A Long Time Ago I Used to Buy Games

A Long Time Ago I Used to Buy Games

A survey of the former videogames commercial retail market in Greater Portland

Commercial retail is a tough gig. It’s about paying high rents in a location with enough traffic to have it make sense while eeking out generally tiny profits. It’s no surprise that most of the places I frequented years ago are no longer in business. The retail market has shifted more and more online for any goods that don’t need to be “showroomed”.

I grew up in the greater Portland area and have lived here my whole games-buying life. I don’t count the 80s because I didn’t have any consoles then. The Toys-Backward R-Us with their famous walls of pull-tickets for the NES carts were fun to look at, but not something I interacted with.

I’m going to be intentionally hazy with some of the locations for privacy, but I trust y’all to enjoy the spirit of this thread without turning into Internet detectives.

These locations are in roughly chronological order. Please enjoy listening to local Portland band The Dandy Warhols while reading this survey.

Captain Video

Captain Video (no relation to @Captain Moderator) was an independent store in my neighborhood. It was the big one in my town especially in the early 90s before Blockbuster and Hollywood moved in and started taking over.

This location has been in a small retail complex that has seen a number of businesses come and go through the years. The physical location started quite big with two entrances diametrically across the building. In the late 90s and early 2000s, they started reducing their footprint and other shops moved in until they eventually moved out entirely. There have been some kind of other offices. It’s now a chain Elephants deli. The Elephants used to be a cute little tap room which I preferred.

My favorite memories of Captain Video involve biking down with my best friend and renting games for his Genesis. I bankrolled a lot of them because I wanted to play them, but he had the Genesis. It was a symbiotic relationship and we both felt like we were getting a good deal. Except for that one time I rented Tazmania based on the strength of Aladdin. This was a mistake on my part.

Hollywood Video

My friend’s parents worked in a different neighborhood so this was the store that was conveniently located on their commutes home.

I had a subscription to EGM in the 90s and I had absolutely fallen for the “You can play as the raptor!” hype for the Genesis version of Jurassic Park. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I called this rental store daily for weeks asking if they had gotten in the Genesis version of Jurassic Park.

It finally came in and we played that game and enjoyed it for the rental period. We also didn’t like it enough to ever rent it again.

It turned into a bank. Now it is no longer a bank, and you can rent the space yourself! It shares a parking lot with a convenience store and a vape shop (being clear, not a weed shop). One of you should lease it and fill it with candy cabinets for me to come play.

Egghead Software

No picture, but here is a google map Street View link.

I asked my dad to drive into downtown after work one summer evening in 1993 to pick up a copy of The Lost Vikings for PC. Fantastic game by the way. I know the IC panel hates on it, but it genuinely still holds up today.

I don’t buy into all of the narrative that Downtown Portland these days is dangerous (it’s plenty sketchy, but not physically dangerous if you’re not the one doing the drugs). However, there has indeed been a huge shift in the mood of downtown post-COVID lockdowns. Portland’s downtown core has been slower to recover than other city’s, and the new businesses have not been opening anywhere near Pioneer Square. Not enough foot traffic and volume to justify a consumer retail shop for entertainment software in that neighborhood these days.

Blockbuster Video

Same Genesis friend, different store. It took over more of the games rental market because Captain Video stopped stocking games toward its end. I applied to work here as a summer job, but ultimately worked at an Office Depot. Office Depot and my Office Depot forklift license didn’t end up with me buying or renting any games though, so that’s for another thread.

For some reason I always bought watermelon BubbleTape whenever we rented games there. It was some odd association that I built up in my brain.

Dune 2, Sonic 3, Virtua Racing, the Vectors Men 1 & 2 and tons of other games were our Genesis rentals. Years later when I had a PlayStation, I rented Bushido Blade, and Symphony of the Night. I rented Bushido Blade 2 here and hated it. I went back in the next day and had them convert the rental over to Symphony of the Night again.

The large footprint that Blockbuster once had is now a empty office space for lease and a Vietnamese restaurant. The Vietnamese place is pretty good!

Office Max

I bought TIE-Fighter on CD for like, $12 here when I went back to school shopping for some reason. It was amazing.

The building is now a gym.

I did not get especially fit from playing TIE-Fighter, but I did visit multiple planets!

The Skeezy Game Trader

This was a big one and is still in the same spot in the Beaverton Mall. The Beaverton Mall has had some ups and downs over the last 30 years. In the mid 90s, it was a legit real mall and the Game Trader sure seemed out of place. They had and still have to this day a large collection of second-hand games.


(Not my photo. Thank you Yelp from 2009.)

Why is it skeezy? The prices were never ever any good. The large display window from the mall’s entrance has a cardboard backer and it was a dumping ground of non-working games junk: broken consoles, controllers, etc. It was also a bit dingy. I haven’t been there in years, but I have a hard time imagining that it’s any different. They always seem to show up at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo with a few bins of games and their prices are not noteworthy.

