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Grandpa Gamer: The Game Boy

This WAS my god... it might still be. Who are you to judge?

I remember when I was a young little lad, sitting in the back of the bus on the way to school. Normally, I would find a strange comfort in resting my head against the window as the bus jolted back and forth. On any other day I would be doing my homework at the last minute or simply napping until we arrived at school. But not today. Today, I’m going to kill him. Today I’m going to finally beat that princess stealing, people eating demon bastard of a final boss! All before hanging my coat in homeroom. Clutch.

Back then (aka the 90’s), there was no such thing as 3G or bullshit 4G networks. There were no lame ass touch screens or downloading of any apps. Facebook, twitter, and texting was a science fiction dream. A mobile phone was still JUST a phone and a portable gaming device was well… a portable gaming device. I’m talking about Game Boy. THE Game Boy. The very thought of gaming on the go was as great as it sounded; especially when you were five.

No internet. No wifi. No problem.

Many prayers (including mine) were answered when Nintendo released the Game Boy. Having the home gaming experience in your hands was absolutely mind-blowing at the time. I still remember thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I’m playing Tetris right here! Whenever I want to!” I just about pooped in my sandbox. Fuck recess! I’m going to sit under a tree with my sippy cup and throw some Hadokens! Awwwwwwwww is it raining out? Fuck your indoor recess and fuck playing checkers! I’m going back to Hyrule. Of course the technology is not without it’s limitations. BUT WHO CARES?! It was early 90’s technology at it’s best! It was completely monochromatic but I was still able to suspend my disbelief and found myself immersed in a completely different world.

2 bits and 4 shades of "Green" powered this badass scene from my childhood.

When everyone was playing tag, I was killing an army of soldiers in Ninja Gaiden Shadow. When everyone was playing with their Hot Wheels and Barbie dolls, I was bombing touchdowns in Tecmo Bowl. I was a strange child. I carried this hulking mass of white plastic and circuitry with me at all times. I had pockets full of Jolly Ranchers and AA batteries, I was ready to rock and roll. Who can forget the sweet chime of the scrolling Nintendo logo when you first turn it on? Slapping in the cartridge was only half the fun.

Thankfully, Nintendo threw a lot of support at the Game Boy. They packed in Tetris with every single system. Of all games! BAM! Here’s Tetris, you can now crack out to falling Russian pieces wherever! It wasn’t “just for the kids”, I’ve had to pry it away from my own mother who couldn’t put down Dr. Mario.

How can a 5 year old in the early 90's resist this box art? You just can't. Damn you Nintendo... damn you...

There wasn’t a game that you couldn’t find on the Game Boy. Nintendo even developed games stemming from their own core franchises for it. Mario made many wonderful appearances. Samus made her entry into the portable world in the form of a full-blown sequel to the original Metroid on the NES. Donkey Kong & Zelda showed some love too. And… Pokemon… who could forget Pokemon?! It was the single title that made every kid beg for a Game Boy if they didn’t already have one.

C'mon... you played it and loved it. Don't lie.

Truthfully, today I own a PSP. It is a wonderful piece of hardware with a good amount of graphical horsepower behind it. I can browse the web and check my Facebook. I can even purchase and download games, music, and movies. But the portable platform has changed substantially in terms of media functionality since the glory years of the original Game Boy. Also, games now have narrative and pacing. All the Game Boy had was a d-pad, start, select, along with buttons A and B. However, that was all it needed. The Game Boy was and still is a masterful design in simplicity.

And you know what? It was all I needed.

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