Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and chocolate. Retro-gaming and YouTube. These things go together so well that I don’t know how I’d live without them. YouTube has overtaken my household within the last few years and my family is getting ever-so-close to cutting that cable cord. The amount of entertainment that can be found on the “internet’s cable box” to fit everyone’s exact taste is amazing and almost overwhelming! That’s why we here at Hey Poor Player are continuing our coverage of introducing you to YouTubers that we fell in love with and that have provided us with hours upon hours of video game entertainment.
In today’s feature, I want to step away from the traditional retro-gaming YouTuber who sticks to sharing old video game memories and top 10’s, to more of an unorthodox content creator who provides how-to’s on hacking, reproducing, and fixing classic video game cartridges. John Riggs, aka John Riggs: RIGG’D Games, has been providing hacking game enthusiasts info on bootlegs, repairs, video game hunting, and even breakfast cereal reviews for a little over two years now. John was gracious enough to take time out of his family-man schedule to sit down with Hey Poor Player and let us in on how he got into gaming and eventually started hacking roms.
HPP: Congrats on hitting 10K subs on YouTube! That’s incredible, and shows how many gamers are interested in creating repros and repairing carts. A lot of our staff here at Hey Poor Player are retro gamers at heart and as you know a big part of retro gaming is remembering the “good old days” and all the glorious nostalgia that comes with playing those old carts. Can you tell us about your earliest gaming memory?
Riggs: The first video game I remember playing was Donkey Kong. It was the second cabinet on the left in the back-corner of the arcade in our local mall, only I was already familiar with the game so I’m sure I played it before this. The early 80’s was a great time for arcade games as gas stations and grocery stores would always have an arcade game or two at each location so I’d keep track of what games were where at any given time in my neighborhood. Any quarter I could earn, find, or bum off my mom by doing extra chores would fund my passion.
I also remember when my dad was going to the store to buy our Atari 2600 when I was 4 or 5. I remember asking my mom, “we can play Pac-Man whenever we want without quarters?” When we finally hooked it up, I was confused as the game said ‘Pac-Man’ but it sure didn’t look like Pac-Man. I still played it, and many other Atari games, as often as I could. Being in a large family and, in the early 80s, we only had the one TV so time was limited. I got to the point where I’d wake up as early as possible to game as much as I could before the rest of the family woke up.
HPP: How did you get started in the world of video game reproductions/repairs? Any tips for gamers who are interested in getting started in repairing or making reproductions of their own?
Riggs: I got started making reproductions (repros) because I was doing rom hacks. I would edit a game, like, Super Mario Bros but I would swap out Mario for one of my friends. In order to put the edited rom onto a working cartridge to give as a gift I needed to learn how to make repros. Unfortunately for me, there was little to no info on how to do this online and those who knew weren’t as eager to share. Fortunately, I found a few people to help me get started. I paid them in hard-to-find NES games for their collection.
The only tips I can offer, like with any hobby, is it can be very time consuming, but rewarding. Like trying to hit a golf ball for the first time. You’ll hit grass 10 times in a row but when you connect it’s a wonderful feeling.
HPP: A big part of your YouTube channel is yard sale finds. What has been your biggest find to date and have you gotten discouraged considering there are so many others out there looking for retro video games?
Riggs: My finds haven’t big as grand as some of my friends’, but I found a guy who was unloading his NES collection. TONS of common NES games all at $1 each. Going back, I would’ve made an offer to buy them all but I grabbed just what I needed for my collection and other choice games I could use trades. After talking to him for a bit he even sold me a few of his games he didn’t intend to sell. It’s why you always ask if they have more inside. I don’t get discouraged as my town only has a few other retro collectors and I already know who they are. If they want to overpay, that’s their fault.
HPP: Sometimes you like to incorporate your kids in your YouTube videos. We here at Hey Poor Player personally love the breakfast cereal reviews that sometimes feature them. How do your kids react to when you tell them thousands of people are enjoying their reviews, and more importantly, what are your favorite breakfast cereals?