My favorite memory of this store was being picked up by my buddy to go out there for a road trip… on a school night! He had reserved Final Fantasy Tactics and no, I don’t know why he reserved it there, but we had a great time driving out on a Tuesday after dinner and heading back while we literally listened to his homemade mix tape of the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack.

Gamesteiptiittiop

It’s a GameStop in the Washington Square Mall. Another business that I have had a long and history with and shockingly, it’s still in business! You can call them today!


(Not my photo - I found it on Yelp from several years ago.)

I bought my PS1 here along with a used copy of Final Fantasy VII. I also think I got Xenogears there? I absolutely got my copy of Chrono Cross there and for years had the “Chrono Cross Original Clock” in my bathroom. I decided to get rid of it for some dumb reason.

I pre-ordered Metroid Prime 2: Echoes there and for some reason they broke street date and gave it to me… one day early. I was incredibly excited to play that game ASAP.

In “recent” times, I stopped there to buy a copy of Etrian Odyssey V so I could play it on a long-haul flight for a business trip. Any time I hear the soundtrack from that game I feel sick to my stomach with massive jet lag.

Like all Gamestipititoopps, this one is more collectibles than games these days. But it is still possible to buy videogames at the Washington Square Mall!

Fry’s Electronics (Formerly Incredible Universe)

RIP to a real one. True story: when my astrophysicist great uncle came into visit our family for a while one summer, he asked, “Hey - I understand you have a Fry’s electronics here. Can you take me there?” I don’t even remember if he bought anything - I think he liked window shopping as much as I did.

“Incredible Universe” was open for maybe 9 months before they ran out of cash. I went there once and they had the SNES version of Street Fighter 2 playable and that’s all that I cared about that trip.

After Fry’s opened in the former Incredible Universe location about a year later, it became a regular destination for me and several of my close friends in high school and in college. I’d have to start a database to keep track of all the games I bought there.

I bought an original GBA there because I was one of those weirdos who got the “afterburner” after-market front light kits and installed it. I got many of my GBA games there including the Link to the Past port, and Golden Sun which I picked up as my launch title.

Games at Fry’s were frequently discounted $5-10 for launch week and I would regularly go there to buy games when they came out. I got a bunch of my PC games at Fry’s including System Shock 2. Once on the same trip I bought 2x copies of Katamari Damacy (one for me and one for a friend) and my copy of Okami. What a haul! I picked up Xenosaga there. I ran into a buddy on the way out, showed him what I bought, and then he also walked out with a copy of Xenosaga. I think he liked it more than I did.

We all mourn Fry’s. It’s empty now but there’s no mistaking what it was because the building still has the signs. It’s a massive building and I don’t know what else they could put into it.

Game Crazy

There was a Hollywood Video down the street from my first apartment. It had a “Game Crazy” attached to it. It is now a pet store. The main Hollywood location was on the right with the double-doors and the Game Crazy entrance was on the left.

This was a fantastic location for me because it was walkable, and next to the Safeway so I was always in that parking lot. We had a massive ice storm in January that year and I walked down to rent Jak 2. Forty-eight hours later, I slid down the hill to return it and climbed back with Jak 3. That’s one of the very few times I have really binge-played a game because I couldn’t go to work and the whole city was shut down and I didn’t have a family. Good times, even though I absolutely felt mildly ill from being stationary and staring at a screen so long.

When my first PS2 died, I replaced it at the Game Crazy which was a pretty decent deal for me because I got 10 rentals free with it. I was going to rent 10 movies or games anyway!

My Current Games Retail Haunts

I don’t have any. Most of the games I buy these days I buy online and most of them are digital. I’m not a “collector”. I like to play the games I own so I have very few games “just to own them.”

When I do go window shopping or browsing primarily for games, it’s in the context of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo where I enjoy seeing what is around more than buying them.

There are a few brick-and-mortar board game shops that I am a regular at because of the community events they host. I go to regular open play nights for the Infinity tabletop game at one shop, and another minis-focused shop in Vancouver hosts tournaments every 3 months.

I have no similar need that are filled by a video game shop. I’m not currently active in a fighting game community (which I do think congregate at some places in Downtown) and none of these former locations would have served as a social hub.

I’m not here to particularly bemoan the death of retail game stores, but if you decide to open a retail location, you need a more interesting hook than failing to compete with Gamesstitpoptpt on slim margins, huge volumes, and Funco Pops.

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Cool idea for a thread, Just reading “Egghead” software made me nostalgic. Not because it was a go to store of my youth , but one was located on the outer rim of where my family traveled to so in that time frame the product selection they carried was very different and exciting to shop at the rare times that I did. Just thinking of going would make me excited. so the name still carry’s that emotion. Like alot of nostalgia.

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