In the corner of my living room, displayed in certain Swedish furniture retailers glass cabinet, that required a small team of inexperienced 30 somethings to erect, almost ending decades worth of friendship in the process lives my original Game Boy. Reclining nonchalantly against a box containing its more advanced portable beneficiary the “Game Boy Advanced”, its exposed backing exhibiting years of battery corrosion, this abused and sadly crippled device is sad reflection of my own callous adolescent conduct towards the things that provided so much joy as a child. Though it doesn’t function, is missing its battery guard and is encrusted with years of discoloured blemishes I could never throw it away. Each and every smear, bump and scratch that has afflicted my Game Boy is evidence of just how much I played and adored this grey and bulky console. And what kind of Game Boy enthusiast would I be if I didn’t celebrate its 30th Birthday?
This iconic device deserves recognition as Nintendo’s most successful games console, and arguably its most influential. While it’s competitors were obsessed with expensive, battery draining devices, the Game Boy relied on its more modest monochrome LCD visual output, and thrived. It’s remarkable to think that hardware of such conservative capabilities became the dominant force in handheld consoles. It was the gaming equivalent of Rocky beating Apollo Creed. Kids these days won’t appreciate the purity of such a bulky, low resolution hardware. The sheer number of hours invested in trying to clear as many lines of blocks in Tetris or defeating Shredder and the foot clan in TMNT’s: Fall Of The Footclan, not to mention the ineffable joy of receiving AA batteries as a birthday present. Glorious! Of course it was its portability that was its greatest asset.
Finding the perfect position where external light didn’t reflect off the screen or impair your vision was a constant malady, but once you were in position then your day was set. With the Game Boy’s mobility you weren’t restricted to one room, subjected to the mercy of your parents whim who’d tell you that you’d played enough of the Mega drive or SNES. You’d just retreat to another room and continue to indulge with a healthy 12 hour session on Pokemon Yellow. And if that didn’t work, arrange to meet a friend at their house and play there! Some of my most cherished childhood memories come courtesy of this arcane hardware.
Me and my best friend Andy (he couldn’t stand it when I called him “Andrew”) were obsessed with the Pokemon series. With the release of Pokemon Gold and Silver we set off to claim our respective copies as if we were on some religious pilgrimage. We ambled through the high street like proud soldiers returning from some far-flung war, parading by captivated spectators that had no notion of what was stimulating our grandiose strides. We returned to his house, knowing full well that we would be the only occupants for most of the day. With his newly acquired Game Boy Colour and my ageing original version we dedicated the entire day to the acquisition of Pokemon, barely interacting with one another, apart from a few succinct enquiries into the others progress. I think this demonstrates the longevity of this system, when you consider Pokemon Gold and Silver were released here in the UK back in 2001, with the Game Boy initially released back in 1989. That’s 12 years!
So on its 30th anniversary we don’t just commemorate this antiquated application as simply a forgotten relic that younger generations feel compelled to acknowledge, but to express an indebted appreciation for this immensely successful machine. The Game Boy wasn’t simply a games console, one bound by the restrictions of idleness or shackled by wires, this is the console that changed everything. The Game Boy, to me at least is the most important games console there has ever been.
Happy Birthday, you eternally spry friend! Don’t you ever change.