“Now you are playing with power! PORTABLE POWER!”
April 20, 2019 10:44 AM   Subscribe

The Game Boy Turns 30 [The Verge] “On April 21st, 1989, Nintendo unleashed the Game Boy on the world, forever changing video games. The unassuming gray brick may not have been a technical powerhouse, but it helped take the idea of portable gaming mainstream, paving the way for the world of mobile gaming and hybrid devices like the Switch.” [YouTube][Original Gameboy Commercials]

• How Nintendo introduced the Game Boy, Tetris, and Pokémon to the West [Polygon]
“ But the NES was getting old, and Nintendo wasn’t ready to introduce its successor. To preserve momentum, Nintendo needed another thing — a new device that would expand the market and strengthen its grip on the youth of the world. The Game Boy would be that thing: a successor to the aging Game & Watch product line and a handheld sibling to the NES, with interchangeable cartridges, a stripped-back color palette, and a comparable button layout. In Japan, the Game Boy would be an easy sell. It was as perfect a device for children and the common salaryman, a system to play on the go in a fast-paced society. Outside Japan ... well, that was Nintendo of America’s problem — a challenge NoA would prove more than capable of solving, with a little help along the way from Tetris and Pokémon.”
• Nothing Will Ever Compare to the Game Boy [Esquire Magazine]
“The original Game Boy landed on shelves in April of '89, bundled with a copy of a little game called Tetris. No one could ever have predicted the massive impact it would have on the industry, especially with its chunky form factor, green-tinted display, and admittedly awful graphics compared to competitors like the Sega Game Gear. It was the definition of small, yet mighty. And no, it didn’t have a backlight—all that squinting is probably what’s wrong with your eyes as an adult. For Western gamers, that saving grace wouldn't arrive until the Game Boy Advance SP in 2003. Chances are you were forced to play directly near a lamp, but not sunlight—that didn’t help at all. And if you didn’t fancy buying a seemingly infinite number of batteries, you also needed an AC adapter so you could sit comfortably by an outlet and game for hours. It was all worth it, though. Suddenly, you could visit the arcade any time, anywhere—the doctor's office, trips to Grandma's, and even lonely Friday nights when no one's parents would let them come over.”
• What Developers Really Think About The Nintendo Game Boy [Nintendo Life]
“Compared with the handheld consoles I'd played in the past (Game & Watch / Grandstand mini arcade machines), when the Game Boy arrived in our offices at Rare I was blown away by its capability. The graphics really impressed me, because for the first time, they were actually animated on a screen that fit snugly into the palm of my hand. Previously everything had been LCD static graphics, usually in solid black, so when I saw these new graphics moving around I was blown away! I think Mario and Tetris were the first games I got to take a look at, and although I was used to working with colours on the NES at the time, I was really excited about using the new hardware. One thing that really caught my attention was the fact that it had 'stereo' sound, and when you put on some headphones to take a listen, I thought it sounded superb!” ~ Kev Bayliss
posted by Fizz (22 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
My god the amount of batteries this thing consumed, I shudder to think of the $ I gave to Duracell and Energizer. At some point my parents realized how ridiculous this was and bought rechargeable batteries (but they weren't that good, at least not the ones we had).

And the accessories, dear lord. I had the Game Boy light and magnifying glass set up.
posted by Fizz at 10:51 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

The Game Boy was _economical_ on battery usage.

The following year, for example, NEC released the TurboExpress, which was the Game Boy's clear superior in almost every way. It had a color screen. It played the _full-sized_ games that its console cousin (the TurboGrafx/16) played, meaning that you could take your favorites on the road and not have to rebuy your game lineup. It had a backlit screen. It had turbo buttons just like the console's controllers did. It even had an optional TV tuner that you could use to bring in VHF stations.

But it burned through six AA batteries in about three hours. The Game Boy lasted more like FORTY on four AAs.

And it didn't have Tetris.
posted by delfin at 11:13 AM on April 20 [17 favorites]

Seriously! If people remember their Game Boy eating batteries, that's because they played it so much. All its competitors outdid it on graphics and had backlighting, but they all just chewed through batteries. Game Gear was the same as the TurboExpress.
posted by billjings at 1:16 PM on April 20 [10 favorites]

I had a TurboExpress and a Gameboy and despite the TE's better graphics, color, and backlighting, the Gameboy got WAY more playtime. It was smaller, lighter, more durable, and you could play for hours and hours. Just an incredible little piece of tech.

