- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

BEDFORD, Ind. (AP) - After a documentary crew met Tod Curtis to look over his old Nintendo games collection more than a year ago, the crew told the film’s star that Curtis was in the mafia, was tough to get along with and might not let him inside his home.

“They were joking with him,” Curtis said. “They didn’t tell him anything about the collection. He had no idea.”

That meant Jay Bartlett’s reaction when he walked into the display in Curtis’ basement for the movie, “Nintendo Quest,” is caught on film for the documentary.

“Whoa,” Bartlett said when Curtis opened the door.

In the film, Bartlett, a Canadian and a Nintendo fanatic, travels across the United States in 30 days to purchase original Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges in order to complete a North American collection using his own money and without the Internet’s aid.

Curtis first found out about the documentary from a website, nintendoage.com, a site he checks from time to time because “it follows some interesting auctions,” he said.

“So I sent them an email saying I had a complete collection if they wanted to stop by,” Curtis explained. For several weeks, he didn’t receive any response.

It was close to the end of the 30-day period when he received a call from the film crew. The production team was driving from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Indianapolis, and they would visit if they had the time. It wasn’t part of their schedule, though.

“They showed up here - the producers, not (Bartlett) - at 9:30 at night on a Monday; it was actually Labor Day,” Curtis said.

Curtis has every game made for the original console, including arcade displays and more. The rarest game in the collection, he said, is “Stadium Events” developed by Bandai. It has a value of between $25,000 and $30,000, and a copy of it sold for more than $35,000 in 2010 on eBay, according to Gamespot.com. Bartlett, in the documentary, shows a copy on sale for $77,000 on eBay.

“This is like the game of all video games to get, within reason,” Bartlett says in the documentary. “This is one of the holy grails.”

And in the documentary, trying to get a copy of the game causes tension and stress for Bartlett.

“At one time, I had three copies of it,” Curtis said.

So when Bartlett visited, Curtis wasn’t surprised. Bartlett didn’t make the trip from Oklahoma City to Indianapolis necessarily to purchase games from Curtis, but to see the collection.

“He found some rare games and bought some,” Curtis said. It wasn’t difficult for Curtis to hand them over, because they were all extra copies of games he already had. Some of the ones Bartlett bought from Curtis were the rarest games made for the NES, including “Little Samson” and “Bonk’s Adventure.” Bartlett returned about eight months later to buy a copy of “Stadium Events,” as well.

But it was still about another year before the film was finished. Curtis and his family just saw a theatrical viewing of the documentary in Columbus, Ohio, in August.

“First of all, I was surprised at how big of a role I played in the film,” Curtis said. “And secondly … seeing yourself on screen is always uncomfortable.”

Also, in the film, the film crew draws a map of all the places they stopped to buy video games, and Bedford is included on that map.

“It’s nice for the town,” Curtis said.

Now the film, which originated as a Kickstarter project more than two years ago, is available on DVD through Amazon and for digital download through Vimeo and iTunes.

“The people who were here - I would consider them good friends,” Curtis said. “After the 30 days, they came back, and we went to the area quarries, to Mr. Gatti’s (pizza parlor), to a lot of places. … They wanted to experience southern Indiana.”

Some of those trips can be found in extra footage on a bonus features disc of “Nintendo Quest.”

Curtis’ hobby began about 15 years ago, when Broadview Video in Bedford was about to close.

“I grew up in the Nintendo/Atari era,” Curtis said. “It was my childhood.”

Back then, it was similar to collecting baseball cards or comic books.

“As time went on, I decided I wanted to collect all of them,” Curtis said. He knew the prices of games were inflating when Nintendo became cool again, so he told his wife if he was serious about collecting, that was the time to do it.

His wife, Cindy, was understanding.

“She understands wanting to collect them,” Curtis said. “She also understands they’re investments.”

As time goes on, the value of the games continues to go up, because the games continue to be rare.

“Games I bought for $20 are now worth $100,” Curtis said. “Games I spent $200 on are now worth $2,000. … It’s ridiculous.”

Curtis not only owns the cartridges, but also has collected all the boxes and instruction manuals for the games, which was the really hard part. He also has collected other games and store displays. Some items he’s been meaning to add to his collection have been on his watch lists on websites such as eBay for more than three years, and they’ve not been available yet.

Step through the door into the area where his games are, and it feels as though it’s an actual arcade for business.

“It’s almost a museum,” Curtis said.

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Source: The Times-Mail, https://bit.ly/1RRXgBm

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Information from: The Times-Mail, https://www.tmnews.com

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