A New Opportunity
One of my negotiated requirements for joining Shacknews in mid-2010 was the company would relocate me to the United States within a year. By April 2011, I was living in Los Angeles; over 3000 miles away from my home in Toronto.
As moving expenses would be retroactively paid, I was in a tough situation. Moving to America wasn’t a cheap proposition. Plane tickets, international freight shipping, rent, and utilities were hitting my finances hard so I decided to sell off some of my most precious collectibles. These primarily consisted of SNES games; a collection I lovingly put together over years from my teenage to my twenties.
Selling that pile of games was the biggest video game-related mistakes I’ve ever made (save for pre-ordering Brute Force), but thanks to the Raspberry Pi that bruise is starting to heal.
Bits and Bytes
I made a modest sum selling my collection allowing me to breathe a little easier for the move. It was difficult but necessary, I convinced myself.
The collection itself was a symbolic yet adolescent attempt to edit my childhood memories. Money for entertainment purposes wasn’t a priority in my household growing up. My parents were mainly focused on actual essentials: food, shelter, clothes.
I’ve told this story before (you can listen to it in my episode of Mike Suszek’s fantastic “Joystiq Presents” podcast series) but essentially in lieu of buying video games, I would get strategy guides for games I knew I would love. These became my bible as a child. Reading them was enough for me. Thinking about what it would be like to play them was amazing. When you’re poor, you don’t have much of an option.
Years later, the entire collection of SNES games I dreamed about was mine; painstakingly collected via eBay and pilgrimages to local shops and flea markets.
That collection transformed into enough cash to aid my move to Los Angeles. That decision, though regrettable in hindsight, eventually changed my life in so many ways. I fell in love and got married in the United States and the pursuit of making adolescent me jovial made that possible.
But it’s hard not to think about that copy of Earthbound I abandoned.
Raspberry Pi Brought Me Back
Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive computer. It’s $35 for the unit by itself (I recommend this kit ), and runs emulation software that can play perfect copies of classic games.
I purchased the Raspberry Pi 3 on a whim, reading an article about emulation on Lifehacker. In the past, I had avoided emulation machines due to its murky legal standing. However, as I’ve gone back to collect some of the essentials from that original collection, I’m taken to playing ROM dumps rather than actual carts. The collection is just that, a collection. The ability to play those games without littering my living room floor with cartridges, being able to swap games on the fly as well as save and load states whenever I decided was an attractive proposition. And the hardware/software combo allows me to play fantastic homebrew titles, including a pretty spectacular fan-made sequel to Chrono Trigger and hacked versions of Super Metroid and NHL’94 (which I wrote about on Joystiq in 2013).
Sometimes when I browse the deep web abyss that is eBay (where everything, inexplicably, is SUPER RARE and thus expensive and will rarely sell for asking price), I think, “is this game as good as I remember it being or was I just a dumb teenager?” In those moments, I’ll check out a ROM and if it’s what I remember, I’ll add the classic cart to my collection. If not, the ROM is deleted and struck off the re-collection list.
On this Pi Day, I wanted to thank the teams involved with developing the Raspberry Pi and the software that enables me to revisit my past and right this wrong. It’s a special device. (Read more about it on Lifehacker.)