The mystery game cartridge that brought Reddit together

Reddit is a powerful website and a platform that has made
for some breaking news stories. The now infamous case of Reddit trying to solve
the Boston bomber saga is one that always comes to mind when thinking of the
power of Reddit.

On the other hand, it has also created incredible moments in
niche communities and everyday people. It has this way of creating something
special that sometimes you’re lucky enough to witness it happen in real time.
But if you’re really, really lucky, you may find yourself right in the middle
of it.

A post on r/gaming blew up on Reddit, which highlighted
an old game cartridge that an avid metal detecting enthusiast had discovered
As of writing this article, the post has garnered well over 4000 comments. Some
theorised that an evil spirit lived inside the game cartridge whilst others
speculated on what game it was.

Reddit, being the serendipitous platform that it can be at its best, allowed another redditor to offer their help in restoring the game cartridge and revealing its true identity. It perfectly encapsulates the power of Reddit in creating serendipitous moments in otherwise niche hobbies and passions.

Critical Hit had the pleasure of an exclusive interview with the redditor who discovered this mysterious cartridge.

CH: Let’s get the basics out of the way. What’s your name and where are you from?

MD: Call me MrDurka. I’m Irish but moved to Switzerland not so long ago.

CH: What do you do as
your 9-5 grind?

MD: My day job is a chef. On my days off, you’ll never find
me. I’ll be in the middle of nowhere, wherever a ‘permission’ [to metal detect]
takes me.

CH: How did you get
into metal detecting?

MD: Detecting was always in the back of my mind when I was
younger but it’s an expensive enough hobby to dive into. I would love to have
started earlier but I kept putting it off. Worlds sort of collided when the
first English speaking guy I met here on a night out turned out to be an
enthusiast and I jumped at the chance to buy his old rig which is a Garret AT
Pro. It was just the perfect timing for me.

I love the idea of fishing but I’m shit at it. Metal detecting is fishing, but on land. Rain, snow or sunshine doesn’t matter, you’ll find me in some random field head to toe in muck chasing some elusive signal. I’m an addict. There’s a learning curve but it’s just an amazing hobby. You get to explore, do a bit of hiking, clean the environment, meet the locals etc.

99% of what you find is junk so you have to love the process which I do. I mostly find rifle cartridges here. The Swiss love to shoot!

CH: What’s the oddest
thing you’ve found aside from the game cartridge?

MD: That would probably be a vintage jar of tomato sauce. I
love trying to piece together how something ended up where you found it. This
was a real head scratcher.

CH: So you’re teaming up with another redditor to restore it?

MD: Yeah. A commenter proposed that if I mailed him the cartridge,
he would film a restoration video. That was such a cool idea and the rest of Reddit
agreed. Another user even offered to pay for the shipping. The pressure was
mounting to literally deliver so I got in touch with the restoration guy,
exchanged details and I shipped it off.

Another user then came forward saying they were taking a
trip to Switzerland at the end of the month and they could deliver it back. So
the story kept getting weirder and cooler. This little forgotten game was
suddenly stirring wonder in people and stealing imaginations across continents.

One moment it was buried, unknown to everyone, and suddenly
It was the centre of this weird viral Scooby Doo mystery. The cherry on top
would be to find the owner. So if anybody reading this lost a game in the St.
Gallen area of Switzerland years ago, get in touch saying where you think you
lost it and what game it is and I’ll get it back to you. It’s a long shot but
worth a try!

CH: What game do you
think it is?

MD: I’ll settle for anything but Tetris just because that’s
the most likely possibility. Something obscure would be nice!

CH: Did you ever think the post would blow up the way it did? How does it make you feel?

MD: I had no idea it would explode the way it did. I thought
if it got a bit of attention, I might get some advice on how to identify it. I
first sent it to my friends WhatsApp group, then posted on Reddit and I sort of
forgot about it. I checked my messages about an hour later and one of my
friends said “lol he’s on the front page of Reddit.”

They also mentioned the top commenter and the restoration
appeal.  I thought the whole thing was
cool but I was still in detect mode. I just carried on detecting for a few more
hours. I did drop back in to the post at some point to let the top commenter
know I was on-board with the restoration idea. The whole thing just felt cool,
nerdy but in a good way. It’s not how you expect a day of metal detecting to

CH: Have you told any
of your friends or family who aren’t on Reddit? What did they say?

MD: Of my family only my brother knows as he’s in the WhatsApp
group I mentioned earlier. I think my parents and sister would find the whole
thing odd but intriguing nonetheless. It’s such a weird bizarre story.
Hopefully it’s not haunted.

Critical Hit also got in touch with the redditor, IKnowWhoYouAreGuy, who offered to restore the cartridge and see how things are going, almost a month on from the discovery.

CH: What made you decide to offer to help restore cartridge?

IKWYAG: So I’ve got the experience and this seemed like a super interesting story. I know if I found something like that, I’d be dying to know what it was, especially if someone offered to do it, so I thought, “Why not be that guy to offer?”. I had no idea this was going to turn into a huge thing, but apparently people are really into this type of stuff.

CH: Did you expect the post and your offer to blow up the way it did?

IKWYAG: No way! Like I said, I thought it was interesting, but I had no idea that this would draw such a crowd. It’s brought a lot of my past projects back up and made me realize I could actually start something that a lot of people find interesting and entertaining.

I love teaching, instructing, and problem solving, so I think this is an opportunity to coalesce my passions into something concrete, in this case a YouTube channel.

CH: What game do you think/hope it’ll be?

IKWYAG: Well, one of the early commenters actually sent me a private message saying they had lost a Pokemon Silver cartridge with the player names “Ash” or “Phillipp” in the area, which made me realize I had offered to repair the cartridge without realizing where MD was located.

When I saw it was international, I knew that either this would blow up or fizzle out. Returning the game to the original owner would be the perfect wrap for this, so I’m kind of hoping it is Pokemon Silver so we can bust out the SOLVED stamp.

CH: How’s the restoration process going so far?

IKWYAG: So I’ve filmed the restoration video where I cleaned the cartridge, scrubbed the contacts with a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol and attempted to boot it up in my Game Boy Advance SP (my favourite handheld gaming system) but no joy, so I cleaned the bolt holding the cartridge together until I could get my screw driver around the security bolt and crack the thing open.

There was about 5 grams of “Swiss Dirt” that I removed in total. The board inside was pretty dirty, but I could read the microchip labels and I’m in the process of channeling my inner Detective Pikachu to find out what the cartridge is through the serial numbers.

The repairs I am going to attempt to make it work are finding a way to replace the missing contact pads (the bronze “piano teeth” connectors) that rusted off in the ground.

CH: Where can people stay updated on the process?

IKWYAG: I created the Parts and Restoration YouTube channel and will post videos and updates there as well as on the r/gaming subreddit.

CH: Have you ever done this before? Do you have a passion for tinkering with things? 

IKWYAG: I’ve been building computers with my dad since I was 14 years old, and have been taking things apart and putting them back together since I had enough dexterity to hold a screwdriver. I’ve also always had a passion for video games and have built several of my own video game themed projects already like converting an original Nintendo into a mini-ITX gaming computer with GTX GPU, or screen modifications and jailbreaking.

I’ve disassembled and reassembled several gaming systems already to do things like replacing the leads in a Nintendo when it stops reading games or resoldered display contacts to remove lines from the screen in Game Boys. I’ve also been pretty active in the Mini Nintendo Classic emulation forums helping people with software or process issues.

Reddit is a complex website with many good & bad aspects of it, but it is stories like this that reminds us of the power of good that resides within it.

Last Updated: April 29, 2019