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November 2015 Retro Gaming Article


November 25, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Rental stickers and random sharpie marks are part of a game's unique history

BlockBuster rental stickers on an NES game Each time I glance through my Facebook feed I'll see at least one post asking the best way to remove stickers and marks from game carts and discs. The usual assortment of q-tips and ointments follow with every post suggesting the "best" technique. There are a surprising number of ways from applying heat via a hair-dryer to various percentages of Isopropyl alcohol.

Here's my suggestion - just leave them alone. That's right, don't remove the stickers or names written in colored markers! Video gaming has an overarching history full of fascinating info. However, when was the last time you stopped to think about the history of an individual game cart or disc. Not from an industry or development perspective, but the actual cart that you have in your hand - the one you bought at a yard sale. Yeah, that cart! What sort of history might it have?

BlockBuster rental stickers on a PS2 game I'm all for cleaning up the carts I find in the wild, but rarely do more than wipe the shell down with a wet cloth and clean the contacts. As long as accumulated dust and grime is removed, I'm content with the remaining defects. But are stickers and markings really defects or an interesting part of a game's unique history?

I saw a post complaining about a large Block Buster Rental sticker on a game disc and thought how I'd love to have that! I loved renting games and movies from Block Buster. With 20/20 hindsight we now tarnish the brand with comments about their inability to change with the times, but who didn't use them back in the day? Many of these stickers have store numbers on them which lends to being a primitive GPS for the game's rental origin. And don't forget the vast number of Mom & Pop stores that preceded them. There are some really interesting retail stickers out there!

I couldn't afford an N64 at launch, but I thought it was cool to be able to rent the console from Block Buster for a weekend marathon of gaming. Those were great times and let us try out games without the full-cost of ownership.

Sharpie writing on a game Who remembers a Mom & Pop video rental store that had a small game section? I'm not even sure if they were aloud to do that, but I've seen a few games with stickers branded with obvious rental establishments I'd never heard of. Have you ever encountered a game with an unknown rental company's sticker on it? Did you google the company to see where they operated. I've bought games at yard sales that I tracked back to defunct rental stores thousands of miles away.

That makes me wonder how the game got all the way across the USA and wound up in a box of carts I picked up for $10 at some random person's yard sale. Did some kid forget to return it before his family moved from Oregon to Delaware? Did the original store sell off it's inventory and this cart went off to college with it's new owner who later sold it to buy beer? The possibilities are endless and these trinkets of info, revealed by rental-stickers, can suggest some interesting notions.

Have you ever thought about the names written on carts? If there's a first and last name, have you ever googled the name or searched Facebook? "Hey dude, I have your Bionic Commando game!"

Sharpie writing on a game I see a lot of disdain, across social networks, for kids who dared to write their name on a game cart. I'll bet that kid never imagined his parents would sell all his NES games when he went away to school and that some dolt would later be referring to him as a jerk.

The new owners seem to assume that "Eric" wrote his name on the game just to piss off the next owner. How quick we are to judge the actions of others as though we know why they wrote their name. Most angry netizens who post such complaints malign these kids as though they were evil minions seeking to annoy collectors in the future.

What if Eric wrote his name because he lent a lot of games to his friends. Or maybe Eric was the cool kid who always brought a ton of games to sleepovers and just wanted to get all his games back. I loved bringing games to sleepovers so we could amass our collections and play tons of games all night! I'll bet most kids who wrote their names on games expected to own those games forever. The better question might be what separated Eric from his beloved game?

Next time you get a used game and it's covered in crap... Take a moment to see if some of that crap tells a story. You never know what you might discover in addition to owning another video game!

Video Game history isn't always in a book. It may be in your hand!


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