Retro Power: Issue 2 The Holiday Double Issue!
Hello readers! Due to the demands of the holiday season & both of us having to deal with sorting out big unanticipated life stuff, we’re combining November & December’s issues! Please accept a bit of extra content as our apology for any stress we’ve put onto you with this departure from the norm. We hope you enjoy this month’s contributions and continue to participate in the future! Keep being awesome, we’re your biggest fans.
-Alex and Valerie
Last month we asked you to answer the question “Has a retro game ever helped you through a hard time?”
I’d have to say yes. In the months following my grandmother’s death, I played a LOT of Game Boy. I can’t point to a specific game, other than beating Super Mario Land and the first TMNT Game Boy game repeatedly, but I logged a lot of time into Castlevania Adventure, Kid Icarus: Myths and Monsters, Gargoyle’s Quest, and several other games that really helped take my mind off things, and give me time to process that loss over time, which is hard enough at any age, but especially in that early adolescence period. My Game Boy gave me an outlet for my frustration, allowing me to vanquish monsters and baddies, and giving me something to focus on other than my own sadness. It was a helpful tool for me as an awkward kid.
–Josh Dieckmann (@MetalFRO)
Reader submitted pictures
Aaron ran into some real treasures at a German flea market.
Does anyone else remember going to Blockbuster to get your pictures printed? Valerie does!
Nathan has some serious art skills when it comes to Harvest Moon.
Alex had a chance to chat with Chris Sayers, the owner of Mr. Jolly’s 8 Bit Kingdom, a fine online store that specializes in retro game art.
Alex: Has a video game every helped you through a tough time in life?
Chris: Most certainly! Video games are a truly unique media that reaches people from all walks of life at any time in their life. For me, it was nearly a decade ago. I was in my early 20’s, and, like most young men at that age, I felt invincible. Then, my Mother passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. So, I found myself at my local video rental store where I found The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. For 3 days and nights I rampaged through that game, collected everything that I could, maxed out abilities, and completed the game. I remember laughing every time that I would save an innocent civilian by leaping up the tallest buildings, setting them down, and watching The Hulk pat them on the head before lunging off the building leaving them stranded. For me, while playing that game, I was nearly invincible. It was something that I needed at that point in my life.
Alex: What was your video game platform of choice growing up?
Chris: Sega Genesis! No contest for me! Sonic the Hedgehog was just so cool! He ran at supersonic speeds, had cool red shoes, loved chili dogs (which is the only reason I even started eating them), and had the best villain! I love robots, so a bad guy that could turn things into machines was just the perfect combo for me.
Alex: How did Mr. Jolly’s 8 Bit Kingdom come into existence?
Chris: To be perfectly candid, Mr. Jolly’s 8 Bit Kingdom was an accident. It starts in early 2013. The creation of perler bead projects was picked up as a way to pass some time. I was on medical leave from work to treat a back injury, and I was suddenly faced with a lot of free time. So, in addition to my video games and comics, I picked up perler beads with the express intention to create all original 151 Pokemon and my fiance and I were going to put them up in our bedroom. I made a few, posted them on Facebook, and people started commenting on how cool they were. I even sold a couple to friends. Then, when I returned to work, money was understandably tight since I was out for a few months, and our (mine and my fiances) favorite anime convention, Colossalcon in Sandusky, Ohio, was weeks away. We participated in the Otaku Arts and crafts fair without the Mr. Jolly’s 8 Bit Kingdom name and with only $200 in perler merch. We quickly sold close to $130 in a couple of hours! Not bad with such little selection! I went back to work, but kept up with making new items. We learned about Cleveland Comic Con, a sister con to Colossalcon. We purchased a table, came up with our flag, made close to $2k in merch, and went into the show with an open mind and excitement! We sold through half of our merchandise! This was when I realized that I was on to something.
