The biggest story in the retro community recently has been the saga of the Retro VGS/Coleco Chameleon. I won’t restate the facts here, but if you don’t know about the story yet, please check the Retro Gaming Roundup forums, the AtariAge forums, and the Pat and Ian CUPodcast for more information.
The community learned a lot of lessons from this fiasco, but I also think the community may have forgotten some things in the process, and I am guilty of this as well, as can be seen from some of my posts on the RGR forums. While the entire Chameleon project was stricken with poor decisions and easily uncovered lies, a lot of people forgot a few things about Mr. Kennedy. The same guy gave everyone years of entertainment via the Retro Gaming Roundup podcast, and Gamegavel started off as a great idea for gamers to buy, sell, and trade, and I feel it only stagnated when Mike ignored it in favor of Retro Magazine. Even Retro Magazine was a good idea, as the US could really use a well made physical retro gaming magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine focused on the wrong areas and the quality has diminished over the past few issues, to the point where backers and subscribers are owed two issues with no delivery date in sight.
We also know Mike could be a generous guy at times. A friend of mine gave me the story of how he told Mike he didn’t own an Atari 2600, and Mike found one at a swap meet with a good amount of games and sent it to him gratis. They weren’t close, just internet acquaintances. He also gave away many prizes from his own personal collection and swap meet finds on the RGR podcast during the live news segment. However, Mike has done severe damage to his credibility. Is it possible for Mike to regain the respect he previously had in the Retro community?
I think there is that chance, but it requires a lot of time and work to come back. Even then, I’m sure the Chameleon will be a black eye that will forever mar him, and he will always be ribbed for it. However, he can still regain his standing as an upstanding member of the retro community even with that on him.
The first step is the hardest: Mike has to come clean about the entire situation. Complete transparency is a necessity. I am sure Mike and Scott at RGR would give their former co-host a platform to clean the slate if Mike were serious about it. It would be a hard step not just for Mr. Kennedy, but also for Scott and Mike, who were hurt emotionally and financially by the situation, but I think if Kennedy were to come clean, they would help him do it publicly.
Next, he would need to make amends to everyone who has taken a hit either financially or to their credibility. Scott Schreiber I know has a financial stake in GameGavel and Retro Magazine that is probably irreparably damaged. At one time Scott was the only such stakeholder outside of Mike’s family. Perhaps if Mike offered some form of compensation, that could go a long way toward repairing that damage. It doesn’t have to be financial compensation, but maybe sending Scott that Stunt Pilot arcade machine or even offloading those doomed Atari Jaguar molds to Scott might be a good start.
Finally, he needs to step away from trying to use the retro market as a business venture. To regain that trust, he needs to give something to the retro community instead of trying to profit from it. Stepping back, focusing on Gamegavel, and making it an entirely free marketplace to buy and sell, plus giving the site a revamp to fix the current problems and making it more user friendly would be a great start. Begin making videos talking about gaming memories, perhaps game reviews, and writing articles about why he enjoys retro gaming.
Mike used to show how heartfeltedly he loved the community before he let the business side take over. The business side needs to die, and he needs to go back to his roots of why he enjoys these games in the first place. And to everyone else out there reading this, we need to remember that Mike is human. He has made many mistakes, but he has also done a lot of good for this community, and, like all people, he deserves the chance to make things right. I realize he has had the chance to make it right in the past and failed to do so, but some people must hit rock bottom before they can make the climb up again. I hope Mike has the strength to do so.