If you’re a gamer that grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, have fond memories of going to the store with your parents where you could only look at the shelves full of video game boxes, play games as Shareware, or treasure the rare time you got a new PC game as a gift because of your childhood’s limited access to finances, then Clint Basinger of Lazy Game Reviews is the man you’ll want to know.
Starting in 2009 on YouTube, Lazy Game Reviews – or LGR for short – looks at everything retro and nostalgic in the world of gaming software and hardware. With his smooth voice and calming, collected presentation, you can find him covering fondly remembered titles to odd accessories and gadgets that have been understandably forgotten. Basinger has amassed a collection of more than 3500 PC game boxes that cover the walls of his studio surrounding a generous amount of old, nostalgically priceless PCs.
However, he doesn’t only collect strictly PCs and gaming items. Basinger can also be found scrounging around thrift stores for other collectables such as calculators from the 1970’s when the calculator wars were raging, as well as on the internet collecting historical background information about how all of these things came to be as they are today.
Being the same age as Clint Basinger, it was a great pleasure talking to him and reminiscing about the good old days of gaming that we experienced.
You were born in 1986 and lot of your retro games have to do with games that were in the 80s and 90’s. When did you start gaming? Is there a lot of nostalgia involved with what you do?
It’s pretty much 99% nostalgia (laughs). So, yeah I started gaming in the early 90’s and that was just due to – that was when we got our first computer, I was in Kindergarten I believe, maybe first grade. We got kind of an older computer even for the time, it ran DOS games and some Windows 3.1 stuff and since we didn’t really have a whole lot of money for software after that, I mostly just played old games that my uncle gave me from the early 80’s. Games like Paratrooper and there was one game called Set the Hostages Free, and some of them were text based and CGA games. So those were what I played for years until I could every so often save up for something better or Christmas or birthday came along and, you know, just happened to get something else. But, yeah, it was mostly playing older games on older hardware even well into the 90s and early 2000s.
Even if you didn’t have a lot of money in the 90s, you could collect discs with Shareware. Was that a big draw for you?
Yeah, Shareware was probably my primary source of getting new games. Shareware games at a local bookstore, especially. The first game I got was Crystal Caves by Apogee and that was a five-dollar Shareware disk by some local company, and there were a bunch of them there. Every time I got a chance or when I could convince my parents to get me something either at the bookstore or even, there were some at just this little shop down the road that sold all sorts random knickknacks and stuff, I guess there were local vendors that had them.
Yeah, I remember going to stationary stores when I was little, and even Shoppers Drug Mart where they had them.
Yeah, I was trying to remember the place, it was called Roses. It was just like, they had all sorts of discounted things and happened to be some Shareware things in there too.
Especially Doom, id Software used Shareware to make it spread. When was the first time you played Doom?
First time I played Doom, it wasn’t actually until around the year 2000 when I found it online on like one of those shady file sharing services. So, at that point I seen it way before when it first came out, around Christmas ’93, even. I was over at a friend’s house and they had it running on the computer there and I wasn’t allowed to play it because I was too young, but much later on when I was a teenager looking into getting into older games again, finally grabbed Doom and eventually got it legitimately later on [when I] started collecting. It took a while for me to catch up to what I was missing.
Another game that I got into because of Shareware, because I couldn’t afford the full game at the time, was Duke Nukem 3D and that was very generous, it was a full episode, like many other Shareware titles. Did you get the Shareware or did you get into the full game? Because, especially you, seem to love Duke Nukem and it made an impact on you.
Yeah, I know I played the Shareware episode the very most, just dozens and dozens of times. And I know I got the full thing not too long after that because at that point, I think it had come down in price around 1998 or so. But, yeah, Shareware episodes, they were chock-full of content and a full third or fourth of a game, even, just everything packed in there that you would pretty much get in the full version, minus some extra levels and weapons and things, yeah I miss that.
A big part of what you do is not only playing old games, but collecting big boxes, how do you feel about how it is now vs. before, when things were released in packages, physically, at the store with artwork and all that stuff?
