By `rookie game` I basically mean the game in which a major character made his/her/it`s first appearance.
In baseball cards, for example, a player`s rookie card, like this 1951 Bowman Willie Mays, is considered really valuable and everybody wants it. Willie Mays is of course a popular player so all his cards ae popular, but his rookie card in particular is the one that everyone places the highest value on
In video game collecting though we don`t really seem to attach a great deal of importance to the question of whether or not a game features the first appearance of a major character or not. Value seems to be determined solely by how rare a game is and how popular/fun to play it is. We don`t even have a word in our collecting vocabulary to describe the concept (`rookie game` is just something I made up and probably doesn`t work too well).
Its a bit odd given that we can easily identify which carts feature the first appearance of a given character. Like Antarctic Adventure here features the first appearance of that penguin:
I have pictured the Donkey Kong Famicom cart at the top of this post, but if we are going to be strict, I don`t think that would count as a rookie game. The Colecovision cart was the first home port of Donkey Kong, so I think the Colecovision Donkey Kong would be considered the true first appearance cart of those two characters (I find it kind of interesting that Nintendo`s two most famous characters didn`t make their home debut on a Nintendo console). Technically of course the game was featured on Arcade cabinets first, but I don`t think those count (or, more accurately, they do count but would fall into a different category since collecting arcade cabinets is a whole different ballgame from collecting carts).
Anyway, those are just some thoughts I had about that. I wonder why we don`t collect video games in the same way that comic book or sports card collectors do. I guess part of it might have to do with the fact that video game carts are tied to specific consoles and most of us collect games for whichever systems we have or like rather than just collecting carts for collecting carts` sake (which is kind of what baseball card collectors do).
It would make for kind of an interesting approach to collecting. Some systems definitely have a lot of important characters first appearance, like the Famicom (Zelda, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest characters, etc).