Our next collection belongs to Rocco Di Leo (@actraiser) from Germany. Rocco has a basement to die for, tricked out with gaming hardware new and old. For the purposes of this article we will concentrate on only the older elements of his fantastic collection.
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Q and A with Rocco Di Leo
Thank you for your excellent website Ant! It’s great I can contribute something. My name is Rocco Di Leo, I was born 1975 in Germany and today work at Zynga – which is an awesome company by the way despite what one might read in the press.
When did you become interested in video games and what was the first video game you played?
Rocco: My first contact with electronic games certainly were pinball machines in the late 70s but at the age of five I was encountering for the first time real video games. The first one I can remember was Galaxian set up in a restaurant near our main train station and the second was a Centipede machine in the foyer of one of the local cinemas. I remember it very well for it’s unique track ball back then. The thing with being born in West-Germany was that access to dedicated arcades or even playing on arcade machines was not allowed for anyone under the age of 18 – but there were people like owners of pizzerias who seldom cared about that law. So those were my playing locations as they usually had a pinball and one arcade game installed. I was also lucky that the local bowling place had plenty of arcade machines in a restricted back corner, so me and friends were visiting this place for years and sneaked into the forbidden zone usually to just watch other people playing. It often gave us 30 minutes or so before somebody from the staff asked us to leave the area.
What was the first games console or computer you owned and how old were you?
Rocco: I was six years old when my mum bought me an Atari VCS for Christmas 1981. It came only with one game which was Pac Man but luckily the local video rental also rented VCS games so every second day I begged my mother to get me some new game to play for a day or two. In the end I happened to play every released VCS game but never really owned more than maybe 10 different titles. When I was 9 years old I got a C64 with a Datasette. Finally I was able to play arcade hits like Kung Fu Master in excellent quality at home – it was amazing!
What got you into collecting videogames, computers and consoles?
Rocco: I think there were two phases in my life were I really bought a lot of games. The time around 1990 ongoing where I had incredible much time during school. Like many of my friends I was buying and selling used console games via small ads in print magazine and invested the profit in growing my game stock. I really had a lot of games for Master System, NES, PC-Engine, SNES and Mega Drive.
The second phase started not too long ago. Me and my wife bought a house last year and most of the basement was declared to be my area I can do what I want with. I never had so much space available and started to do what I always wanted to do. I wanted to create a really cool place to play not only the latest current generation games but also build a decent collection on retro systems which influenced my daily life for at least a decade in the 80s and 90s. The pictures posted with this interview are dedicated to one specific system – but to me, it was the most influencing one – the Commodore 64. That being said, there is much more in that basement and it really unsurprisingly is my favorite place in the house.
What got you interested in Commodore computers in particular?
Rocco: I don’t know about the UK or the US but back in the 80s in West-Germany you would go to the big department stores where they had set up all computers to try out. The popular ones here were at first the ZX-Spectrum, then Amstrad CPC 464/664 and the Commodore computers like C16 and C64. So after school we used to hang out at those department stores and I was usually playing games which somebody loaded into the C64. I loved it for the smooth graphics and the excellent SID-sound. When I finally owned that machine myself I got totally absorbed by the games and especially the music by wizards like Rob Hubbard or Martin Galway – I even recorded tapes with my favorite C64 SIDs and listened to them on my way to school.
I sold all my C64 stuff at some point to move on to Amiga – which was another great chapter of life – but I never really let go of the good old Commodore 64. With the new space last year I was finally able to get back and started to go deeper into the hardware – much more than I ever did when I was young. I finally wanted to learn 6510 assembler, I wanted to grasp every part of the chips and circuits – I wanted to understand how games really worked. And because the games did influence me so much and come with a lot of great memories I wanted to own all important C64 games in their original released form. So this was the beginning of obsessivly re-collecting C64 games and some hardware.
Where do you source most of your retro purchases from (ebay, flea markets, car boots etc) ?
Rocco: I started with asking friends from back then if they still had C64 games somewhere stored but I was not very lucky. I scanned eBay and identified some guy from Sweden who sold off an entire collection of 200 games or so one by one. I contacted him and we agreed to a deal which worked for both of us and this was the start. All other games really often come from eBay or forums like Lemon64 or the German Forum64.
What is your most prized retrogaming possession and how much did it cost you?
Rocco: The SuperCPU together with a FD-2000 disk drive cost me around 900 Euro. It’s the last revision with 16MB Ram in excellent condition and works like a charm. On the game-side most C64 titles really are not expensive and go for 5 Euro – 20 Euro with some few exceptions but there are probably only a dozen titles I paid more than 100 Euro. Rather than price there are a few games I thought were just hard to find in the first place like Disk-versions of Bounty Bob strikes Back, Giana Sisters, M.U.L.E, Wasteland or Labyrinth.
What is your favourite console or computer?
Rocco: I talked enough about my favorite computer which is the C64 of course but when it comes to consoles I also have a clear number one which is the NEC PC-Engine. What an excellent machine, so many brilliant coin up conversions and innovative development around hardware, whether it be the Super CDRom, the portable PC Engine GT, The combined DUO system or just the fact that they had from the start 5-player-adapters and great arcade sticks. Too bad it failed outside Japan.
Where do you want to go now with the collection?
Rocco: Except for maybe a dozen really hard to get titles I am good on C64. I have everything I wanted – and more. The most important thing is that I use the stuff daily in some way whether it be by reading a C64 book or playing around with old games or new productions like the great output still coming from the active C64 community. No, I am really good – I fulfilled a long-cherished wish with this collection and the fact that I am able to go down the basement and everything is ready for usage is all I ever wanted. My nearly three years old son is currently making his first steps towards video games with iPhone titles like Jetpack Radio or Mario Kart on Wii but I am pretty sure he will be interested in the history of gaming too at some point. He will have plenty of opportunities to dive into this topic.
Have you any tips for budding retro games collectors?
Rocco: I would suggest that you should not start collecting retro stuff when you don’t have the money to eventually reach a personal fulfilling goal or don’t have appropriate space to give the collection the visibility it deserves. You want to be good with your girl or wife on the money-side and you don’t want to store the stuff in some storage boxes somewhere. Also while i can be a thrill to close one good deal on Ebay or elsewhere, in the end collecting will add up and you will have invested thousands of Euros at some point – for stuff probably no-one in your friends or family circle will care but you. On the other hand, if you are really passionate about something and can mentally connect to a specific system it becomes very rewarding on a personal level to see a collection grow.