Business caters to video game nostalgia

A poster for Super Mario Bros. 3 hangs prominently in the window of Pastime Legends Video Games.

A poster for Super Mario Bros. 3 hangs prominently in the window of Pastime Legends Video Games.

Super Mario Bros. was released more than 20 years ago and can only be played on the Nintendo Entertainment System, which was discontinued in 1995.

But the game is a hot seller at Pastime Legends, a video game store in Scotia that specializes in older games and systems; Pastime Legends co-founder Joe Pirro says Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of his favorite games.

“I love the original Nintendo,” Pirro said. “If I was stuck on an island, that’s the video game system I would want.”

Video games have come a long way since the 1980s and ’90s. The graphics are better, the storylines tend to be more sophisticated and the characters are often more complex. And yet there are a lot of people who prefer playing older video games, and Pastime Legends caters to them.

“A lot of it is nostalgia,” said Emily Petrequin, Pirro’s business partner and girlfriend. “Being able to be a kid again, to be able to hold onto that carefree time in your life when the most important thing in life is getting to the next level of the game. At least once or twice a week, we have someone come in and say, ‘Oh, my God, you have Atari.’ ”

Pastime Legends doesn’t completely eschew the new, but the big draw is the older stuff: Atari games such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders that sell for $1.99 and Nintendo games that sell for a few dollars more, as well as Super Nintendo games, Nintendo 64 games, Sega Genesis games and older PlayStation games.

“We try to do our best to carry a little bit of everything,” said Petrequin, 24, a Glenville native. “We get new games the day they come out, and we sell the latest systems. But the older stuff is what’s unique about us. You can go anywhere and get the latest games. … We’ve always loved older games. Most chain stores only care about new stuff.”

Pastime Legends opened on Mohawk Avenue in Scotia in July 2009. Business grew steadily, and in September 2010 Pirro and Petrequin opened a second shop on Lark Street in Albany.

Petrequin said the older games are popular with both adults and kids. “We have middle school and high school kids who recently discovered retro gaming and really like it,” she said.

Retro gaming describes the hobby of collecting and playing older computer and video games, often on the original hardware.

Pastime Legends also sponsors gaming tournaments and held its first tournament of the year on Saturday at Howe Library in Albany. Another event is scheduled for June 4 at Proctors in Schenectady. That tournament will run from noon to 9 p.m., and feature games such as Mario Kart Double Dash and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

labor of love

Pastime Legends got its start at the flea market on Crane Street in Schenectady in 2008, when Pirro began selling, buying and trading games at his parents’ spot. Petrequin started helping him with advertising, and eventually they had enough inventory to open a store. They picked downtown Scotia because of the village atmosphere, foot traffic and proximity to Collins Park, kids and teenagers.

At first, it was tough going.

The couple put everything they had into Pastime Legends, working between 80 and 100 hours a week and investing all of their money into the project.

“I overdrew my bank account by $600,” Pirro said. “Every waking moment we were at the store.”

For Pirro, 25, video games are a life-long passion.

He began collecting video games in high school, buying them at garage sales and from his peers, and gradually amassed a substantial collection.

“It was just a compulsion for me,” Pirro recalled. “I figured that anything I didn’t want, I might be able to trade to get things I wanted. I was 16 and buying everything I could.”

When he went to college, Pirro set all of his video game systems — the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, PlayStation and PlayStation 2 — up in his dorm room.

“People were amazed that I still had all this stuff,” he said. “People would walk into my room and say, ‘Let’s play Street Fighter.’ I saw that a lot of people had the same passion I did for the games I liked when I was growing up.”

Petrequin played video games when she was a kid, but she wasn’t the avid gamer Pirro was. When she and Pirro began working together at the flea market, “I would try out games and get to know them,” she said. Now, “I play a little bit of everything. You could say I’m more into old-school stuff. I like the newer stuff, but I feel like it’s repetitive. So many new games are so much alike. They release a new Madden game every single year.”

Niche expanding

Pastime Legends isn’t the only Capital Region store that specializes in vintage video games.

Frank D’Aloia, 27, has owned Forgotten Freshness, a used video game store in Stillwater, for about six years. Like Pirro, he is an avid video game collector who wound up with a large surplus and decided to open his own shop.

“I do this because I love video games,” he said.

For many people, particularly casual video game players, the older, cheaper systems might be a more sensible way to go, D’Aloia said. He said one of his customers walked into his shop planning to purchase a PlayStation 3, which sells for almost $250, but decided instead to buy a Super Nintendo, which costs between $50 and $60.

“He’s going to get the same enjoyment out of the Super Nintendo,” D’Aloia said.

Another retro video game shop is Jay Street Gaming, which has two locations, in Crossgates Mall and Colonie Center.

D’Aloia said business was “very strong” when he first opened, but the market is becoming saturated as other used video game shops open in the area.

“Business is still high,” he said. “I still get a lot of people. But it’s spread out thinner.”

Meanwhile, Petrequin and Pirro are looking ahead.

“We’re definitely in a planning mode,” Petrequin said. “We’re thinking about what to do next.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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