The most hardcore of gamers out there not only play a ton of video games, but they tend to be crafty folk who like to get their hands dirty and fix issues on their own without having to resort to repair centers. A lot of issues gamers face cannot be remedied unless we crack our knuckles and do it ourselves, thanks to aging cartridges and consoles that are no longer supported by the manufacturers. Whether or not a save data battery needs replaced in a cartridge or a Nintendo’s contact pins need cleaned, a gamer needs a toolbox with a few items that can get any job done. Here is my little list of items all gamers need in order to repair or enhance their gaming gear.
Nobody likes buying used games with impossible to remove retail stickers plastered all over the cases. Gamestop is notorious for placing stickers all over the game boxes that contain adhesive glue comparable to concrete. Luckily for us, Goof Off is an inexpensive adhesive remover that will strip just about anything off of plastic and metal. I have successfully removed stickers, permanent marker and stains off of game cases using this stuff and it never fails. Goo Gone is another popular product that works well but Goof Off is cheaper and comes in a cool, old school metal canister that makes you feel like a mechanic when you use it. Just make sure you do not make contact with your face, eyes or mouth while using this stuff or you will certainly regret it.
Back in the 8 and 16 bit gaming generations, video game cartridges and some consoles were impossible to take apart thanks to a proprietary screw head that prevented consumers from taking apart the product. If a battery died inside of a cartridge that prevented the user from saving game data, or one simply wanted to fully clean the contacts on the board, it was usually impossible thanks to this screw type. This star-shaped screw head, referred to as a gamebit, typically didn’t have any available screwdrivers found in hardware stores across America, so many resorted to melting pens and using needle-nosed pliers to attempt to get these screw off, which generally resulted in damage to the cartridge’s plastic casing. Thanks to the age of the internet, anyone can easily purchase a gamebit screwdriver off of Amazon or eBay for a buck or two which will work like a charm for hardcore gamers who want to swap out the CR3032 batteries out of their copy of Super Metriod.
Dust is unavoidable in anyone’s household and can be a hazard to game consoles if not attended to often. Game consoles and PCs can become damaged if enough dust clogs the air vents or components inside the hardware. A can of compressed air can be purchased at just about any department or hardware store. The can usually includes a straw that attaches to the air nozzle and can shoot thin spurts of air that works great for blowing air out of vents on consoles. If anyone would like to get even more advanced with de-dusting their console and has the confidence and lack of concern for their warranty, popping open the console and blowing dust off of the components helps prolong the life of any console as well. Just do not position the can of compressed air too closely to electronic components and always keep around eight inches or so away from your target area just incase condensation happens to fly out of the can’s nozzle, which can make components wet.
I dare any gamer over the age of 25 to tell me that they’ve never blown on a Nintendo cartridge in order to get an aging NES to read cartridge data. Even though this practice miraculously works at times, there are better methods used to get NES cartridges to boot up on our television sets. By taking a cotton swab and rubbing the contact pins located at the bottom of the cartridge, dirt and grime can be removed to help the console read the cartridge, which is easier on the lungs. Cotton swabs can also be used in conjunction with other solvents to take grime, dirt and adhesive off of just about anything gaming related. Anyone can buy cotton swabs at just about any supermarket or convenience store across the globe… or you can do what I do and just steal them from your wife.
Phillips Head Screwdriver
Honestly, this tool should be in ANYONE’s toolbox, but it is extremely useful to handy, do-it-yourself gamers who want to fix things on their own. Just about any hardware and peripheral includes this type of screw head seeing as it is the most common type found on just about anything imaginable. A Philips head screwdriver is perfect for taking apart and fixing worn-out controllers too, whether it be a Nintendo 64 controller that spews plastic dust or a PS3 controller with misplaced trigger buttons thanks to launching it at the wall. Thanks, Dark Souls.
Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol
I mentioned above that other solvents can be used with cotton swabs to make an old cartridge new again, and rubbing alcohol is one of them. Squirt a little bit of this stuff on a cotton swab and rub down the connector pins of a cartridge in order to clean contacts and make them shine again. Rubbing alcohol can also remove stickers and adhesive as well, but it takes a bit more work to get the job done and is much safer than Goof Off. For any gamer on a budget who wants to create a gamer toolbox as cheaply as possible, rubbing alcohol will solve many problems cheaply. A bottle of this stuff can be purchased for a buck or less and typically comes in fairly large bottles.
I cannot recall how many times a simple pair of tweezers has come in handy while doing my own gaming repairs. Bending small components, grabbing a hold of tiny screws or peeling off stickers after applying harmful chemicals to a game case can all be accomplished with a pair of tweezers. One of the first gaming repairs I ever handled was opening up an original Nintendo Entertainment System, popping out the connector pin that a game cartridge’s board slides into, and bending each little prong downward so the cartridges make tighter contact, preventing a lot of cartridge-blowing action. I can thank my trusty tweezers for that one!
Good ol’ Scotch Tape
You would be surprised what a simple roll of Scotch tape can do. I have used this stuff to tape batteries to cartridge contacts to prevent me from making errors with a soldering gun, taping lid contacts on a Sega Saturn so I could trick it to play imported games, or even removing dreaded stuck adhesive to game cases. Even though tape isn’t always the most reliable solution, a roll can work wonders for any backup plan.
Soldering Iron w/ Flux Solder
Now this tool is only recommended to gamers who really know what their doing, so I highly suggest that if you do not know how to properly solder elements to electrical boards, pull up some YouTube videos to show you how before attempting anything. That being said, a soldering iron can make a bricked console become alive again if you really know your way around electronic components. I most commonly use a soldering iron to un-solder batteries from a cartridges board and re-solder a new one in it’s place. Even though anyone can usually jerry-rig a battery to come contacts using tape, this solution usually isn’t the most reliable and includes a ton of trial and error. If gamers possess the know-how to use a soldering iron, you can fix just about anything the RIGHT way.
This little blade can be utilized to scrape glue and adhesive off of components, cut and pry thin metal off of board contacts and simply cut anything that needs sliced with precision. X-acto knives are super cheap and can be found at any hardware store. I’ve found that these little knifes can get any handy gamer out of a pinch when trying to repair something. A good backup tool to have when things may not go as plan and one has to improvise.
Now get out there and start being handy!