In the early 1990s, I rented quite a few video games from my local Blockbuster store. I felt compelled to try any and all new games that showed up for rental — up to the point my parents would allow, anyway.
Around the same time, I figured out how to disassemble video game cartridges. I thought myself very clever and began disassembling NES and SNES games I'd rented to see what was inside. Blockbuster wouldn't have liked this, of course — to prevent such a practice, the chain sealed its game cartridges with tamper-resistant security stickers designed to show if someone had opened them up.
Luckily for me, the stickers didn't always cover the screw holes, allowing me to work around them. With a careful bend at the sticker joint between two sides of the plastic cartridge case, I could examine the cartridge interior with impunity.
It was then that I struck upon a weird idea. Similar to how kids would scratch their initials on a tree or a school desk, or perhaps draw their initials in wet concrete, I realized I could leave my own mark hidden within the cartridges themselves, gaining a small form of immortality in the process.
The key idea being that I would stick a note on the inside of the cartridge case, so people (most notably, Blockbuster employees) could not normally see it; one would have to open the cartridge again to reveal the secret message.
My youthful imagination fantasized about exchanging covert correspondence between video game renters this way. Even better, I could imagine someone, some day, far in the future randomly opening up an old SNES cartridge and finding a note from me inside. They'd be completely perplexed and amazed, and my goal would have been achieved. But even if no one ever found my message, it still would feel good to have it out there.
Placing The Golden Ticket
The next time I rented a game, I disassembled it and set to work with my plan. I found some small self-adhesive labels and wrote a short note on one, along with a date. After sticking the label to the inside of the cartridge, I closed it up and later returned the game to Blockbuster as usual.
I probably only wrote my initials on the first label (simulated above), but on the subsequent labels — maybe two at most — I might have written a short phrase such as, "Greetings from the past!" I don't recall exactly. I believe I left the first such note inside Super Mario Kart in the Raleigh, NC area around 1993.
If you find it, let me know. It will be even better than finding the Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar. As a reward, I'll give you a personal tour of the VC&G Museum — and I promise you won't drown in a river of chocolate.