Beautifying Gaming, Part One

So, late in 2010, I bought myself a SNES.

It was the first console I’ve ever owned. I have seriously fond memories of playing NHL ’94 (at least, I think it was ’94–the one that brought in fights), GT Racing, Mortal Kombat etc. over at my buddy Paul‘s place down the street. Bikes would get piled out in front of the garage and the neighbourhood kids (our group, who I now refer to as “the Briargreen Old Boys”) would get piled up on the couch, swapping controllers between four or six of us.

I never owned the console myself–beyond the PCs that were a constant feature in my house, we were a console-free family. It didn’t make much difference, honestly. There were enough SNESes and N64s around in the neighbourhood that I never felt wanting for games, and I lived on RTS games at home. But the SNES stuck with me, even though Max Payne and the dawn of the XBox. Something about seeking out a cool living room or basement during a muggy summer afternoon. About sharing the time on the console, about arguments about who passes next or what we should be playing. About the interaction that comes from sitting around the same console instead of having Steam or XBL between you.

Anyway, all that nostalgia (as well as wanting to play some of the classics–Metroid and Paper Mario especially–properly for once) resulted in tracking down a used games place in Kingston and dropping a few bucks of my OSAP money on the console, Street Fighter II, and ShadowRun. Immediately, I thought I was shortchanged because Street Fighter did NOT work. That was easy enough to sort out.

Just corroded contacts--rubbing alcohol sorted it out really nicely.

But there is a far more insidious issue that was to befall my SNES.

Something that befalls many beloved Nintendo consoles.

It’s a scourge, eating at the console.

No! Anything but that!

Yes, that.

Console yellowing.

From what I read, there’s really nothing I can do about it. It seems to be a simple oxidation of some of the chemicals in the plastic. Short of turning my console into a sort of hermetically preserved bubble-boy this process will continue. And I can’t have that.

So, it’s time to beautify the console.

My goal is to turn it into a piece that’ll look consistent with other new technology, and be a piece that looks kind of cool. It’s not going to be a casemod (no interest in adding LEDs and whatnot), but a paint job. Some high-gloss automotive black and highly reflective silver. Ultimately I want it to look like the new XBox 360, just a little shinier.

Similarly, without the LEDs.

Part of me thinks that the hi-gloss paint will pick up fingerprints, but part of me doesn’t really care. It’s a full-time fixture and a part-time curio, not really a gaming console.

Anyway, the first order of business after making sure that I had the paints was to remove the case in order to get a nice clean paint job. Of course, Nintendo doesn’t want you jumping into the guts of your console (in case you modchip it or whatever) so since the dawn of the NES they’ve been using what I have lovingly deemed “bastard screws.”

The Nintendo security screws are so tenacious that people sell drill bits and screwdrivers to remove them. What a pain. And not really a homebrew solution. I did come across a couple of decidedly more DIY ways to go about it here. One way is to dremel out the inside of a screwdriver. But there was an even more appealing method I wanted to try. From the article:

Pen version – Tools Required:

  • A pen – the clear plastic type work best. Since about 50% of the pens in the average household don’t work anyway you should be able to find one to sacrifice.
  • Some sort of flame source, lighters, matches, gas stove. Sigh — kids, ask your parents to help with this part.
  • This pen is about to do a far, far better thing than it has ever done. Writing? Whatever. The hack is mighter than the sword.What to do:
    1. Have your Nintendo system ready and close at hand, screw wells exposed and up.
    2. Remove any plastic caps and then light the end of the pen. It should burn quite well. Don’t let any gunk drip onto yourself, it’ll probably hurt. Worse than solder. It will also stink, so open a window if possible.
    3. Once it’s burned for a few seconds and the plastic has kind of melted shut the hollow opening, cram it down into the screw well and onto the screw.
    4. Don’t move – let it cool for about 15 seconds. The plastic is forming to the shape of the screw.

Carefully pull the pen out – you should see the shape of the screw in the plastic.

You can now use this pen as a screwdriver — simply stick it in and twist. Make sure you feel the grooves latch into place, then press down hard as you turn for best results. If the plastic bits strip out you can always relight the pen and make another mold.

That. Sounds. GREAT.

Anyway, I set about doing just that. The first couple of times, the plastic charred a bit from being lit on fire, as suggested in the article. It became brittle and snapped. So I was a little more cautious about it, and just slowly melted the plastic instead of lighting it aflame.

Forming the tool, attempt number two squillion.

The tool, she is formed! Note the good end versus the grody blackened end.

But, alas, even with a nicely-formed tool, there were problems. The plastic in the pen wasn’t nearly as solid as it needed to be–not for these bastard screws that have been sitting for over 15 years.

It stripped immediately. No go.

Not easy to see, but the little white bits are where the security screws stripped the plastic.

So it looks like I’ll be ordering that bit after all. It’s not all bad that I didn’t get this done tonight, though. I should have some kind of hard clearcoat for the paint, especially for the controllers, and I don’t at the moment.

In the meantime, if you have suggestions for the colours of the buttons on the controllers (which will be black), I’m all ears. I’m leaning towards gloss black on the body, matte on the D-pad, silver on the shoulders, and then a single colour for each of the four face buttons. I’m leaning towards an orange colour (like we use over at Bent) but I’m certainly open to other ideas and looking for suggestions.

In the meantime, it may not be pretty, but I’m still glad I’ve got the console.

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.

Yours,

Trevor

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About Trevor

Teacher, writer, podcaster. Obsessed with tech and paddling, politics and entertainment. Nerd extraordinaire, and handsome to boot. You can find his work over on the Spillway network and his home on the web, Love.Make.Share. View all posts by Trevor

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