Dino Yachaya. The Dandy Collector

« Interview »

The Italian from Pavia, collector and an experienced player, intends to make his mark on the modern history of Intellivision.

Dino Yachaya is a 47-year-old Italian from Pavia, a small but beautiful town in northern Italy. He is a collector, gamer and publisher of video games. He has published Gyruss, Quo Vadis and Ghostbusters for Mattel Intellivision. His main motivation: to take us back into our childhood memories with emotion. An ambitious project.

Dino is as usual affable, patient and responsive. When the journalist offers him an interview, he accepts it with great gratitude and humility. However, it took a whole year for us to set a date. It was the journalist’s fault. We conducted the interview on Messenger and in Dante’s language to facilitate the exchange. Deepl is the translator. It is easy to imagine him dressed elegantly behind his computer as in the photographs he sometimes posts on his Facebook account.

It was his father, born in Iran and living in Italy since the 1950s, who introduced him to the world of video games. Dino was 8 years old. He started playing games released for Mattel Intellivision and designed for « grown-ups ». Poker & Blackjack, which realeased with the console, was his very first game. He soon moved on to Backgammon. « Probably the only game my father ever played on an electronic game in his life, » he said. Dino will mainly play games from the Imagic series such as Dracula, Tropical Trouble, White Water but also games from the Tron licence. « The film had just been released in the cinema and you could play it at home!”

Dino was lucky, he says. He has had in his hands almost all the video game consoles but also a good part of the main home computers released since the beginning of the 80s: Vic-20, Commodore 64, Atari 1040 ST and finally the Amiga! It is on the C64 that he has his favorite games with Green Beret, Gyruss and Ghostbusters. Surprisingly, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on PS5 is his favorite game on all platforms. This is a far cry from retro games! But this title is not chosen at random. Dino has a clear preference for challenging games that tell a story.

2014, the pivotal year

« I wanted to buy back the consoles from my childhood. Naturally, I started with the Intellivision”. When he received it, Dino felt an enormous sense of satisfaction. « It was as if a piece of the past had come back to me. When I plugged it back in, it was exciting.” Once he had the console in his hands, he had only one obsession: to buy all the games released, even those that had never been published in Italy or in Europe, « for the pleasure of owning ». These are mainly the INTV serie games. What happened next? We know. It’s the craze. He started buying everything that was remotely close to the world of retrogaming. Today, two rooms in his house are entirely dedicated to his passion. One for his 3000 games. One for the hundred consoles and computers he has been accumulating since 2014. But the way he collects has changed. He seeks to understand how the games, consoles and computers he acquires have been designed and built.

His best find? It’s the Keyboard Computer for Mattel Intellivision called Blue Whale. This collector’s item is highly sought-after and trades for well over $5,000 US today. But for Dino, the most valuable he has are the three games he has published.

« It’s nice to make something that collectors are looking for”

After a few years, collecting is not enough for the Italian from Pavia. He wants to make a mark. He wants to make his mark on the Intellivision world. And above all, he wants to develop Gyruss, one of his favorite games. He believes it can be done. But he faces a major problem: Dino has no programming skills! So, it is almost by chance that he meets the future programmer of Gyruss, Quo Vadis and Ghostbusters. Roberto is a veteran of the Amiga scene. During a convention in his hometown, Dino tells him about his desire to launch a game. Roberto took it as a challenge. Challenge taken up in less than 5 months! Dino was overwhelmed with pleasure. However, this pleasure did not have quite the expected flavor.

Gyruss might never have been released. A strong polemic about the game, under development, broke out on the forum dedicated to the Intellivision on the AtariAge site. It was accused of having copied the source code, the graphic engine of the game « Deep Zone », which was also being developed in Italy for Intellivision Revolution and whose data was available online at that time. Deep Zone is largely inspired by the game Gyruss. What a coincidence! « I felt very bad about the AtariAge controversy. We certainly made a mistake”. The mistake was copying the spaceship design because « it was beautiful, more beautiful than mine ». Dino has since changed the graphics of the main ship which is even more beautiful. Everything else was different.

“But all this was manipulated to discredit me. I had no chance to defend myself because I was banned from the site. I thought it was unfair not to be able to defend myself and I still can’t!” Dino is close to giving up. He feels that they are trying to stop him from publishing games as if they were trying to kill the competition. « And then I realized that publishing it was the best way to prove my good faith. Today, I am very proud of Gyruss”.

When you compare the games, both excellent, they are quite distinct. Playability, graphics, music and sound effects are totally different. In short, we are dealing with two games: the original Gyruss and an adaptation, Deep Zone, of very good quality. A collector must therefore own both games. There is no need for controversy anymore. Close the ban.

Dino Yachaya takes us back to our childhood memories with emotion

Collectors of the Mattel console most often owned it as children. Today, the Intellivision is a Proust’s madeleine. The console and its games take you back to your childhood memories with emotion. Can you feel the same way with games that didn’t exist at the time? « My philosophy of homebrew is to bring back the emotional part of the game as much as possible ». So Dino pays special attention to the physical part of the game: the box, the manual, the overlays and the cartridge. « The Gyruss box is 100% identical to the one Parker would have made if it had been released in 1982. The same goes for Ghostbusters! That’s why Dino refuses to distribute the rom of his games, it would go against the philosophy that surrounds his games.

Star Wars: Jedi Arena and Tron The Grid to be released soon on Mattel Intellivision!

« Tron The Grid has been ready for more than a year and the programming of Star Wars: Jedi Arena is finished.” If the two games haven’t been released yet, it is above all a question of rights and therefore of licensing. The question of rights is not new in retrogaming. Several games such as Smurf or Wizard of Wor were released without prior authorization. The Star Wars and Tron licenses belong to Disney, can we imagine a negotiation with this giant for a hundred cartridges? It would certainly take years to be turned down. Releasing a game without authorization has no impact on Disney or its image. On the contrary.

It is urgent that these two games be released for the pleasure of players and collectors. Especially since Dino has a few surprises in store. The Tron The Grid cartridge is transparent with a blue LED and the overlays are phosphorescent. It’s in the Italians’ DNA: to innovate.

Interview conducted on 14 April 2022 – Pascal BERNARD aka Scalpel

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