Riggs: Both of my daughters watch YouTube as their primary source of entertainment. They love shows like Good Mythical Morning, Funnel Vision and other family-based shows. They love being in videos when they can and love when people leave comments about them. I do most of my videos when my kids are asleep but are always available for a cameo when they can. Most of my favorite cereals don’t exist anymore like Ice Cream Cones cereal, Strawberry Shortcake and others, but my favorites are always Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Life and Cracklin Oat Bran (even though it’s pricy and never on sale).
HPP: Your friend Darrin Peloqui, is currently hard at work putting together the retro game hunting film “The Bits of Yesterday”. Can you tell us about the film and your involvement?
Riggs: That’s a film I’m looking forward to seeing in its completion, whether I was in it or not, because I love our retro gaming community. It was basically a 10-questions style interview, much like this interview, only it was done on the convention floor at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PGRE). I was there as a vendor so between questions I was making sales. PRGE is such an overload of all senses and I’m easily distracted so I don’t even remember what he asked or how I answered. I guess I’ll find out when the film comes out.
HPP: Besides your channel, Metal Jesus Rocks gets a lot of playtime here at the Hey Poor Player office. Since you two often collaborate on videos, can you tell us how you two became friends?
Riggs: We had mutual friends. I was already friends with retro collectors Kinsey and Reggie. I’ve met Metal Jesus before at local area conventions, but he’s just like everyone else, digging through boxes of games looking for gems. Metal Jesus was hosting a ‘Gamer Eats’ Christmas party and Reggie had me come along, with his permission. From there Jason (Metal Jesus) and I started talking about my game hacks and I offered to make one for him, just for fun. Then we started talking about Famicom games and said, “you seem to know a lot about Famicom. Wanna do a video with me sometime about it?” Fast-forward to today and now I consider him a great friend.
HPP: Many of your subscribers may not know this, but you’re a DJ and co-host on Yakima Washington’s 107.3 KFFM’s Riggs and Reesha in the morning. Do you ever talk gaming on the show or have gamers call to ask you questions?
Riggs: Unfortunately, our radio station is geared towards 18-34 female so I keep my video game talk at a minimum. I will plug things like the NES Mini being a great Christmas gift but, aside from that, I don’t. It is known I’m a huge gamer and has worked to my advantage with listeners gifting me a SNES lot once (with great games!) and even had one listener ask if I would be interested in buying his old Virtual Boy which, naturally, I took him up on the offer.
HPP: In a very touching tribute to Satoru Iwata, you hacked him into his NES game Balloon Fight. Can you tell us about the hack and the Extra Life charity that the proceeds have went to if gamers requested you make them a cart?
Riggs: When he passed away, I felt like I lost a friend as most of us did. That same day I thought of putting him in Balloon Fight, but didn’t immediately. I slept on it. The next morning, I still had the idea in my mind so I went for it. It was a very simple hack only taking me a few hours. I never wanted to capitalize on someone’s death so I never intended to sell it, making the patch free to download. It was only after being inundated with requests to sell them that I figured I’d add the charity element so proceeds (after the cost of materials) went to Extra Life that year. The patch will always be free, though. I’m honored that people have played this hack in their Extra Life streams via emulation or they would make their own repro.
HPP: How do you feel about gaming going the way of digital and Nintendo deciding to use carts for the upcoming Nintendo Switch?
Riggs: I’m one of the few who doesn’t mind digital versions of games but I would always rather have the physical copy. I love my PSPgo as it’s full of all the games I need without the need to replace discs or store them anywhere. The old 8-bit Nintendo cartridge is one of the most icon images in gaming. The thought of Nintendo not having a physical media option sounds wrong.
HPP: Can you list any websites of other YouTube channels that gamers can visit if they need help with creating, repairing, or hacking carts?
Riggs: The reason I started making tutorials on hacks and repros is because I couldn’t find anything online to a guy like me who, believe it or not, isn’t very tech-savvy. I’ve seen some documents that explain, in a very matter-of-fact way that the A20 need to go to the m12+ or something and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I just wanted to know what goes where. I didn’t care why, so long as it worked. The best thing, really, is find someone else who can and pick their brain. I’m eager to help if I can because I want to see what creative things others can do.
Be sure to check out John’s video below and find out how to win UpUpDownDown for the NES!
And don’t forget to check out John’s YouTube channel and subscribe!
Thanks, John! Keep on hacking!