A video-game collector’s beginning

Carlos Mendoza holding a controller and playing a game. (Richard DePaula/SFMN)

In two days recently, Carlos Mendoza traveled over 500 miles from Miami to Orlando and back. Why? To buy video games for obsolete systems like the Gamecube that haven’t been made in years.  

He spent a total of $200. And he considered it a good deal.

Mendoza, a computer science major at Florida International University who currently works at GameStop, collects, sells, buys, and trades retro games as a hobby. He owns hundreds of CDs and cartridges that he stuffs in a drawer he can barely open. 

The oldest game he owns is the original Japanese version of Pokémon Red, released on February 27, 1996, about two years before he was born. His rarest is a copy of Pokémon Soul Silver for the Nintendo DS.

Growing up in Kendall, his love for video games started when he was young. He played some of his favorite games on original Nintendo consoles, GameCube and Gameboy SP & DS.

“I played because it was a mixture of escapism and fun. To forget about my real-world responsibilities and distract myself,” Mendoza says. 

People have collected games for generations. Some spend thousands on those that they will never play, according to the New York Times.  Game collectors’ stashes can be worth millions. Atari 2600 games alone can range from $3.25 for just the cartridge to $5,000 sealed and factory new, according to pricecharting.com. The most a game has ever sold for was $2 million. It was a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System on August 6, 2021, at a collectibles website called Rally, according to an article in the New York Times.

A drawer filled with retro games from Carlos’s collection. (Richard DePaula/SFMN)

Mendoza started collecting in January of 2021, inspired when he bought a Nintendo DS for what he considered a great price at a gaming convention. 

Since then, he’s gathered many more games. Pulling out one of his drawers filled with games, he nearly broke it because of the number he had crammed in there.

When asked why he prefers retro games, Mendoza said: “Retro games tend to hold their value if not increase in value the older they are.” 

He also prefers to do business in person, as it allows him and the other party involved to better see the quality of the merchandise. However, he also does business online using the website Mercari.

“It’s user-friendly and it’s easy to just ship out games and get paid, along with buying games and other stuff from sellers,” Mendoza said. 

Mendoza met Kasandra Ulloa, his girlfriend of two years, at Supercon in 2019 and they bonded over their love of the Pokémon series. “Carlos has a non-stop passion for video games and I was super ecstatic when he told me he wanted to start collecting and selling,” she says. He taught her how to spot fake copies of games; one technique is to carefully look at the stickers on cartridges. 

The GameStop store, located on 13744 SW 56th St, Miami, FL 33175, hired Mendoza in July 2021 as a “keyholder,” the equivalent of an assistant manager. He says it works well for him because he gets a good discount on games he enjoys and thus allows his collection to grow.

Going to Gamers Inc. in Orlando with Ulloa on October 15, Mendoza initially hoped to get some more Pokémon games. Upon not finding any, he had figured he would settle for the Fable Anniversary Edition for the Xbox 360. But then he saw Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon factory sealed behind a glass display case for $200. To him, it was a no-brainer which one to buy.

Carlos holding Devil Summoner 2:Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon (Richard DePaula/SFM

Mendoza purchased other games during his visit, but none were as noteworthy as Devil Summoner 2. The rush he felt from such a find only invigorated his drive to keep hunting once he returned to Miami.

“I felt very happy about owning a game that rare and in factory-sealed condition,” says Mendoza about his purchase. “Seeing the game in such immaculate condition, let alone owning it, is crazy.”

Alexus Goings is a junior majoring in digital broadcast media at Florida International University. After graduation, she hopes to work in the entertainment industry as a television host.
Richard De Paula is a junior majoring in Journalism at FIU. After finishing his studies, he plans to find a job editing for a publishing company.