An open letter to GameStop

Dear GameStop,

I am very dissatisfied with the fact that some of your stores sell used copies of video games mislabeled as “New”.

That was me being civil, because if intended to actually send this letter to GameStop, I would probably lead with something like that. Fact is, point blank, I am pretty downright pissed off at you, GameStop. I wrote an editorial on a separate blog three years ago (January 2, 2014) criticizing you for selling secondhand goods as new and vice versa, so long as it suited your financial profitability. Unfortunately, three years apparently is not enough time for you to make any kind of change in your policies.

Take my recent experience at a GameStop store, for example. I received a GS gift card as a Christmas gift. I checked online for potential prizes to enjoy on my new Playstation 4 and discovered that while used copies of Fallout 4 were $18.99, new copies were a mere dollar more. I could have purchased my copy online and may have been rewarded with a sealed copy of the Bethesda blockbuster, but the $6 handling fee deterred me. Instead, I visited my local brick and mortar store where I did indeed find the same deal.

Now, I don’t typically buy games new. One reason is because I like to think of my games as an investment. I look for games on the cheap and hope that one day demand for them might increase their value. Buying a new game at full price doesn’t seem wise especially when its value plummets as soon as the shrink wrap comes off. You think I’m mincing perceived value with actual value? Compare any two games on eBay; the game still in its wrapper and proof that it has never been marred through contact with human skin will always sell for more than a used copy, whether it comes packaged with all artwork and reading material or not.

Back to my recent GS visit; I found a used $5 Playstation 3 game – a purchase which I am not dissatisfied with – and took it to the counter. As mentioned, I rarely ever buy games new, but a recent conversation with a friend informed me that every “New” game she bought at GameStop was indeed shrink-wrapped and new. I decided to take a chance.

img_20161228_195329

I carried my used PS3 game to the counter and informed the clerk that I would also like a new copy of Fallout 4. He gave me a spiel about buy 2 get one 1 free used merchandise. Granted, this was a good deal, but I didn’t want to scour the store for another $5 game worth my time because I wanted to get home. He shrugged and went about getting my games from behind the counter. I was shocked when he did not present me with my truly new copy of Fallout, but actually walked out from behind the counter, stepped over to the PS4 section, and took the Fallout 4 display box off the rack to put my disk in!

A quick glance at the case and you might suspect that it has actually been through a nuclear war (hyperbole). Remnants of peeled off sale stickers can be seen on the right of the case, damage is apparent to the clear plastic, the artwork is partially worn particularly on the bottom, and the collective stack of “New” stickers is as thick as a silver dollar.

img_20161228_195702

I love collecting games. My collection has recently passed the 1000-game mark. I mention that specifically to inform you that when I search for used games, I can’t always be picky. Many of my older cartridge-based games do not come with any packaging save for the label adhered to the front. I try to buy more modern games in as complete of packaging as possible, but if the price is right and the game good enough, I’ll make exceptions. But one thing I believe is that when buying new, no exceptions should need to be made. My “new” copy of Fallout 4 did not come shrink-wrapped. Instead, a clear sticker was placed over the case’s opening. Instead of getting the Vault-Tek perk poster that the back of the case promised, I received buyer’s remorse.

My Portable Playstation, NOT a PSP

img_9586_zpszju7h9lf

If you could choose between owning a handheld Playstation 1 or handheld Playstation 2, which would you pick? PS2 is the obvious choice; it has better graphics, doubles as a DVD player, and it plays the entire library of PS1 games with (from what I hear) only one or two exceptions.

I’m surprised I haven’t gotten a lot of criticism for this so far, but I opted to build a portable gaming device using a PSone, the smaller, revised Playstation 1 model.

The build began in the summer of 2014 during a build competition and I had to delay this project because my carelessness caused me to burn out the first system board I was working with. An additional fried PSone and two overhauls on the case’s body later and I can call this portable finally complete.

The portable contains two 7.4V camcorder batteries, wired together for approximately 4400 mAh of juice. A standard-sized PS1 memory card is permanently wired up to slot 1, so I never have to worry about forgetting a memory card at home. I’ve also included a mem card slot to accept additional cards, so I can transfer saves if I decide I want to continue my game on an unmodified console.

Luma 64 – a portable Nintendo 64

img_9311_zps5k9jfg85

Without a doubt this post is long overdue. After roughly five years of off-and-on work, I completed my Nintendo 64 portable gaming device, dubbed Luma 64. I built the shell out of two Tupperware-style containers; one comprised the bulk of the handheld while the other was chopped apart and used as an extension to house the cartridge slot. I doubt I’ll ever use a case like this for any future projects because it ends up being rather thick for a portable and as polished as I tried making the end result, it’s still not very professional. As a friend of mine put it, “you can be the best case-maker in the world, but at the end of the day it’s still Tupperware.”

