November 29, 2021

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New Beginnings: The Sobering Journey To Restore My Game Boy Micro

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Photo: Gabe Carey

We all have our coping mechanisms. Last summer, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, mine was reliving my childhood by purchasing old models from Nintendo’s long-retired Game Boy lineup. While I’m not a particularly nostalgic person—hell, I didn’t even grow up with half the consoles I’ve collected over the years—there are some things I missed out on as a kid that are still worth revisiting today. Above all else, the Game Boy Micro was one of those for me.

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I always wanted a Game Boy Micro, from the moment I watched a rat do unspeakable things to one in what is probably the weirdest official gaming adverts I’ve ever seen. Launched in 2005, there was something so quirky about Nintendo coming out with a palm-sized version of the Game Boy Advance almost a year after the release of its successor, the Nintendo DS. The fact that it required a proprietary charging cable, separate from that of the GBA and DS, and ditched the backward compatibility of its predecessor was icing on the weirdly delicious cake. (That said, its greatest sin was dropping support for WarioWare Twisted. Don’t think I didn’t notice, Nintendo.) For what it’s worth, though, it still managed to bring back the 3.5mm headphone jack.

In all honesty, the Game Boy Micro wasn’t all that spectacular from a practicality standpoint. But its unique form factor paired with my inexplicable adoration for the thing made it the perfect gift when my mom bought me one for the holidays in 2019—almost 15 years after I first asked for one. Eventually, she came through. For a while there, I was carrying it around in my pocket wherever I went, as I’d always dreamed of doing in middle school. The world was my oyster, and I was a person who really enjoyed oysters.

Of course, seeing how expensive they can be for a mint condition unit, mine came with deep chicken scratches on the rear side, as if someone tried to write their initials and a second person crossed it out. Bummer. From that moment on, I vowed to fix it up myself, even if it literally killed me.

A few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic took America by storm. Thanks to our country’s religious devotion to prioritizing money—which we can simply print more of—over human life, our government decided it was in their best interest to keep us feeling afraid to go outside for over a year instead of mandating stay-at-home orders for a few short months. And it worked! After the first 4-5 months in lockdown, I was so bored and exhausted that I made myself a cocktail and, finally, sat down to breathe new life into my beloved miniature novelty.

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Photo: Gabe Carey

I started working at G/O Media in February 2020. Hired to manage its commerce team and affiliate partnerships, that started off meaning little more than running The Inventory dot com. Although none of its original founding members are still here, I loved watching this site grow. Whether full-time editors or freelance writers, everyone I work with knows their strengths and leans into them without hesitation. It’s because of this place that my resume is now a mile and a half long. Initially brought on to do two jobs, in the end, my responsibilities matched that of at least three heads. In a former colleagues’ words, I was “burning the midnight oil,” putting in countless hours of overtime to keep the lights on. It was worth every second, until it wasn’t.

The Game Boy Micro was an experiment in resurrecting an outdated platform for an audience that had already moved on. Nintendo took an iconic product, reduced its size, and altered the design until it was no longer recognizable. Mine in particular was worn down, the shell grazed with scratches and scuffs and the battery depleted. At first blush, a layman might call it irreparable. Not I.

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Photo: Gabe Carey

Scouring eBay, I found a replacement shell, including front and back plates, along with a new rechargeable battery to swap in for my old one. I dusted off my computer repair kit, unscrewed the battery cover, then after some fidgeting, plugged it right into the jack. The next step, however, put me in a tough spot. To replace the rest of the shell, I would need to take out a pair of screws on the opposite side of the battery compartment, adjacent to the volume buttons, as well as those located under the battery. Only I didn’t have the right screwdriver for the job because it wasn’t provided for me in the kit, nor did I know the type of screwdriver for the job I would need. How was I supposed to pull this off without the resources needed to successfully get the job done? So instead of screwing the old cover back on, I secured the one from my housing kit into place. I couldn’t help but feel as though I’d failed.

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Over the subsequent months that passed, I tried as many screwdrivers as I could get my hands on. I even spotted the type of screwdriver I needed—a triwing Y0—in a YouTube teardown. Nothing worked. It wasn’t until I realized the screws themselves were stripped beyond repair that I was able to face the facts. It was time to move on.


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