Friday, 2 June 2017

Should people Restore old Games and Systems or not?

Ok so I want to start by saying that I am sure a lot of mainstream video game news sites have already coverd this and I bet there are even discusions on various forums but I wanted to stop and throw my 2cents in, I also knew I would say a lot so didnt want to just reply to someone else or post in comments section I really wanted to grab ahold of the topic and run with it.

So what is the subject I am going to be talking about? Well it is video game restoration. I am sure this has been touched on a few times over the years but  a recent YouTube video in which a guy relabells old vidoe game cartridges has kind of thrown the subject back under the spot light and got peoiple talking about it. The guys videos go in to the methods he has used to make and experiment with making new labels, they sort of almost serve as a how to guide to a degree, they are sort of intresting to watch but what is really intresting is that they have lit a fire under some people causing them to become very passionate in discusing if you should or should not do this sort of restoration work.

I want to start by sharing a few quotes from the guy responsible for these videos and then I breifly want to talk about them,“When I do these restoration videos, there’s always someone in the comments complaining that I should have left it the way it was,”, “Even when you look at classic cars, is it wrong to take an old rusty classic car from the 1950s and repaint it so it looks new?” ,“Ultimately what it comes down is that these are my cartridges and I can do whatever I want to with them,” he says. “I can roll them over with a steamroller if I want, and I have done that in a previous video.”. Ok so I would think that if he feels he needs to justify himself then at least some part of him thinks that he might be acting in error or he is concious of the fact that he is upseting people but the final comment about he could run over them with a steamroller just makes him come off as a complete and utter tosspot. I could if I really wanted to eat chocolate cake after chocolate cake and record it and then send the video to a starving family but I wouldnt do it, and the reason I wouldnt do it is because I fully realise that this would make me a total and utter git. There are only so many of these old retro games out there and in some cases demand greatly outstrips supply, to destroy something someone else would really appreciate just because you can really seems like the work of a troubled five year old, we live in a much too wasteful society as it is and this is just the height of crazyness so I cant support that kind of destruction at all, with that said I will get on to the topic of restoration.

I think its important here to outline the fact that I have sort of restored video game hardware and modified it as well myself but there are some things about this I would like to make clear, I for one would never modify a machine which was in good condition. I have painted various consoles but it has been when they are in need of such dire repairs that they simply could not be made to look like they originally did before hand. The first example of this would be a Super Nintendo I purchased from a carboot for 50pence years ago, for a start I had to go inside clean a few contacts and replace the internal pico fuse, but the plastic had become so brittle it had began to shatter exposing both jagged edges and the circuit board below. I tried to see if I could find or buy a broken SNES but at the time I couldnt, so I resorted to melting down plastic paracetomol pots in order to cover the holes as smoothly as possible, also hoping to cover and strengthen some of the existing plastic before it was further damaged. The result looked kind of messy and so I painted the machine with a flaming pattern which blended the damage in making it look intentional. Some may argue I was wrong in doing this but it  made an otherwise unsafe/unsuable console in to a working machine. This kind of restoration/modification I can get behind, I also wont complain about people installing extra switches or outputs on to a console providing it remains playable, some of these machines are getting a little older and they kind of need a little tender loving care here and there to keep them running and some of that might involve resolidering, replacing capacitors and fuses or even adding new ports so they will adequatly work on modern Television hardware. Where ever possible though I would like to see things remain as close to original as possible with old broken consoles being used for experimentation and art instead of working machines. Ok so I have kind of run off in to a tangent and talked about machines so next lets get back to talking about actual game carts.

It is true that its the owners carts and he can do what he wants with them, wether I or others like it or not, and I will say that when they are finished they do look good, in fact some of them look as if they have come straight off of the assembly line, but no matter how good these labels look its not a true restoration its a replacment, one which might fool a lot of people but its basically a lie, a lie which may in fact lower the value of these cartridges and might lead to people being ripped off in the future. Yes the guy who did the particular alterations has said he wont be selling his carts any time soon and if he did he might even be genuine and admit that the labels are fakes but that doesnt mean that a future seller will be or that someone might not use these videos as how to do this guides to try and mock up fake labels to try and pull a fast one on someone and make money from themdishnoestly by buying poor condition carts cheap making them look like new and selling them for a profit.

Personally I am against relabelling carts because I see the conditon of a game part of its greater story, every game goes through a journey before it finds its way to a collector and sometimes you find traces of this and I think they can be as intresting as the games themselves, I love it when you find recepits in your second hand games letting you know when and where they were purchased and I think the label is part of this. Now dont get me wrong I am not saying not to whipe the dust and any surface grime off of a cartridge or case after all I like things to be as clean as possible but softly cleaning something is very diffrent from replacing parts of it, after all you wouldnt consider a classic car no longer a complete classic car if you washed it, but if you provided a new fake door or wing mirror that would be very diffrent. I think if your a real game collector one who is intrested in the history and cultural relevance of retro video games then you an argument could be made that you should feel that you have an obligation to safeguard the authenticity of the games.


The above picture is a photo of a tape I own, it is my main and only copy of Fernandez must die for the spectrum, it wasnt a full price retail copy it was a copy of the game given away on the front of a magazine with other games and programmes on the tape but if you look at it there is a deep story there, you can clearly see the phrase on it in a very childish scribble ''My best tape'', I had written this on it because of how much I loved this game and its a love that has not died which can be seen from the fact it was one of the games I listed as one of my personal Top Ten Spectrum games. If you were to cover this up with a replacment label then you would kill my story, you would kill this cassettes history, it might still hold the game but it wouldnt be the same tape anymore would it?

Now if a game has tottally lost its label or its case or cover then I cant see any problem with replacing these but personally I dont think I would try to reproduce the original art I think I would use it as a chance to be a little artistic, if for example you have followed this blog for any length of time you will have seen examples of when I try to intergrate the Japanese art on Megadrive games with the European case style/format 

Look I am not trying to preach to anyone or trying to tell people what they should or should not do, I just want to make people stop and think about what they have and how they look at it. Every game we ever touch, we ever buy, sell or trade in tells a story, a story we are and will always be a part of.

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