The Game Boy Camera is perhaps the worst digital camera ever made. Lo-fi does not even begin to describe the 4-shade black & white, 128×112 pixel images it produces. But this hauntingly high-contrast, so-bad-it’s-sureal quality is what makes it a unique tool for your camera bag.
Being a Nintendo product, the Game Boy Camera is packed full of all the quirk & charm the company is known for. The camera’s software comes with fun “magic” and “trick lenses” effects. You can even superimpose your face into the built in games, including a remake of the classic Game & Watch Ball. Like Nintendo said in the ad campaign, this isn’t photography, it’s FUNtography.
But in 1998 USB wasn’t a common thing, and the removable media of time was floppy disks, VHS tapes, and… film. The only official way to get your pics off the Game Boy Camera cartridge was to print them out onto sticker paper using the Game Boy Printer. Unofficially, Mad Catz’s Camera Link peripheral let you transfer photos over parallel port to your Windows 95/98 PC.
I no longer have access to a computer with a parallel port, and those Mad Cats cables are pretty hard to find these days. The way I do it still requires some obscure hardware, but it takes up way less space then a big beige PC.
Here’s what you’ll need:
After you’ve taken up to 30 Game Boy Camera photos, you’ll need to backup your save onto the Mega Memory Card. The Gameboy Camera doesn’t look like it should be able to connect with the MMC, but it does with a little finessing. Make sure the toggle on top of the MMC is switched to the right, then fire up the Game Boy. Follow the on screen instructions to Backup the save file and give it a name.
(A big bonus perk to getting a Mega Memory Card is that as you fill up 30 shot rolls, you can back up your save files in the field, effectively giving you unlimited storage without a computer.)
Next you’ll want to transfer that same save file onto your Game Boy flash cart. To do so, plug the flash cart into the Mega Memory Card, power it up, and this time select Restore. Choose the save you want to transfer and wait for it to upload onto the SRAM of the flash cart. As far as I know, all flash carts only have room for 1 SRAM save file, so you’ll have to dump your saves one at a time (30 pics max.)
I use an EMS 64 USB Cartridge, but other flash carts will do. In fact, if you can get your hands on a Bleepbloop or Smartboy, it’ll work even better as those have dumping software that works on Mac or PC. The EMS software only works on Windows XP (UPDATE There is a way), so I use VMware Fusion on my Mac. Connect the flash cart via mini USB, open up the EMS GB USB Smart Card program, and select Read SRAM, then save the Game Boy save file somewhere. Make sure to add “.sav” to the end, as the software does not do so automatically.
Now that you’ve got your save file, you’ll need software to read it and extract the photos. There’s a few different programs and websites that do this by, more or less, emulating a game boy printer. I use GBCamera Dump. (I’m not sure who made this program/who to give credit to, but it works great.) Start it up and select File, Save SRAM, and find your .sav file you dumped. All your Game Boy Camera photos should pop right up, including your Game Face. You can review them individually, or save them all at once by selecting File, Save All Pictures. It’ll save your pics as 128×112 4-shade .bmp image files. From there you can load it into any image editor, upload it to the web, party like it’s 1998.