One feature I made sure to include in this handheld is a LOB64 jack. This multiplayer/AV out jack isn’t built into very many Nintendo 64 portables, but the idea upon its inception was to create a standard connection throughout the modding world. The more portables that incorporate the standard, the more likely you are to encounter another LOB64 portable at a convention or expo.

In the Pages of Guitar World

I don’t claim to be a good guitar player. I can strum my way through most songs on barre and power chords and I have a fairly decent sense of rhythm. But a guy like me isn’t going to make it into the pages of a major guitar magazine without doing something that will turn a few heads. And apparently I managed to pull that off.

If you happen to find a copy of the Holiday 2015 issue of Guitar World magazine, flip to the inside of the back cover, where I’m proud to announce that my Guitar Boy has been featured in the regular “It Might Get Weird” column. I know that my guitar received some attention when it made the rounds on Facebook (pretty impressive for a guy without an account!) as well as a few other news sites, but making it into the pages of a printed publication sold nationwide quite honestly has me flying on cloud nine.

With my work now in print, I keep thinking of the Dr. Hook song “Cover of the Rolling Stone” where they sing, “Wanna buy five copies for my mother.” Sorry, Mom. I’ll buy you one copy.

Guitar Boy – Completed Project

guitarboy

I put in a LOT of work and am happy to finally present the Guitar Boy. This fully functioning electric guitar has a Raspberry Pi built in which runs retro video games on a 5″ LCD screen. All of the controls on the front of the guitar perform as regular Game Boy controls, with the A and B buttons pulling double duty as volume and tone knobs.

I built this as an exhibition piece for the BitFix Gaming 2015 Game Boy Classic build-off and finished working on it September 13, just before the competition’s deadline. Check out this video of the Guitar Boy in action:

Guitar Boy – Game Boy Guitar WIP

With my Game Boy-themed competition already half over, I thought it would be a good time to share my current project.

Although I am exempt from the competition itself (for the same reason any company restricts its employees from winning its own promotions), I wanted to create something in the spirit of the competition in order to draw some attention toward the BitFix community. As can be guessed, what I’m building is a Game Boy guitar. Rather than sacrificing any model of Game Boy, the brains of the Guitar Boy will be a Raspberry Pi running RetroPie. With the A/B/Start/Select button layout, NES, Master System, and Game Gear games will also be fully playable, as well as a few others.

Amazing Game Boy Projects Underway!

The Game Boy-themed build-off competition is underway and there are currently three participants working on their projects. I wanted to share what’s being built in order to hopefully draw up a bit more excitement for the competition. In no particular order, we have…

ModPurist’s Game Boy Color Advance. If you’re calling this photo out as a fake, it is. ModPurist whipped up this image in a few minutes using MS Paint in order to show what he plans to accomplish – essentially take a Game Boy Color and literally turn it on its side. ModPurist is already making great progress on his case, so go over to BitFix Gaming to check it out!

Next is a laptop project being built by wesley762. Wesley is currently gutting an old laptop and plans to cram both an NES and a Super NES inside! After getting a start on the laptop shell, Wesley switched to prepping the NES board.

Last but not least is a 3D-printed case mod by portablesofdoom. As you can see from the project proposal image that Doom drafted, his Companion (Game)Cube will be a rehoused Gamecube designed to resemble the companion cube of Portal fame. At the moment, Doom hasn’t shared much information on his build aside from the above picture. However, the competition ends on September 14, so expect to see a lot more before then.

Be sure to check out the competition entries in further detail on the BitFix page!

Dreamcast ControlView

My portable Playstation took a turn for the worse when I accidentally fried the system board. Since then I’ve found a replacement PS1 on the cheap, but started another project rather than finishing what I had already started.

The Dreamcast ControlView

ControlView

This is a specialized Dreamcast controller with a 3.5″ screen built-in, allowing me to play Sonic Adventure and Shenmue completely free from the TV.

I built this from start to finish in just under 2 weeks. Build started on Sunday, January 4 and finished January 15, just in time to make the entry for the 2014 Build-off Competition on the bacman.co.uk forums. Build log here.

Co-founding a new gaming community and building a portable PS1

First and foremost, I’d like to announce that, along with a couple of my internet friends, I have co-founded a new online community dedicated to gaming, modding, and music, with discussion of other topics welcome as well. Please come check it out and I urge you to sign up to be a part of this growing community!

Link -> BitFix Gaming

In other news, I’ve been working for the past two and a half months on building a portable Playstation 1 for a competition on the Bacman forums. The competition officially ends on January 7. I can’t say for sure if I’ll be able to finish my entry before the deadline, but I hope to end up with something that I’ll be proud to display and – more importantly – enjoy playing.

New Colecovision Controller and Composite Mod

Controller Done

This is a project I’ve been working on for a little in between getting busy with life. Because my secondhand Colecovision (should we just assume that all Colecovisions are secondhand at this point?) came with no controllers, I made my own out of a broken NES controller. I used the original NES controller board and shell, with the cable being pulled from a damaged Playstation 2 controller.