Picture this. It’s the year 2000, the 11-year old me has discovered for the first time the wonderful game of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It doesn’t take long for me to be absorbed into it, and between sweaty hands, panicked screaming, and explosive rejoicing, my love for the game grew. Throughout the years, Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda storyline has taken me on a journey from the land of Hyrule, to Labrynna, Holodrum, Skyloft, and Twilight Realm; each world designed so beautifully. Landscapes created so perfectly you forget you aren’t actually in it.
But while the environments in each game are so carefully thought out, the environment we live in is not. One evening as I took out the cartridge for Breath of the Wild (because who doesn’t love the gravity and reality-defying glitches on BotW?) I thought to myself, “Why haven’t game systems found a more eco-friendly way to encase these games?”.
Not many of us know, but the plastic used to hold the game cartridges and CDs is not recyclable, so once they break, it’s off to the landfill where the plastic chills out for about 500 or so years.
You might be wondering “Why don’t we just get rid of the cases altogether, and just download the game?” and I agree 100% it would be the most eco-friendly way to go about this predicament, but between relying on the internet, and the game server to always be online, some of us just like the feeling of opening the container and starting the game. There is an option where we can curate a library of our most favorite games of all time to look back at fondly, without adding more to the growing pile of plastic.
This passion project is a new take on the game cartridge container.
The thoughts behind the project
There were multiple things that were considered while mulling over this project. What materials would be the best to use that impact the environment the least? How big or small we can make it (which will likely impact cost and materials needed) while still serving its purpose (protecting the game cart)? How we can make it so it’s stronger (the current one is flimsy) while still being pretty lightweight, all while making sure the game card will still be easily inserted/removed from the case.
THE CANDIDATE MATERIAL
The proposed material the case will be made of is aluminum. Off the bat, aluminum is the most recyclable metal on earth, and with it being a naturally occurring, superabundant metal, it is also an affordable candidate.
It is an eco-friendly alternative to plastic, with 75% of the 1 billion tons of aluminum produced in the last 100 years is still in use today.
Aluminum, when compared to other types of metals (like steel) is lighter in weight while having the same size. In fact, steel is typically 2.5 times heavier or denser than aluminum.
Aluminum is also very malleable, and because of this aluminum can be molded into dimensions that steel cannot without the risk of cracking or ripping.
Printing on aluminum is also limitless as the processes have been developed for printing on soda cans and alcohol. Bonus because even though they’re printed on, the metal can still be indefinitely recycled. Yay for mother earth.
The next important thing on our minds was the actual case and how it needs to function. Easy access to the cartridge and keeping the cartridge safe were the 2 most critical points that lead to this design. The case is composed of two parts, the outer case, and the cradle. The outer case acts as the protective covering as the cradle holds the game cartridge and the game pamphlet.
Cover and features
The cover will be made out of aluminum. It is designed to act as a sleeve, with a small cutout that allows for someone to access the easy release groove to remove the cradle inside.
Cradle and features
The cradle is designed to have multiple components to work together to keep the game cartridge secure while allowing easy access for gamers to remove the cartridge.
The extended lip acts as a barrier and with the ridges, keeps the cartridge in place. The elevated grooves along with the dip allow for the card’s easy removal by raising it off the bottom of the compartment (by elevated grooves) and providing a spot for a digit to lift the cartridge out (the dip).
The cradle also features 2 raised edges, designed to keep any game information inserts in place when the cradle is in the cover.
While this design is purely a concept, it is exciting to see that we can come up with many different alternatives to plastic. The design industry holds great responsibility for using all of our talents to find better materials and ways to make things that have a positive impact on this world. In doing this, it buys us time to allow us to explore and immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature as we do in the beautiful worlds created by Nintendo.