Jump ahead to 2014. I’m working a full time job and part time job. Neither of which were Mr. Jolly’s 8 Bit Kingdom. My injury was back and worse than before, I was restricted to minimal activity, so I went on leave again from work to get it taken care of permanently. Once again, I was faced with being out of work for 6 or more months, and decided to jump back into perler art. Colossalcon came around again. I had been preparing an inventory for months. We got our table, took our best faces, and realized that this type of art was quickly becoming a huge thing. We already had our foot in the door. Then came an interesting decision. Do I go back to my job and continue this as a hobby, or do I quit and pursue this as a business? The biggest questions were “How big can I make this? What are the limitations?”. Obviously, my decision was to be my own boss, and I wouldn’t change that!
Now, here we are! We hit one show each month! Some are one day shows, while others are 3-4 day conventions! Every show we hit we have new merchandise and make new friends. It’s a really great place to be!
Alex: Is there a particular work you are most proud of?
Chris: There is a work that I am VERY happy about! It is still in the design/prototype phase. What I can tell you about it is that it is a whole new way of seeing pixel art. I’m a member of many fandoms, and I buy statues, comics, and other pieces of merch from those fandoms. The problem for any collector is how to display them. Where do they go? How do I arrange it so that it doesn’t look tacky or out of place? That means that I stare at my walls and shelf space a lot figuring out how to arrange my pieces.
Many of my customers ask me how to display them. The most common are magnets on the fridge, or by securing them to a wall in the living room or game area.
I found myself looking at my walls again asking myself 2 questions. “How would I display my pieces?” and “How do I display it so that it’s the first thing a guest notices and asks about?” Well, I have an answer now. My new pieces display any fandom uniquely. They are pieces that work well in any modern home, or next to the neon “Arcade” sign you have in the dream arcade that you have in your basement. Pre-constructed floor designs will be rolling out in January, with anything being able to be made custom from the website or a show!
Alex: On average how long does it take for you to make a piece of art?
Chris: It depends on the piece. If it’s a smaller piece, it can take me anywhere from 5-45 minutes depending on the level of detail. Then we hit the other end of the size scale. Let’s look at Apocalypse. One of our biggest pieces! With his level of detail and size, he takes about 2-3 hours. It’s totally worth it, though. I love seeing people faces when they see him! “That’s Apocalypse. DUUUUUUUUUUUDE!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Alex: Could you walk us through the process of making a piece, please?
Chris: The process in making any piece is a fairly simple process. All you need is an idea of what you want, a few peg boards, some parchment paper, an iron, and a bunch of patience. I have learned that patience is key, especially when I am making any of the larger projects like Charizard, Apocalypse or our larger Classic Mega Man. If you get a piece done, there is always a chance that you can bump the board or drop it. Then you are back to starting over.
Once you know what you want to make, it’s just as easy as getting the right colors, placing all the beads on the board, and ironing the piece! Once you are finished ironing, I like to place each piece under a heavy book so that the piece cools down and stays flat. They tend to curl due to the heat from the iron. If a piece comes out warped or bent, I won’t sell it.
Alex: Do you think there is something from retro gaming that today’s gamers are missing out on?
Chris: When video games hit the scene in the arcade, there was so much competition. Not just between the players, but the developers were always looking for that new thing to change the way that we play games. The competition was so fierce that there was always something new! Game developers today have it easier. The graphics have to look good, and there has to be an online component. I enjoyed seeing that new game that introduced a new mechanic i.e. side scroller – shooter – 3D fighter. I watched these get created, and it was easy to get excited about the future of video games!
Don’t get me wrong, I still love games today. Everything from Sega Genesis and Nintendo all the way up to PS4 and Xbox One. These games are changing and getting better with the technology!
When I was growing up in the arcade, and even at home when the Sega and Nintendo hit the market, there was a lot of personal interaction. You friends went and played games at the mall or someones house. It’s a unique experience that I see some developers are going back to because you just cannot replicate that feeling through online chat. There’s nothing like sitting down and playing games with your buds chowing down on some pizza, chips and a beer!
Alex: What game has your favorite art design?
Chris: Okami, hands down! Just an all around gorgeous game!
Alex: What is the quintessential retro game?
Chris: I always look for a few games anytime that I walk into an arcade. Galaga, Rampage, Turtles in Time, Soul Calibur, and House of the Dead. These are all games that I can just sit and play for hours and hours. For me, it’s not just one game. There are many, many great games that I grew up with!