Well, yeah, there are a couple things that I really miss. The first is, of course, just looking around at the boxes and the art and screenshots on the backs of boxes and things. And, the stores, just being able to go in there, especially software stores that were specialty. Software Etc. was my favorite back then, or CompUSA, and it just had loads and loads of them, things I’ve never heard of, things that I’m still rediscovering today, but they were just all there and seemed like it was an endless possibility of things and wondering if they would work on my computer and half the time they wouldn’t, but it was fun to imagine.
So, I miss that, just going being able to browse. And I guess I just miss the contents of the boxes, especially all the extras they would come with like posters and extra books. Some of them even came with these weird little feelies, as they called them, little tchotchkes that matched up with something in the game like coins, gloves, glasses, whatever. I miss all those kind of things. And, other than special editions, or special releases today, collector’s editions, you don’t really get that.
Yeah, and even the instruction booklets were quite generous in size, too. I remember going to places, in the mid-90s, places like, in Canada, there’s Superstore and I remember at a mall that I loved was a store called Compucentre. Just looking at the boxes and so many caught your eye, especially because of the artwork. I remember Phantasmagoria 2, the guy ripping his chest open on the front cover.
Yeah, the light and everything coming out of there, fire (laughs).
Do you find that it’s still worth collecting those boxes, the full set of the games in good condition, even if the game wasn’t so great, like Phantasmagoria?
For me, it certainly is just because of the nostalgia factor, especially. These were things that I couldn’t afford and things that I kind of lusted after or was curious about, so, I like that part of it, and I just like having shelves full of games and, at this point, I have 3500 of them just lining the walls, so, yeah, that’s a big, really big thing for me at least is just having something physical to hold. You can go on GOG or Steam and get thousands of games and it doesn’t mean anything to me.
Yeah, it’s like vapor, in a way.
It is, there’s nothing tangible about it. I enjoy the games, sure, there’s respect there, but the whole package, there’s something to be said about that.
Do you think that this era of gaming and maybe even a future era, where there is no physical packaging could be easily forgotten or not picked up by a next generation?
You know? I think that’s possible. I think maybe things won’t be forgotten, necessarily, but maybe things are going to get lost, you know, in the midst of publishers dying or being bought out, or whatever. We’re already seeing some things get lost or, just, the rights are in limbo for certain games like Blood from back in the day or even newer ones like No One Lives Forever. Those are just hanging around and nobody really owns them, they can’t really be remade or re-released quite yet. It’s just a weird situation. So, if that’s happening then, I’m sure things now where everything’s held up by digital rights that only one company has the key to, yeah, things are going to start getting weird and people are going to be nostalgic for a game they just can’t play anymore.
As for nostalgia and wanting to replay games, another game we were talking about was The 7th Guest. I remember when, in 1995, I was playing it at my aunt’s house because my aunt got a new computer with a CD Drive and a copy of the game came with it, box and all. My aunt’s house was already a bit creepy but it really magnified the feeling of the game, being 10 years old. However, it might not have been as good as it once was. How do you feel about that game, now? You did a review on that.
Yeah, The 7th Guest is not necessarily something that I’ve enjoyed going back to. I remember being terrified of it as a kid, too, and just being super intrigued by the house, the exploration, and the fact that it was on two CDs seemed huge. And, it had this cool music, great soundtrack. But, then you go back, or at least I go back, and it doesn’t really work for me anymore. The puzzles take away from the gameplay and the exploration and that takes away from the puzzles and the FMV is cheesy, and everything is so slow. It’s… some things are better left off in the nostalgic part of your mind.
Speaking about FMV (Full Motion Video), how do you feel about that? Are you glad that it’s not being made anymore?
You know, it’s weird, because there’s been a slight FMV revival in recent years. I’m glad that FMV was a phase, you know the angsty teenage phase of video games, but it’s kind of come back. Like Need for Speed last year was like, so much FMV, for instance. And, maybe it’s just EA messing around with it, either way, there’s been a couple of companies doing it and that’s weird to me. It seems outdated, even still.
Quantum Break, that was another one. There’s tons and tons of full motion video, even though they don’t call it that anymore, it’s just video, but, I don’t know, I think maybe there’s still a place for it, but they still haven’t found a way to make it engaging, because you’re still just watching other people do things when you could be doing the things, and that’s boring to me.
