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Overseas shopping trip leads to creation of Japanese NPO that deeply respects the sentimental value of old-school video games.

Back in the spring, an alternately heart-warming and heart-wrenching tale played out on the Internet involving a used copy of Pokémon Green for Nintendo’s Game Boy. An American collector who’d purchased the game shared photos of the cartridge online, where it was recognized by the original Japanese owner as the same copy he’d lost as a child.

Unfortunately, by that time, the collector had already gotten rid of the cartridge. A new Japanese non-profit organization, though, is making it its mission to prevent such bittersweet endings by developing a registry and protective society that reunites used games with their owners.

The Museum of the Preowned Games Collections was founded by Junji Seki, a collector of old-school games, after a fateful trip to San Diego several years ago. While there, he stopped by a game store and picked up a used NES title, which had the original owner’s name written on the cartridge. Moved by the piece of someone’s personal history he now held in his hands, Seki was overcome with a desire to help old games find their way back to their initial owners, and set about gathering and cataloging cartridges with people’s names, stickers, or other distinguishing characteristics added to them.

▼ A copy of Super Mario Bros., with the name “Yusuke Kimura” written in marker at the bottom right.

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While it’s definitely a generous and kindhearted sentiment, some might wonder why Seki is bothering with this quest, given that many of these retro games are readily available in download format. But he argues that cartridges often have value far beyond the data they contain. In his words:

“Of course, those cartridges contain the software for the game, but perhaps more importantly, they are associated with many different memories such as how the owner got the cartridge (for example, as a birthday present or as the first ever item they purchased themselves), the friends he/she played with together and the stories of why they chose to play that game in the first place.”

Currently, the Museum of the Preowned Games Collections’ five-member team has found and registered 800 cartridges. The organization’s website allows users to search (in English or Japanese) for games and filter the results by a number of criteria, including title, publisher, and cartridge color (since cartridge housings for Nintendo’s 8-bit Famicom came in a variety of hues).

▼ Let this be a lesson, kids: Always keep a tight grip on your copy of Exhaust Heat II.

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Famicom/NES games make up the bulk of the database, but the collection also includes titles for the Super Famicom/Super NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 64, DS, Game Gear, and PC Engine. Most are Japanese releases, but in keeping with the overseas shopping excursion that served as the organization’s inception, there are also North American versions in the catalogue.

▼ Anyone recognize this copy of Bionic Commando?

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Each cartridge is photographed from multiple angles, to make it easier for original owners to identify them. Should you spot a game that used to belong to you, the Museum of the Preowned Games Collections asks that you contact its staff. They’ll be happy to return your game to you, although there are a few conditions that will have to be met.

First is a series of questions to verify that you are, indeed, the original owner. The Museum of the Preowned Games Collections doesn’t ordinarily ship games through the mail, so you’ll likely have to arrange a meeting. The non-profit organization also asks that you make some sort of donation, even if it’s just a single yen, to help it cover operating costs. Finally, the staff would like to share the story of reuniting you with your game on its website, although it says it can accommodate requests for anonymity if you so desire.

If there’s a missing part of your gaming past that you’re looking for, you can start the search on the organization’s website right here.

Related: Museum of the Preowned Games Collections
Source: IT Media
Top image: Museum of the Preowned Games Collections
Insert images: Museum of the Preowned Games Collections (1, 2, 3) (edited by RocketNews24)

Follow Casey on Twitter, where if he’d known there’d one day be an organization like this, he would’ve written his name on his copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! before it mysteriously disappeared.