Amidst the technological boom that has occurred over the last three decades, many prominent markers of the times have fallen between the cracks: Tamagotchis on belt loops were replaced by apps on powerful cell phones; top friends on MySpace were dethroned by likes on Facebook; clunky computer hardware were swatted with sleeker designs with power rivaling the tech that put a rocket on the moon. Video games were no exception to the change, and in fact showed the evolution of the times, with improving graphics, expanding interactive mechanics, and movie-worthy storylines.
But rather than shelter the machines and games of yore under glass, many enthusiasts and players, both young and old, choose to enjoy these experiences of the past alongside their ancestors, even housing ever-growing collections of games, each with their own biographies embedded within their cartridges.
The beginning of documentary “The Bits of Yesterday,” collecting the experiences of collectors and enthusiasts from far and wide, began as a personal journey for documentarian Darrin Peloquin, whose introduction to the Nintendo Entertainment System at age 5 lit the spark to a youthful passion. “I was blown away! I used to go over to [my cousin Josh’s] house and beg and plead his mother to play [the system] while Josh was at school,” says Peloquin, whose small collection later consisted of games like Super Mario Bros., Alien Asylum, and Dash Galaxy. His crossover into the world of game collecting, however, occurred much later, after happening across YouTube channels such as The Irate Gamer and series like ‘Angry Nintendo Nerd’ (now ‘Angry Video Game Nerd,’ on the channel Cinemassacre. “It made me swell up inside with that feeling of nostalgia. I began to think that…I should be playing some of these games I grew up with like these two guys [Chris Bores and James Rolfe, respectively] were,” says Peloquin. One Craigslist purchase and stack of reclaimed Nintendo Power magazines from his mother later, Darrin was reliving his childhood memories. “All of those games I wanted to play and heard of became a reality. I could now get any game I wanted. Little did I realize how far down the rabbit hole went when it came to video game collecting, nor did I foresee that other people were doing the same thing: reliving their childhoods through game collecting.”
Peloquin launched his own production company, Dream Case Productions, in 2014, and began crafting the project that would soon form into “The Bits of Yesterday.” “I wanted to do a coming of age story, but at that time it seemed like a rather huge undertaking so I opted to showcase video game collecting,” said Peloquin. The project, which will feature “normal, everyday people and collectors” alongside well-known collectors like YouTuber Pat the NES Punk and the Angry Video Game Nerd himself, James Rolfe, has become its own personal journey, housing not only the history of an outdated and treasured technology, but the many stories and memories attached to them as well. “When you power up that system and load in that game or whatever, you’re on a journey that reality sometimes can’t fulfill,” he said. “I feel like I’m on a journey myself; a self-proclaimed Indiana Jones of game collectors. The places I’ve been, the history I’ve seen is quite something.”
The motivation behind the documentary isn’t solely to create a time capsule for retro games and systems, but to examine the culture and community growing around them. “There’s this strange dynamic that resonates within the culture of game collectors. It’s amazing how perfect strangers can come together and put down differences and enjoy something like little pieces of plastic and metal,” said Peloquin. It is seemingly this said dynamic that is making the old new again. “It’s a beautiful thing to see how discarded technology strives in a digital world. It’s a very unique symbiotic relationship how old, outdated technology and our ever-growing digital world exists together.”