Exactly. Actually, a game I found on a DRM-free site recently is Killing Time, and that utilized FMV. Do you remember that game?
Yeah! Yeah, I don’t know if I’ve played it, but I do know the name for sure. It’s like a first-person shooter with FMV, or something? I’ve got a copy somewhere, actually, I’ve just never taken time to sit down and play it.
That would be an interesting one to review, someday. If it’s not too clunky, at least.
Speaking about boxes and physical copies, that would make it impossible in the future to go to a thrift store in, say 2040 and buy something that, for example, came out in 2020.
You have a great series on your channel, LGR Thrifts, it’s really entertaining to watch. How hard is it to find all of these games at thrift stores?
For me, I’ve just been pretty lucky because I have a good selection of thrift stores and, I guess, people that don’t want their stuff anymore. So, they’re just constantly unloading it. There’s a lot of thrift stores really close to me, so, going all the time, you get stuff more often, I guess. But, yeah, there’s a lot of times, nine times out of ten, I just don’t find anything at all, and I think that’s pretty typical. But, yeah, in the future, that’s going to be really strange. I don’t really think about it that much, but that’s sad.
(Laughs) you’re only going to be able to find really old stuff and, already I’m finding things that I can’t – or never – would buy. Like, there was a Command and Conquer collection I found from, like, 2008 at a Goodwill and you can’t use it because somebody had already used the code. And, there’s just no way to install it without that or, you know, Spore, it had limited installations. If they used up the installations, the CD is worthless. So, that’s already happening. Thrifting may just become antiquing. You can’t really find antiques in thrift stores anymore, so you have to go to specialty shops. Maybe there’ll be specialty game shops for really, really old games.
Thrifting might become nostalgia in itself, so to become sort of like a meta thing.
It might be. Maybe I’m unknowingly creating (laughs) a visual history of the thrift store in the 2010s.
How long does it take you to actually make the video? Because it looks like you just go there and find everything in one try after it’s all edited.
It’s anywhere from a month to two months or just even longer. Sometimes I’ll just find one thing over an entire week’s span, so, that’s like eight seconds of video. Really, they’re compilations of however much stuff I found over the past amount of time. It can be any, sometimes I do get really lucky and I find a ton of stuff in one place at one time, but, that’s pretty rare.
Does anyone ever question you over the camera spyglasses you wear while videoing in the stores?
No, actually, I’ve never had that. The only time I’ve ever had anyone ask about them was because they knew what they were and were wanting a pair of them themselves for their motorcycle, and they wanted to know how well they worked. But, I guess, otherwise everybody’s just kind of there doing their own thing and I find it to be far weirder to take out like a big, you know, like a cell phone or a camera or whatever and be holding that up out in front of you the whole time. People get weirded out by that.
Yeah, that’s extremely obvious.
Yeah, that’s really obvious and weird and people get kind of uncomfortable and, you know, because I’ve tried that before when I did sort of a proto-thrifts episode many years ago with my brother, and people were weirded and I didn’t do any more [in that way]. So, when I found out that the glasses were becoming a thing that could record, just you, right in front of you much better without getting in the way of anyone, that’s been awesome.
You’ve certainly found gems through thrifting, too. You found that old PC.
Yeah, the IBM PC XT. It was something I never thought I’d find at a thrift store or anywhere out in the wild. Collectors have either snatched them up or people just threw them away back in the day like most old computers. So, to find one of those – and it worked – for a good price, that was amazing, that kept me endorphin high for a week.
How much work did you have to put into it when you cleaned it up?
Not much! Just the cleaning. It was working fine. I thought that the hard drive was kind of dead, but it turns out it just need to be kicked, or something. Like, seriously, it just started working and I reformatted it and everything was fine, so, it’s a totally working system I just happened to find there.
Another one of your series’ is Tech Tales. What inspired you to make that?
