Mike Thomasson shows off his extensive collection of video games, which landed him a two-page spread in the Guinness Book of World Records and the record holder name. Photo by Brianna Black
SPRINGVILLE—Mike Thomasson still remembers the first video game he ever played. It was Space Invaders, one that was tucked into the corner of a Kentucky Dairy Queen he was visiting with his siblings. He had entered the restaurant with a handful of change and the intention of buying a slushy, but the game changed that.
“I didn’t get my slushy that night,” Thomasson said with a smile, but what he did get was the start of a lifelong hobby.
Thomasson, 12 -year manager of a Springville game retailer, was featured in the latest Guinness World Book of Records for having the world’s largest video game collection.
Thomasson’s collection, which consists of over 11,000 games, was recognized by Guinness as the world’s largest on Dec. 23, 2012, but the information was not made public until 2013, because Guinness wanted to use the record to promote the new book.
“No one got a whole page in the book except me,” said Thomasson. “And I got two whole pages.”
He said that being recognized by Guinness was a long and extensive process. He had to send over 20 pounds of paperwork to them and provide them with photographic and video submissions of his collection. His collection was then investigated by John-Paul Dyson, the director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, and Leonard Herman, videogame historian and writer.
Thomasson had set his sights on owning the record, but a game retailer had tipped off the previous record holder, Richard Lecee, of Thomasson’s plans. With that in mind, Thomasson made sure to beat the record by several thousand games. Lecce’s official count was 8,616 in 2010. Thomasson’s official count is 10,607, though the collection includes upwards of that.
Thomasson started his collection in 1983 by going to thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets
In 1989, Thomasson sold his collection to buy a Sega Genesis and in 1998 he sold another part to pay for his wife JoAnn’s wedding ring.
He explained that at that time there wasn’t a market for retro games, so it was harder to find the games. “That was before retro games were in vogue,” he said.
Now, a collection like Thomasson’s could go for over $700,000, according to an appraisal he had done a few years ago. And with keeping his spending to less than $3,000 a year, that’s quite a turnaround. The last time Thomasson paid full price for a game was in 2000, he said.
This isn’t the only record Thomasson has broken. In 2012 he decided to try competitive gaming and was able to secure a high score every day for 152 days.
Thomasson is a video game historian, and he has his face on a Twin Galaxie’s Video Game Trading Card to prove it. According to the card, he is the most widely respected videogame historian in the videogame field today.
He has helped write “The Phoenix Rise and Fall of Video Games” and “The History of Video Games” and was the lead writer for the college text book “The Encyclopedia of Video Games.” You can find information on video game history on his website gooddealgames.com, along with home brew games, which are new games he publishes for old systems, in addition to interviews with game creators and articles. Thomasson said the website, which he started in 1998, is more of a database than anything else.
He teaches video game related classes at Canisius College, including History of Video Games,
Game Design and Advanced Animation for Gaming.
Before moving to Springville, he was a 3D animator in Kentucky, having attended Purdue University for graphic design and management.
He had first planned on becoming an astronaut, but was too tall, so instead got a masters degree in animation. His other hobbies include playing soccer, collecting Kentucky Derby glasses and collecting Aerospace patches.
“I can’t believe people want to read about it,” said Thomasson about the attention that his collection is getting. “For a while, before the internet, I thought I was the only one interested in retro video games.”