I still have the TurboExpress and even got it to power on recently and played Splatterhouse (digging up 6 AAs was the hardest part). The Gameboy . . . my dad kept it to play Tetris.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 1:24 PM on April 20

Going to play Donkey Kong ‘94 tomorrow as a tribute to this little powerhouse.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:13 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]

I had a Lynx and it was even worse on batteries than the Gameboy! It could do some awesome things though, it had hardware sprite scaling on a portable at a time when that was mostly the kind of feature arcade games had.
posted by JHarris at 2:19 PM on April 20 [5 favorites]

I NEVER got to play GameBoy because my brother NEVER handed it over when it was my turn, NEVER EVER. *pouts*
posted by bleep at 2:35 PM on April 20 [9 favorites]

Ah memories of Tetris! and then the cartridge got all janky, and you had to blow on it before inserting. And eventually blowing on it would only work like one out of three tries, and if it didn't work the "Nintendo" logo would scroll down all glitched, and you'd be like "nope" and pop the cartridge out and blow on it AGAIN....
posted by daisystomper at 4:36 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

I get the first stage theme song from Kirby’s Dream Land stuck in my head approximately once a week. I haven’t played it in at least twenty-five years. That’s one hell of a persistent earworm.
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:51 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

I never had either, but remember the colour Lynx was a notorious battery eater relative to the GB. The playground never lies!

Only ever played two games on the OG Gameboy, Tetris (naturellement) and the rather fun Paper Plane.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:33 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

Tetris, Qix, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, Castlevania, so many great games, and I just assumed everyone had 4 nicad batteries in the Gameboy and four in the charger at any given moment. Remember trying to play the Gameboy in the backseat at night under passing street lights? Ouf!

As a grocery store clerk I had a Gameboy, followed by a Game Gear and then a Lynx. Shinobi on the Game Gear was great, as was the adapter so you could play Sega Mater System games, but I really liked the Atari Lynx the most, Chip’s Challenge is a bonafide classic, and the Klax port was excellent.
posted by furtive at 9:35 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

Don't get me started on Chip's Challenge! Even on the Speccy that was an amazing game. Nevermind the puzzles themselves or the Boulderdash-pathing ants, I can still hear the music in my head now!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 11:03 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]

The Game Boy was _economical_ on battery usage.
Yes... relative to the competition with faster processors and backlit color screens.

[The TurboExpress] burned through six AA batteries in about three hours. The Game Boy lasted more like FORTY on four AAs.
The most optimistic battery life for the original Game Boy was 30 hours as specified by Nintendo at launch. While much depends on the type of batteries used and the cartridge being played, a more realistic battery life is ~15 hours.

And it didn't have Tetris.
That is true.
posted by fairmettle at 12:25 AM on April 21

Did anyone else have Boomer's Adventure in ASMIK World or nah?
posted by taquito sunrise at 4:29 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

Tetris was pretty great, but Quarth was my jam -- somewhere between Space Invaders and Tetris, kinda.
posted by Foosnark at 9:26 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

My nephews still play my original Game Boy. I got an AC adapter for it back in the day to deal with the battery problem, but now I just use my Eneloops.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:42 AM on April 21

Never had an OG Gameboy but some of my friends did.
The most I remember is:
2) Super Mario (whatever that was).
3) Paul Abdul - Straight up now Tell Me.
4) The High School Gym & some dumb collective mandatory yay team thing.
5) The friend who let me play it during that time to while it all away.
6) The Bayou Billy for the NES I borrowed from him.
7) And kept way too long.
8) And you can just keep going like this, can't you?
posted by symbioid at 7:39 PM on April 21

Or maybe Opposites Attract, actually. YES Opposites Attract. (OK, done w/Paula derail)
posted by symbioid at 7:40 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]

We go together...
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:41 PM on April 21

(was always terrible at parsing lyrics)
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:42 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]

I'm kinda disappointed there was never a MC Skat Kat game. Probably too much confusion with MC Scat Cat...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:08 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

Ah memories of Tetris! and then the cartridge got all janky, and you had to blow on it before inserting. And eventually blowing on it would only work like one out of three tries, and if it didn't work the "Nintendo" logo would scroll down all glitched, and you'd be like "nope" and pop the cartridge out and blow on it AGAIN....

Fun fact about that Nintendo logo. It's there because developers had found a way around the NES lockout. Part of the Game Boy boot up sequence required to check if the data in the first part of the cartridge memory matched a section of the system's internal memory and if they matched, then to draw that image (which just happened to be the Nintendo logo) on the screen. If they didn't match, the rest of the boot sequence was abandoned.

The thinking was that the only way that the cartridge would boot was if the game's programmers recreated the Nintendo logo in their game thus violating Nintendo's copyright/trademark. Game systems used this "copyright trap" through the Playstation 2 until a federal judge knocked it down quite soundly. (Sony lost a suit in which an emulator circumvented the trap by simply displaying a black screen when the software was supposed to be showing the Playstation logo. [Sony v Bleem]) The court ruled that the copyright used in this manner could not be defended.
posted by dances with hamsters at 6:29 PM on April 22 [3 favorites]

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