Wesley Leon Aroozoo On Vintage Video Games & Writing
To start things off, let’s talk about gaming consoles! Tell us more about your collection.
I started playing video games when I was 8 years old and over the next 20 odd years I would always sell away the game console I currently had in order to fund my purchase of a newer one.
I only started to collect video game consoles more seriously when I was 30. It was a time when I started to look back at my childhood and wanted to reconnect with the games and consoles I grew up with. Prior to my fascination with vintage video games, I had always been interested in collecting vintage or quirky 2nd hand items. This could be due to my childhood. I grew up with toys, clothes and knick-knacks from thrift shops and always found splendour in used items.
Currently, I have around 40 video game consoles spanning from familiar ones like the Sega Mega Drive 2 (Sega, 1998) to more obscure ones like the Nintendo Famicombox (Nintendo, 1986) which was a commercial console only available in hotels in Japan for guests to use.
I also have a couple of arcade machines at home like The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Sega, 1997) and Crazy Taxi (Sega, 1999). Arcade machines are huge and hog lots of space but thankfully my wife is very accepting of my arcade machines.
Was it difficult acquiring them? Where do you typically find them?
Since vintage video game consoles and games aren’t often available in the regular stores, I had to find mine from local garage sales and thrift stores.
It’s generally difficult to find them in Singapore especially for the more obscure items. So, I always make it a point to visit retro video game stores overseas while I’m on holiday to pick up an item or two.
It’s a difficult hobby, but always fun as I never know what I'm going to get!
Would it be accurate to say that your interest in gaming consoles started from when you were a child? Or were you one of those bookish children who always had his nose in a book?
Growing up, I was very lucky. My parents never forced me to study and were always encouraging. They were more concerned with making sure I was happy.
And I was!
I hardly spent time studying and mainly read Archie comics I bought from the thrift shop, playing block catching, chasing paper boats in the drain when it rained and most importantly, playing video games.
It was the 1992 and I was around 8 years old when I got my first video game console. It was the Nintendo Entertainment System (1985) that my dad bought for me and my sister for our joined Christmas present from Tangs with Christmas gift vouchers he got from work. The first game I had was Super Mario Bros (Nintendo, 1985) which my sister and I played over and over again. I also remember playing Contra (Konami, 1987) and Double Dribble (Konami, 1986) with my Father when he came back from work.
Since then, I was hooked on video games, playing every time I had the chance but as I grew older in my 30s, I strangely didn't play that much anymore. Today, I am mainly interested in the history of video games and collecting vintage video game consoles.
You've mentioned in an interview that you are working on a third novel. Can you tell us more about it? What else have you been up to since I Want To Go Home was published?
It’s been an interesting and tough journey over the last two years with writing my third novel. Juggling my full-time job as a lecturer and pursuing my writing, I am only faced with one obstacle, which is time management.
My third novel that is slowly shaping up is set in Singapore in the late 1800s and I hope to be able to share it with you in the coming year or so.
Besides writing, I will be speaking on the panel about Eurasian author, the late Rex Shelley at the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival and will be moderating a panel session at the Viddsee Jury Awards in October.
Your film and book, I Want To Go Home, was introduced to some college students in Fukushima and Monash. What do you hope the students took home from their interaction with your work?
It’s lovely to see I Want To Go Home still travel almost two years since it was first published. The students from the college in Fukushima and Monash University in Australia were introduced to the documentary version of I Want To Go Home and as well as the literary version.
What I hope they take away from I Want To Go Home is similar to what I got from it: to appreciate your love ones, the time spent with them and to hold on to them.
You are a writer, lecturer, scriptwriter and filmmaker, amongst many other things. Which of these roles stand out to you the most or are all of them equally close to your heart?
They are all very close to my heart. I love to teach and guide students at LASALLE College of the Arts and generally I love to express myself regardless of the medium. During the weekends, my wife and I love to paint our cats in strange situations.
Writing is probably the medium that I love the most but not necessarily the medium which I feel the most comfortable in. For example, writing my third novel is currently the biggest creative challenge I have ever had to face and I think it’s because I am naturally better in manipulating visuals with sound and text than writing. But, it’s a highly satisfying challenge for me and I hope the novel will resonate with readers when the time comes.
Lastly, could you share what inspires you?
One of my inspirations is Nintendo, the Japanese video game company. What I admire about them is their courage to be different, not influenced by the expectations of others.There are some video game companies who seem to be stuck in the past, producing the same game controller for over 20 years over four generations of video game consoles. While Nintendo innovates and constantly tries something new, they may fail at times, but it’s okay! Keep trying because if you don’t try, you’ll never reach greater heights.
Nintendo teaches me to not be afraid to fail, to always listen to myself and trust my instincts. Don’t ever let anyone tell you – Game Over!