Alex: Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?
Chris: I’m a Bad Dude! Bring on the Ninjas!
Alex: Leave some contact info so readers can check out your website.
Chris: You can check us out online at:
Please pardon our dust on our website. It’s still a work in progress with stuff being added all the time! Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook and follow the store on storenvy! That way you get the latest updates on products and conventions!
Oh, and when you follow us on Twitter, you have a chance at winning free merch! Starting in January, we will be running contests and giving away awesome merch!
Alex bought some products from Mr. Jolly’s 8 Bit Kingdom. He quite enjoys them and would highly recommend them.
For Valerie, stressful times mean brushing up on her puzzle game skills.
I bet I’m not alone when I say Tetris & Dr. Mario help me reach a great mental state. There’s something about the exact amount of concentration those games take, that allows my brain to process my stresses on a back burner, while I’m more occupied with something much more fun & colorful. Those are my standard go-to games when I need to step back & take a deep breath. I remember spending months on end spending my free time playing nothing but Dr. Mario 64! That experience has also led to my being able to beat most people at that game, & hold my own against my brother, which I’d never really been able to do with any game prior. I also went through a phase when I was eighteen where I released stress from a chaotic job by doing speed runs of Mario is Missing… perhaps an odd choice, but the graphics & sounds were very soothing. Another of my favorite memories of a game helping me through tough times: I remember a particular game being a sanctuary for me when I was thirteen. My social circles were changing, I was feeling a lot of pressure to change who I was to fit in with people I wasn’t even sure I liked, I was growing too old for some hobbies but not yet old enough for many others, & what I most wanted in the whole world was a place where I could be accepted & loved for who I was. My brother received The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Christmas, & then he went on a trip out of state for a weekend, so I had a special experience of getting to explore a new game before he did, without him getting to claim play time since it was his system & his game. I entered a world where I didn’t meet the expectations of the people around me, but if I fought hard enough, I got to do something that mattered. I got to leave behind that which was familiar, & find my own way in a big new world. Oh, I also discovered seamwalking, which was like nothing I’d ever seen before, & got to show that off to my brother when he got back & it blew his mind a little too. That was a fantastic confidence boost for insecure little me.
Alex decided to write a bit about a game that is both cathartic and nostalgic.
I didn’t plan this,
but the game that helped me through a tough time in life is none other than The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I remember the events surrounding its release quite well. At the tender age of 14 my my family moved to Georgia from Illinois. I thought I fit in with the new people in this new land at first, but after a few months it became quite evident that was not the case. I withdrew, as introverts do , and took to the internet and to my Nintendo 64. After a few months I stumbled across this
video and I was intrigued. As soon as I could save up enough allowance money I had the game pre-ordered. On the morning of the game’s release I drug my dad out of bed at five in the morning so we could pick up the game before I went to school. I only got to play for an hour, but I was hooked right from the beginning. With the help of a strategy guide I was able to beat the game in just two months, which is as much a miracle for me now as it was then. I don’t typically beat games, but that’s another subject.
Historically speaking the game was released right on the cusp of how gamers exchanged information. Personally speaking I remember at least three friendships that blossomed because of this game. Now it seems like a lost art to discuss gaming strategies at school, or over the phone perhaps because I am not in school and have no landline anymore. But the point remains, this is probably the last game I can think of which I sought after actual people (and they sought me) for gaming advice. Looking back now it’s easy to see why exactly I connected so well with the game. It was almost like Link and myself were on parallel journeys. Link was thrust into Termina against his will, forced to don a mask, and interacted with people in a strange new land. Was I really any different? Unlike Link there was no going back. I had to learn how to adjust, and survive. And that I did with the help of Majora’s Mask. Maybe if I could send a message back in time to myself I would let myself know that all will turn out ok. But for now I can just replay the game and remember where it has brought me.
That’s it for this month’s issue! Feel free to send in your retro inspired art or game haul pictures at anytime to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to be featured in next month’s issue, please be sure to have your contributions in by January 9th. Special thanks to Spencer Sokol (@spencersokol) for the featured image!
Next month’s reader discussion question is:
What games have changed your life?