was video games.”
Collecting video games is not just about putting them on a shelf to display and never touching again. He makes sure no games in his collection gather dust for too long. “I can’t go a whole week without playing at least five different video games, even if it’s just for a few minutes,” he said. “It’s just a passion of mine that I know I can’t live without.”
Nintendo is by far his favorite game company and he attributes his love for games to the fact that the first game he ever touched was on a Nintendo game system. “Nintendo is my roots — the nostalgia, interest and adventure is really in Nintendo games.”
Dylan DeVivo owns almost every Nintendo game system dating back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System released in 1983, up to the WiiU released in 2013. “Nintendo really defines to me the atmosphere of video games and games in general because video games can take you out of your world and comfort zone,” he said. “And Nintendo does that the best, they really know how to exploit peoples sense for adventure.”
Despite all of the old dusty game systems, TV’s, and games themselves seemingly taking over the home, there is one thing that echoes throughout the DeVivo household – an understanding for the things they love. “I think it’s really neat that he has got this wonderful passion that he can really escape into and just have this whole world that he really enjoys,” said Sherri DeVivo. “I wish I had something like that. I’m in awe of people that have those kind of passions.”