Do you ever wish you could reacquire the games you once had? And not just copies of the same ones, but the very discs or cartridges you used? Well, the Named Cassette Museum in Tokyo is making that very thing a reality for many gamers: reuniting those who once wrote their names, addresses, or other personal identifying information on Famicom cassettes (and those from other consoles) with their old games.
For Junji Seki, the director of the Named Cassette Museum, collecting Famicom cassettes started out as a hobby. But whereas many collectors might not be too thrilled about discovering a potentially valuable game with someone’s name scrawled on it, Seki saw a different kind of value: Reuniting folks with the very cartridges that they once lost and learning the story behind them. Seki started the museum in 2015, all to document the history of these individual Famicom cassettes and to bring some happiness into the lives of gamers who had long lost (and likely given up hope of finding) their old games.
The museum has a few requirements if you spot a cassette you think was once yours: You must let the director deliver the game by hand, you must buy it (for a price of your choice), and you must let the museum document the story on its website to learn a bit about the history, how the cassette might’ve been lost, and any particular memories of the game.
It’s not just personal stories. In a translated interview with Mirai-idea.jp, Seki says that , personally marked-up games tell a story about the time they were acquired and used. “If you look at [a] cassette“that says ‘110 yen,’ it’s probably when the 3 percent consumption tax was introduced” in 1989. Seki is also interested in deciphering what certain handwriting might mean, why certain letters are capitalized and others aren’t.
Seki doesn’t just collect games either. As the president of game studio Happymeal, he’s also a developer. And the experience of the Named Cassette Museum directly inspires the games he makes. One such game, Ise-Shima Mystery Guide: Fake Black Pearl (which received a Japan-only release on the Nintendo Switch) is “a reproduction of the atmosphere of the Famicom era,” according to a translation from Seki.
As someone who once had many physical games that are now long lost to time, the idea of once again getting to see or hold such relics of days gone is pretty exciting; collecting old games can become a pricey endeavor, but when it tells the story of the gamer who once enjoyed the worlds contained inside the plastic and the tech, well it’s hard to put a price on that. And when you consider the wide expanse of streaming and on-demand gaming services like Game Pass and PlayStation Plus, efforts to save our physical connections with games we love and grew up with are even more important.