Tech Tales mostly came out of my research that I do in my own time. I’ve got a lot of books and magazines and stuff from back in the day, just talking about the things that were stories back then but have been completely forgotten. And, I find those fascinating. I also find the normal companies and products fascinating, like nobody ever thinks of Dell or eMachines as having an interesting story, but, they do. So, John McAfee of the virus scan debacles and all the things over the years, it’s really fascinating stuff. And, I guess the other inspiration mainly was just watching old shows that used to kind of talk about that stuff and have gone away. G4TV had the show called Icons, back in the day, in like 2004, 2003, and I loved that show and it just went away. It’s like, aww man, need to bring that back.
Well, maybe you’ll be the one to bring it back, and already have, sort of, with Tech Tales. Another good Tech Tales is about the TI-83 calculators because I remember using them in high school, they were always the calculators that everyone used, and I never thought about it. It’s something I didn’t know I was interested in before I saw the video about it.
Yeah, it’s definitely the goal of those to entertainingly educate on subjects that you don’t even think you would be interested in, and then, you are, it’s just like “oh, well that’s cool.”
You also collect calculators. What got you into being fascinated with them?
That was really through just my own research over the years. It was somewhere, I think, when I first started covering Commodore, when I first started LGR, I was looking at the Commodore Vic 20 and the PET and I kept going back and then I saw that Commodore made calculators, and I’m like “what!?” Okay a computer company making calculators, that’s interesting, but then I realized “wait, all of these calculators are just computers in a little form factor, they’re just specialized computers and, then I figured out that a lot of those chips that were in calculators turned into the personal computer chips that, we’re still using some of those families of chips today. In all sorts of devices. That’s another Tech Tales, The Calculator Wars. Everybody in the 1970s was fighting over who would make the pocket calculator the best and the cheapest.
Looking at that time, one that bulges out and barely fits into your pocket was considered a small pocket calculator.
Yeah, it could barely fit on a table and it was considered a pocket portable (laughs).
You collect all types of calculators too.
Oh, sure. Yeah, I’ve collected calculators of all types. Especially if they have really weird displays. There are some really neat ones that glow different colors and some of them have nixie tubes. And, just, I like displays, especially.
Thinking about your very large collection of both games and hardware, you moved recently. Does it take up all the room in your house, or are you in a bigger house now that it all fits?
It used to take up all the room in my house. It used to just be stacked up against every wall and every closet and behind everything. But, yeah, I moved to a newer place, bigger place, and thankfully, I was also able to get a storage unit a couple years ago where I’ve actually set up all my recording stuff over there, so that’s where my Oddware episodes are done and anything that’s in front of a big, giant wall with black shelves full of games, that’s over there. So, it’s just sort of an office/studio video set up, completely separate from my home which kind of helps me keep home and work apart in my mind. It helps the workflow.
Do you have a particular schedule set for yourself for when you create your videos?
My only schedule is that I like to get videos out every Monday and Friday. Other than that, like when I actually work on them, that’s you know, I try to work ahead, but it doesn’t always work, so it’s pretty much whenever I feel inspired to do something, either you know, right then, or I’ll start research and then, you know work on it over the next couple months. It depends on the video topic. If it’s just a game, typically I’ll just play it, write about it, do the editing within a few days. But, Tech Tales and things like that, and of course Thrifts can take a couple months.
As far as Oddware, which is another interesting series you have, what has been the oddest thing you’ve covered?
Well, they’re all pretty odd (laughs). I guess the most recent one, it kind of stands out for me, is the Pool Shark controller. Literally a controller that’s just a mouse converted to hold pool cues. So you do that and you can play pool games on your computer with a real pool cue or the fake one that it comes with, which is really awful. Yeah, that thing stands out as being particularly strange.
A lot of people come back to the Mind Drive, which allows you to control computer games with your mind, supposedly. And, I figured out that was completely false. I mean, I put a cherry tomato inside the device, and it controlled it just as well as me, if not better. So, I think that thing is a piece of junk.
Yeah, that was a good episode. It was ridiculous. That inspired me to look up the old articles hyping it up. It’s just so ridiculous.
Then, everybody gave into the hype! Like it was the next greatest thing and it was not! There’s nothing about it that works. (laughs)
As for the future in hardware and games, is there anything you’re looking forward to?
