Video game history and all other types of history deal in fact. This makes it interesting that the sales of some prototype games saw various "historians" spreading misinformation.
This post is to provide fact. It is unlikely to change the most stubborn minds, but at least two sides will be out there for those who are interested in fact.
The claim: That this project sold off "Prototypes donated for preservation" for profit.
This claim is not accurate.
Fact: At the time the prototype games were obtained, this project was still Archive Alley, a project that did NOT deal with games and consoles. Archive Alley collected magazines, books, press kits, internal documents, photographs, footage, etc. with the long-term intent to create a research library for video game history.
Fact: Archive Alley was SELF FUNDED. At no point in time did I ever solicit for donations. Large collections of items entered into the archive were being purchased for the most part. On rare occasion, people would just up and send me stuff, too, but they were never asked to do so and did so on their own.
Fact: At the same time I was doing Archive Alley, I was also buying out local electronic recycling plants in the interest of keeping games and consoles sent there from being destroyed. A portion of these rescues were being shipped to a military charity, the rest were earmarked for other purposes. Some of these rescues were being re-sold in order to self-fund Archive Alley. I was transparent about this repeatedly on social media. This part of the project was NOT part of the archive, however, and anyone who claims it was is in error. Anyone who claims the large quantities of items recovered by this effort were from donations is also in error.
Fact: The stash of games that produced the prototypes came from the attic of an industry veteran that asked me to come get his "old work junk", as he felt I could make use of it. We discussed possibilities relating to it, up to and including the possibility that I'd sell some or all of it. I don't give details of private conversations, but I feel it's worth note that they were not provided to me with the specific intention of preservation. And again, at this time, Archive Alley was preserving media, not games.
Fact: I did not know prototypes were present until after I got home. And there is video evidence of this, as I was on Facebook Live as I looked through the stash. This particular video linked here is just one of several that show this. These videos have been up this entire time, with another clip available on my YouTube showing how the discovery of the Akira protos in general went down. Apparently, these videos were either missed or ignored by those making claims. The linked video above clearly shows protos were discovered buried in a large box that was hardly packed with care.
Fact: When I went to NintendoAge with these finds, I was inboxed in private by multiple people and in public by just one: Frank Cifaldi. The private messages congratulated me and asked about my plans. The public message from Frank practically insisted that I give them to him ASAP. He then asked if I was going to be at a Portland event, linking to their website, which had a big picture of me right on the front of it. Great research skills. This becomes relevant later.
Fact: I have openly stated for over 20 years that I'm against the dumping and distribution of copyrighted materials without the blessing of the people who hold the rights. Anyone who claims to know anything about me should not have been shocked by this when I stated that I did not intend to just dump the materials out there.
Fact: I was open about this in regards to this material all over the place, including at my panel about them at the Portland event. My intentions were to obtain the permission or a way to LEGALLY release the prototype materials. If Cifaldi was not present at the panel his identical twin was. His booth for his organization was no more than 20 feet away from the panel location. Nobody came to me an expressed any issue with my decision.
Fact: Cifaldi did not approach me or speak to me at the event. He did, however, take to Nintendo Age and Twitter AFTER the event to come down on me hard for not going to him with this stuff. He is the only historian or museum that seemed to take issue with my decision to do this my way, and the only one to come at me about it publicly.
Fact: During 2017, I did make headway in my quest. I even chatted with someone else who had Akira ROMs and materials about pooling our items and moving forward. However, life intervened. In short order: I was stalked in person by strangers due in large part to misinformation about everything stated above, the various magazines I was writing for closed up shop and the attempt to revive the G4 brand died on the vine, which put an end to the decent TV network checks I'd get once a month. I went from multiple revenue streams to only a couple in very short order, all while strangers were literally coming to my home and following me around in public.
Fact: I decided to use this situation to expand my deals with electronic recyclers, but few were willing to make the same deals I had with a large one in Grand Prairie. Then that main one was shut down and moved out of the Dallas area, taking away yet another revenue stream.
Fact: It was at THIS TIME - over a year after obtaining the prototypes - that I expanded Archive Alley into Video Game Preservation, putting ALL of my projects under one banner. This re-branded umbrella effort was STILL self funded, though, and was STILL transparent about how selling off various items would be done at times to help keep it self funded.
Fact: Unexpectedly during this time of transition, I stumbled into another business opportunity unrelated to video gaming. And it took off quickly. My focus went to that new business, leaving the gaming projects that weren't paying my bills anymore to become "when there's time" type projects.
Fact: From the first discovery of the protos, I was getting emails and Tweets all the time that bugged me to "hurry up" or to dump them, regardless of my stance on that. Some were rude and threatening. One threatened to come to me and take them out of my hands if need be, as I should be prioritizing them over my life, apparently. Given that I'd had real life stalkers already, this is a threat that I couldn't just brush off. It stayed in my mind a bit. But at the same time, my new business venture was taking up too much of my time to shift.
