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Road Trip to Arcade Nirvana 2010 – Part 2

In the much anticipated part two of the “Road Trip to Arcade Nirvana”, I’ll continue our saga with headaches, travel plans and rare lasers. If you missed the first part and want to catch up, check it out HERE . It was tough to wake up early on Sunday morning, especially after that long stretch of drinking and gaming in the Freecade, but we did it. My head felt like I had slept under a train bridge, but Greg and Christy were ultimate hosts to the very end, providing us with coffee and a delicious breakfast before we headed out. We had plans to visit two more collectors while we were still in Ohio, and it was time to get moving. The first stop would be Morgan B. in Hilliard, which was only about 20 minutes away. Greg had plans for later that day, but wanted to visit with Morgan and introduce us, so we headed over in separate cars.

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As we drove the short distance to Morgan’s place, Jeff and I discussed Morgan’s history on RGVAC and in the collecting community in general. Back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Morgan was best known for his knowledge of Zwackery. Zwackery is an odd D&D style adventure game that was designed by a marketing person at Bally Midway. Zwackery had great potential as one of the early adventure games to hit the scene, but the controls are very complex which make it a difficult game to grasp and play effectively. Morgan had a comprehensive website with all kinds of information and history about the game, but it has been down for a long time.

While details about the game play and its history are temporarily MIA, there are a bunch of videos that will give you an idea of how wacky Zwackery is. It’s one of those games that just can’t be emulated properly, you really need to play it on dedicated controls. Morgan is lucky enough to own two uprights and the original prototype game which he purchased directly from the designer. He also has a collection of laser games and some top tier pinball machines.

We arrived at Morgan’s place, located in a nice, quiet, suburban looking subdivision. He welcomed us in and brought us down to his basement. I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the selection of games, though he only had a handful in the finished basement. The first thing that struck me, besides the games, was that the basement was finished, but not the way a collector would do it. It was a living space first with games added almost as a second thought. Not quite what I expected, but perhaps I was spoiled by the lavish atmosphere of the freecade.

While Morgan only has a handful of video games in his basement, they are mostly sought after, rare titles. Except the Tempest of course, which is pretty common. Not sure what the story is behind the lack of side art on that one, never got a chance to ask. Tempest, Major Havoc, Quantum, Zwackery, Dragons Lair, Journey and Space Ace. Nolan Bushnell’s uWink and a handful of pins any die hard pinball collector would love to own. Not a bad lineup.

After chatting a bit and playing a few games of Zwackery and Medieval Madness, Morgan brought us upstairs and out to his garage to take a look at a few of his project games. Now his garage had a lot of clutter just like most of us arcade game collectors do, but the projects Morgan was talking about were nothing short of spectacular. Especially if you like laser games. Don Quix-ote, Badlands, Thayer’s Quest, Cliff Hanger, Road Runner, color Bud Tapper and another Zwackery. There was also an Interstellar which I must have missed when taking photos. I think the last time I saw so many laser games in one place was at California Extreme. It’s an impressive collection, but very sad to see them tucked away in a garage collecting dust.

We talked a bit while ogling his laser games and got a little back story about what he was up to these days. A few years ago Morgan partnered up with another collector and together they now operate 80+ games in major areas of Ohio. He said they do OK, but of course with the bad economy many of his best locations are losing business or closing up shop. Times are tough and coin-op gets hit hard, entertainment dollars are usually the first to dry up. Operating and maintaining the games takes a lot of time and effort and I think Morgan has become victim of the work/hobby syndrome. Anytime you need to make money with your hobby or something you enjoy doing, it starts to become more work and less fun. Eventually its just work. After working on games all day for a living would you want to come home and work on your own games? Not likely.

Overall we had a very short visit with Morgan and I didn’t get to know him as well as I would have liked to. I did appreciate his hospitality and willingness to show us his collection, and wish him the best of luck with his locations. Let’s hope he can find that collecting spark again one day. For all you laser crazies out there, please don’t go out trying to hunt him down to ask about selling his games. Yes they are likely all for sale and I can put you in touch with him. Don’t expect cheap collector prices though, expect “I know what they’re worth and won’t sell for anything less” kind of prices. Add a comment and I’ll contact you. The next and last installment of the Road Trip to Arcade Nirvana is arguably about the most incredible arcade game collection I’ve ever seen. That’s saying a lot considering what we’ve already seen so far! Stay tuned and happy gaming.

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