The year: 1983. I was headed to sleepaway camp at Camp Na-Sho-Pa in upstate New York. "Return of the Jedi" and "Krull" were the big movies that summer. As I got my books and toys packed for weeks in the humid isolation of cabins in the middle of the woods near Bloomingburg, I made sure to take the one portable game system I had at my disposal. Or, rather, two. I packed my Game & Watch collection delicately--they used to cost a whole $20 each--and made sure the watch batteries they took were fresh.
Before the PSP, the Nintendo DS, the TurboExpress, Game Gear, Atari Lynx, or even the Game Boy, there was Game & Watch, Nintendo's first handheld game franchise. The portable LCD games were compact, took watch batteries, told the time--hence "Game & Watch"--and only played one game per unit. This was an age when an LCD game was made by cutting out a series of silhouettes across an LCD screen, which would ping on and off to create animation of a crude sort. Nintendo wasn't the only company to make these types of handheld games, but it was the one that made the very best.
It's fascinating how closely the Nintendo DS design matches the look of those old Game & Watch dual-screen models. It's no accident: the classic Nintendo crosspad was born on these units, and the DS is really the latest step in the Game & Watch evolution.
Pinball was a cherished classic of mine. Dual screens created a long pinball table, and though the ball leaped from spot to spot with bleeps and blips, the overall feel was convincing and better than anything else that existed. Other arcade games, like Donkey Kong Jr., actually created levels out of little moving LCD-block platforms that Donkey Kong could hop over. Some parts of the screen, such as vines to climb on, were actually painted on parts of the background, adding bits of color to what was otherwise a black-and-silver affair.
I remember sinking untold hours into these simple games, which couldn't even be saved or paused. Each game also came with an "A" or "B" mode, which ratcheted up difficulty and tended to throw an additional challenge in the mix.
Nintendo revisited Game & Watch with several collections on the Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, as well as two collectors' edition DS games available to members of Club Nintendo. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, one of the hardest characters to unlock is "Mr. Game & Watch," an LCD stick-man who jerkily moves through an arena that's a montage of the old LCD games. On the iPhone, a few well-made Game & Watch rip-offs were released and promptly removed.… Read more
Let's time travel, shall we? The year: 1995. "Braveheart" was a popular movie. Bill Clinton was still in his first term. The end of the millennium was still five years away. Game Boy inventor Gunpei Yokoi readies the release of a product that becomes his albatross, a portable game system that many have never even seen in person. Its name: Virtual Boy.
An attempt to create a brand-new form of portable 3D gaming (sound familiar?), Virtual Boy achieved its 3D effects via an extremely large and heavy set of red plastic goggles that formed the game system. … Read more
There's an interesting spat going on between Tom Silverman, who founded hip-hop/dance label Tommy Boy Records and runs the New Music Seminar for new artists to learn about the music industry, and Jeff Price, the CEO of TuneCore, a service that helps musicians place their songs on iTunes and other digital-distribution outlets.
In a three-part interview with Musician Coaching, Silverman dismissed the idea that the Internet is helping new musicians break. For purposes of this argument, his definition of "breaking" is selling more than 10,000 copies of an album in the year of its release, … Read more
I found an old issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine in an ancient cardboard box filled with stuff I somehow saved from my years at summer camp. Dated July 1989, it's more than 20 years old--and it's an incredible reminder of how quickly things can change.
Besides the god-awful layout by modern standards, I found a few notable shocks when thumbing through the issue:Game ads have addresses to write to and phone numbers to call, since there were no Web links yet. The TurboGrafx-16 preview, featured on the front cover, boasts how the $199 console … Read more
Nintendo's Game Boy has been honored once again. This time, the handheld that changed the gaming industry is being inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Strong National Toy Museum announced on Thursday.
The Game Boy beat out several finalists, including Cabbage Patch Kids, playing cards, Rubik's Cube, and sidewalk chalk. It must have been a tough battle to beat sidewalk chalk. But beat it, the Game Boy did.
The Strong National Toy Museum, located in Rochester, N.Y., said it felt compelled to induct the Game Boy into the Hall of Fame because "of … Read more
We should have seen this one coming. Richard Heene, much better known these days as "Balloon Boy's dad," has been made into an action figure.
Oxford, Conn.-based Herobuilders.com--whose action figures include Sarah Palin, Elliott Spitzer, and Joe the Plumber--is newly out with the Heene model. It sports a T-shirt with an arrow that points upward and the text "I'm with stupid." Attic box, confused 6-year-old boy, and gaggle of reporters not included.
Episode 54 of the Digital City, where we discuss NYC's plan to stop taxi drivers from using cell phones and Washington's suddenly high-tech subway system.
Scott talks about his meeting with Shigeru Miyamoto, and Nintendo's big holiday gamble on New Super Mario Bros., while special guest Jeff Bakalar expresses his frustration with Jack Black's Brutal Legend.
And, in a nod to the hottest story of last week, we show off the very best Balloon Boy Web games (ok, the only Balloon Boy Web games we could find), and host the world podcast premiere of the parody … Read more
I have tried to avoid the Balloon Boy, his dad, and all who sail in this online/offline/out-of-line clattermaran.
However, thanks to CBS News, I have learned that Richard Heene once appeared on a fine YouTube extravaganza called The Psyience Detectives and offered 15 reasons why our haggard old world will end on December 21, 2012.
I have no idea if the world will end in 2012, though I suspect Richard Heene doesn't know either. And yet there is something quite eerie that he should assault our eyes and ears in the same week that a movie called &… Read more
Two years ago we asked the question: Could the mass hysteria of the 1938 "War of the Worlds" scandal, in which a Halloween radio drama orchestrated by actor Orson Welles was mistaken for a real announcement of Martians landing in New Jersey, still take place in the Information Age?
The answer: Yes, it could. And it happened this week.
Like millions of Americans, you were probably glued to your computer watching some news outlet's live video stream or hitting refresh on Twitter for updates on "Balloon Boy," the twisted saga of a 6-year-old Colorado boy who had allegedly floated away in a flying-saucer-shaped helium balloon … Read more