Yeah, VR is where it is at. As far as hardware for me, at least, because new consoles and stuff, got them all, they’re just consoles, they’ve always been consoles. But, HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, especially. I’ve got a Gear VR and I’ve had the older versions of the Vive and Rift and whatnot. Those are really, really promising, but this new stuff I checked out at trade shows and whatnot is thoroughly impressive. I mean, just being able to walk around the room, you know, physically be able to walk around the room and pick up things, throw things, you know, lean down, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. So, really, I can’t wait to get my hands on those things.
And, for games, the main one at the moment is No Man’s Sky just because infinite universes! And, it reminds me a little bit of some of the scope of Spore. And, that game I’m still bitter about it letting me down, so, I’m hoping that this will be a better thing than that. But, you know, fingers’ crossed.
As far as regular computer hardware, have you heard of the Kaby Lake and the new GTX 1080?
Yeah, totally, because I actually just built a new computer in prepping for some of this new stuff. I went with Skylake for the CPU, and I’ve got a 980ti in there. But, yeah, 1080, especially, that thing – I mean I can’t believe how much – even the 1070 is three times faster than what I have here! I mean, that’s ridiculous, I haven’t seen that kind of a jump in, I don’t know, I can’t remember the last time. Maybe the late-90s, moving onto the first GeForces or, like the Voodoo cards, it’s been a long time since that kind of jump has happened. So, it’s exciting.
Yeah, I remember in the “good old days” in the late-90s, the video cards. I wanted to play Half-Life but my Pentium 120 didn’t have a good video card in it, so I had to wait a year and a half or so until we got a new one. When you were in the 1990s, were you looking into that, were you wanting into hardware?
Oh yeah! I mean, I bought my first video card when I was 12 …11 or 12, I saved up forever for a Voodoo 2 12mb card, specifically to play Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit, and you know I got the card and it turns out it wasn’t compatible or something. It just didn’t work for the longest time. Eventually it did, I think I had to update some weird stuff with my motherboard drivers because it was an Acer computer and it had an integrated card and it just wasn’t compatible.
Yeah, that card was $150 and I saved up forever, like a whole year to get that thing, and only to have it not work.
That’s extremely disappointing. But, did other good come out of it? Did it let you play other new games?
No! None of the games worked. It was weird, all that would happen was you would play a game, everything had no textures, it was white (laughs), it was the weirdest problem. I’ve still never replicated it. So, eventually I traded that in because the Voodoo 3 had just come out, so I just traded it in and got a Voodoo 3 and it worked perfectly.
But, those six months or so until the Voodoo 3 came out, I was so sad (laughs). It was awful. But, I was into that video card race ever since, and when NVidia bought Voodoo, I was pretty much on board with 3DFX.
Yeah, so was I. The video cards were always fascinating and getting much better. I’m planning on getting the 7700 (Kaby Lake) and GTX 1080 next year.
Yeah, I’ve got the 6700 now, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the Kaby Lake will do, because I mean, this is already awesome… Everything is so physically-based with rendering now, you need everything you can get.
Also, and for me, too, the positive in waiting is that the ti will be out for the 1080 by next year.
Yes! I’m probably going to wait for the ti, I’ve gone for the ti for the last three [cards], the superclocked versions that EVGA puts out, they’re always fun.
The unique nature of PC gaming is the creative outlet, it’s a hobby within the hobby of gaming, you build it yourself and it leads to understanding and interest in the hardware.
It does, and I mean, if you’re into retro collecting for consoles, it’s a little different, too. I like collecting for that, but the PC side of things is far more interesting to me because there are so many variations. There were even specific games that were only released for one type of video card, like a very specific Matrox Millennium Edition of MechWarrior 2. And, it’s got exclusive textures and features and stuff, graphically, that are only on that. Or, there are version of Panzer Dragoon for the NVidia NV1 back in the day, I have that, too. It’s like a Sega Saturn conversion, but way upscaled.
It’s fascinating. I really like the customization and you kind of never know what you’re going to get and you have to build your own system sometimes just to get one game to work.
In addition to finding Clint Basinger on Lazy Games Reviews, he does some voiceover work, which includes his spot-on Duke Nukem impression in the car combat game Gas Guzzlers.
Look out for new episodes of LGR every Monday and Friday.