I realized something today. I was sitting in my room playing “Double Dragon” on my NES, and I had an epiphany.

In recent years, I have developed a knack for repairing old, cartridge-based video game systems when they start to deteriorate, usually due to years in the garage (It’s amazing what rubbing alcohol and brass polish will do for you!).

One of my friends had recently informedme that his X-Box 360 had just gotten the dreaded “Red Ring of Death,” a symptom of a dying console. He asked me if I knew any solutions to this problem, but I told him that I have no experience fixing CD-based systems, and I wouldn’t want to worsen the system’s malfunction by trying to fix it.

And here I was, playing my NES, the primitive, grey box from 1985. I realized that I had never once had any serious trouble with my NES, despite playing it extensively and maybe not even taking the best care of it! Why, I wondered, was the old grey box lasting more than a quarter of a century, but the height of current game technology was already dying, only several years after its release?

I really don’t have an answer. I guess the question was rhetorical. Regardless, it seems to be quite the paradox. Maybe it’s because cartridges tend to keep well and are relatively difficult to damage, whereas CDs can be rendered useless by a scratch from a sibling who accidentally stepped on your copy of “Halo” that you left lying around. Maybe it’s due to the nature of the systems themselves: analog vs. digital. Maybe it’s because X-Box can’t handle the awesomeness of certain games, so its processor fries. Who knows?

I guess this is why I love my NES. One of my favorite parts about the system itself is how it never works the first time. Usually, it’s along these lines:

  1. Insert cartridge. Turn on console. Screen blinks red.
  2. Turn off console. Remove game. Blow on cartridge.
  3. Reinsert cartridge. Power system on. Screen blinks red.
  4. Power off. Remove game, blow in system itself.
  5. Insert a different game. Game works fine.
  6. Remove game. Reinsert first game. Screen blinks blue.
  7. Get baseball bat. Beat hell out of system.
  8. Game plays fine.

Wonderful, isn’t it? It’s funny, every time I think my NES has finally died, it boots up for another round of “Rad Racer II.” I swear, that grey box makes the “Little Engine That Could” look bad.

In the same way that vinyl records produce the best sound quality available, I think cartridge-based game systems produce the best games. They are reliable, trusty, and lovable in that weird, idiosyncratic way. They usually require some patience, but the end result is well worth the trouble.

(Just be sure you don’t touch the NES system while you’re playing, or else you’ll have to repeat steps 1-8!)

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