In 1983, Atari tasked the city of Alamogordo, New Mexico, with burying almost 800,000 copies of “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” (an infamously terrible Atari 2600 game) in the desert. 37 years later, a Minneapolis service is doing its part to avoid a similar fate for video games of all eras.

Jon Bauer

Game Phoenix, an online hub for video games trades, is the passion project of two former Nerdery employees, Josh Klun (the founder and technical force behind the service) and Jon Bauer (the CMO and face of the company). The two are looking to lower the environmental impact of discarded video games by crafting a community not unlike the old tape-trading network of the pre-internet music age.

“The internet has taught us that no matter what you’re selling or what you have, someone wants it,” Bauer said.

After creating an account, users can curate their own library of games using an expansive database that spans nearly all gaming eras while simultaneously inputting titles they’d like to play. The service then matches up trades. Both users involved in a potential trade must accept before any information (mailing addresses in this case) is exchanged. If a trade is accepted, it’s up to each user to mail off the desired game. The games are the only things that are exchanged; there’s no fee outside of postage.

While the original mission of creating a more eco-friendly gaming community is still very much intact, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed another valuable layer to the service — connection.

“It’s a merge of the physical and digital worlds,” Bauer said. “Trying to get people connected as much as they can especially in times like this.”

For those connections to flourish, Bauer said Game Phoenix is concentrating on organic growth for the near future. The company doesn’t have revenue yet but is tapping local gaming networks such as video game and nerd groups on Facebook to gain users (around 100 currently) and source feedback. Bauer also mentioned interest in participating in startup accelerators and expanding to events such as Minnebar and the entrepreneurial community at large in the future.

As long as players are looking for the next gem to experience — and especially while COVID-19 keeps many of us in our homes — Game Phoenix will continue to offer another way to maintain connections and build new relationships through games.

“There’s a warm fuzzy feeling about the idea that we can help each other whether we’re trading a current game for PlayStation 4 or connecting with somebody who’s really into Game Boy or the Sega Master System,” Bauer said. “Hopefully some of those trades can develop into friendships.”