Just as the box says, how did you enjoy your VCS back in the day?
When I first got one in 1977 I was equally amazed and relieved. Amazed because there was a way to make a game console not become obsolete via cartridges. It was revolutionary. Relieved because I would not have to shell out hundreds of $$$ every year every time a new variant on Pong was invented.
And so in the years ahead I amassed cartridges and accessories, even other systems. Gameplay was everything. Learning Apple II was everything. Everything! Coming home from school on Friday, especially early on select days, we'd trek to Toys'R'Us. and perhaps Venture or Minnesota Fats. And even the computer store. It was a double whammy - entering into the uniquely "smellfull" department store from the oppressive humidity and going right to videogame section. It was an adventure all its own.
Looking up and down the literal ROWS of cartridges they had was near-overwhelming. The only thing that made it bearable were grandparents willing to purchase more than one cartridge. That way I didn't have to agonize over choices and thus cast a dark spell over the outing.
Then the anticipation of the ride home, hoping the 20-year old beater car didn't break down. Finally we'd sit our assess down on a vinyl beanbag, sweat summore, and "place our orders" for junkfood snacks or TV dinners. We'd open the cart box, toss it and the instructions aside, and immediately begin playing. Only on occasion would we reference the Game Matrix Chart printed on the back of the manual.
We'd sometimes play for hours. Not on the same game, but cycling through several, and even swapping systems! ..if we were fortunate enough to have buddies with a different console or even lucky enough ourselves to have more than one. Gameplay was typically interspersed with reading Astronomy books, computer books, space and Star Wars stuff, EGM and Omni and Popular Science. Even building model rockets and playing slot cars (Aurora, Tycho) and a visit to the hobby shop for RadioControl cars was in the equation sometime. We'd do this all day Saturday and Sunday if the weather was bad outside. Maybe even a trip to the arcade. And when we were done we'd make up sci-fi stories about advanced computers and arcades of the future. On really cold and snowed-in days we'd build blanket forts with a moon/lunar theme to them. Craters and mountains of Styrofoam. Drinks served in anodized aluminum "space cups". My friends loved me when I would get into reading a Larry Niven or Arthur C. Clarke book. It essentially meant they'd have control of the videogame consoles and computers while I was content to eat barbecue chips with cream cheese and Pepsi or Coke. Bunking in the cutout lofts, makeshift reading alcoves - throw those in too.
Good food, good company, not a care in the world beyond the living room or basement. And as kids we couldn't get enough of it! The weather forecaster announcing an additional 20" inches of snow by Monday morning meant an extension of all the above!
Time rolled on and a few years later all of us had amassed cartridges and disks for numerous systems like the Atari 400/800, C64, Apple II, Colecovision, and others. Some of us had the makings of a genuine library and dedicated fully 1/3rd of a room's wall to displaying them. Though that was not the purpose, to create a showcase. It was for easy access. That was the downfall of a large library of several hundred cartridges, not to mention boxes of disks with multiple games on each. Finding a specific something could take 10 minutes depending exactly what it was. But it was a nice problem to have.
I had tried paper lists and even a PFS database on my Apple II - of which the purpose was to catalog everything and list a number that would locate exactly where something was. A card catalog! In this context, a cart catalog! Ha! It worked for a bit. It was novel. It was sophisticated. And it grew to be so big it took my 1MHz Apple II longer to search through the list than we ourselves did. This happened around 500 records. PFS was fast on one field, all others was an arduous exercise in disk grinding. And little kids didn't know much about designing and optimizing databases. So that was the end of that.
We trudged on through the early 80's, enjoying the "hobby". It wasn't called a hobby back then. It was game playing. And we had to be careful about discussing what we liked otherwise girls wouldn't like us. Neither would the "real" bigger kids. So our computer stuff and videogames kinda became less important out of social pressure. It didn't help any that my grandparents started calling my videogame collection "baby toys".
In the mid 80's the Amiga had taken center stage for a while along with the Apple II. And then the PC in the 90's, by which time had long abandoned all cartridge systems. They were "one way" no real easy and practical way to program them like a computer. We didn't have the tools then like we do today. I had viewed all the early 1st generation 8-bit consoles as literally e-waste. Though part of me was sad to see the greatness fade.
I even tried to do a "collection rebuild" sometime in the 90's. But it wasn't the same. The internet was too new. And there really was no place to drive to that had mountains of cartridges like the department stores of 1979 and 1980 did. I could travel 100 miles, and maybe come home with 2 or 3 ratbaggy & grungy cartridges and some nameless AC adapters and RF cables. The pickings were unbelievably thin. The little bit there was people's throwaway garbage. The unwanted systems were still sitting in closets - awaiting whatever sentence fate would bequeath them in the future. It was a hopeless cause.
Fast forward today. Today we can play VCS in like 5 different ways, real hardware, fpga rigs, emulation, store-bought portables and all-in-ones, and more. I chose software emulation and The Grand Richness of my childhood library has returned. Every day is an extravaganza. There's reliable hardware, wide selection of games instantly available. All of it can be contained nicely and built to be compatible with aesthetically pleasing classy interiors without the stigma of "old". Not that old classics are a stigma to begin with.
It's great fun to re-read books like my astronomy stuff, early material on the micro-chip, and other forward-thinking material like stuff on science and space colonies and the space shuttle. And at the same time have an arbitrary VCS game going through a demo in attract mode. And then to go play it. Yeh, that's cool.