Fact: In spring of 2019, me and my wife went on a second honeymoon to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. And during it, I found myself relaxed for the first time in probably 15 years. The downtime gave me clarity in terms of how I took on too much stress in work and hobby and needed to simplify. I also though about how grateful I was to my mother-in-law for volunteering to house sit and pet sit for us while we were away due to the guy who threatened to steal the prototypes. That made me realize how stupid I was for having that kind of stress in my life, along with the realization that I was probably never going to have the time to do what I wanted with them. Realistically, was there ever going to be a point where I could justify putting a business where I make money daily on hold to go deal with something where I'll never make a dime?
Fact: When I returned, I took a break from social media and a myriad of other stressors. I decided to return to the Archive Alley intent and leave the prototype stuff to other people. I put the word out and was quickly contacted by numerous historians and museums. I explained to them that my plans were to sell the prototypes TO HELP ME FUND ARCHIVE ALLEY and that I wanted to do this quickly. But none of them moved quickly enough for me, so I forced their hand by popping them on eBay. My interest was to move on quickly and that was the only way to ensure that I could.
Fact: The eBay listings stated in plain sight that the funds would be used to fund Archive Alley. The Akira one also linked to the fact that a portion of the hammer price would be donated to the Fisher House Foundation. Nobody who got into this, however, seemed to want to mention this information, just as they hadn't mentioned any of the above information.
Fact: I was ripped for doing this - with no context - by several people, including Frank Cifaldi, who claimed to have an issue with the selling of these materials. What he doesn't mention is that one of the people in contact with me was a colleague of his who informed me that the Video Game History Foundation was very keen on the idea of purchasing these from me. In fact, that colleague tried to get me to break one of the eBay deals by offering me more money than the eBay buyer. This leads me to my opinion that Cifaldi's issue wasn't the selling of these materials, but the fact that his organization wasn't the ones who bought them and/or that he wasn't given them for free in 2016.
Fact: Another critic was Pat Contri. I have been critical of Contri several times in the past. I believe he saw an opportunity here to take a shot at a critic over him actually experiencing any outrage.
Fact: Nobody - not Contri, not anyone else - made any attempt to call or email me directly before producing their hit pieces on this matter. They made no attempt to get further information or confirm what little they did have.
Fact: The funds were indeed used to help revive Archive Alley and it's original intent. I placed up 43 prototype & production sample items for sale and have used those sales to obtain over 300 more items for Archive Alley with those funds over the past six months.
Fact: Each of the prototypes were sold to museums and/or historians. As previously mentioned, I was in contact with several and they were informed when the opportunity would go live. At least one of them did dump the ROMs.
Fact: I have talked with legal counsel and have considered legal action against several people regarding this. The reason why is because there were those coercing others not to do business with me both directly with these items and otherwise. As I've outlined here, they were coercing people based on incorrect information. This was at least negligent defamation - especially since these people made zero attempt to reach me for information before making their incorrect claims. At worst, it was intentional defamation if they purposely ignored the publicly found information that I've stated here.
At this time, the only reason why I have not yet pursued such action is that I want(ed) this to be over with. That said, I'd advise those who produced content relating to this topic to amend or remove their content. Their lack of regard for factual information appears to have cost Archive Alley potential fundraising revenue.
I'm sure this will be combed over. I'm sure there will be those who take things totally out of context in the effort to tear it down. I'm sure there will be those who choose not to believe any of it, even that which is on video. And I honestly don't care. My intent with this was simply to put my side of it out there so that those who wanted true facts about it could have them.
What's most ironic about it is that I'd often be called out for being critical of people who would gut and transform classic arcade games and consoles into newer stuff, be it illegal multigames or screwy stuff like lamps. People would say that I had no right to tell people what they can do with the stuff they legally own. Yet in this case, many of those same people yelled at me for making a decision on what to do with physical items that I legally owned.
It also brings to light what I feel is the biggest challenge facing true video game history research and preservation. I feel that too many key players in that space see those outside of their scope as competitors rather than peers. Cifaldi is a big part of that in my opinion. I have the utmost respect for what he's done but my impression of him is that he feels that everyone should involve him and his Foundation above anyone else. And that is not my opinion alone - several of the people who purchased the protos from me asked me not to let him know, as they did not wish to "have him on their case" about them. In my opinion, he needs to trust in others and cease the holier-than-thou act or he is going to end up undermining his own efforts in the long run.
Lastly, it is beyond disappointing that so many in the gaming space have become instantly reactive to what anyone else wishes to claim. As I stated and showed above, nobody had full and correct information and context about all this and those who judged did so on the word of people who neglected to do any fact checking or research or even to reach out to me before they did what they did. This is not uncommon in video gaming culture, either, and in the end the entire world of video gaming hurts themselves through these habits.
Anyone wishing to have a mature, rational conversation on this matter is welcome to contact me directly. I will not respond to social media tags and aggressive tactics. This statement is the last public remarks I plan to make, as they should cover the full spectrum to anyone who took the time to read it all.
I have otherwise moved on. Look for more about the revived Archive Alley project in Q1 2020.