I have made it well-known that my parents did not believe in buying us gaming systems growing up. If we wanted to play Nintendo or Sega, we had to convince one of our friends to let us play it at their house. However, there was one “exception”.
Although I don’t know if you can call it a gaming system per se, the three of us Reser children did have Game Boys growing up. One Christmas, Santa surprised my sister and I with the handheld gaming consoles at our grandparents’ house. A few years later my brother would get one as well. Whatever amount my parents paid for the Game Boys, I am sure every cent they spent was returned to them tenfold within the first year we had them based solely on how they got us to shut up on car trips.
This past Saturday marked the 29th anniversary of the Game Boy release. It made me reflect a bit on the hours I spent with my own through the years.
It is funny, but the Game Boy game I hated the most ended up becoming the one I liked the best. Santa gave me my Game Boy when I was probably 7 or 8. At the time, the only game that came with it was Tetris. I remember spending that Christmas trying to figure out how to play it. My young brain couldn’t grasp the concept of positioning the shapes to make lines so I resorted to stacking the blocks as quickly as possible, recording successive Game Overs in record time. It was a steep learning curve, one I had little patience for at the time.
However, as time went on I understood and embraced the intellectual challenge of Tetris. As I entered my late teens, I resurrected my aging Game Boy and played many riveting games of Tetris. My friend and I performed road construction over the course of a couple summers after high school. The work would take us on long road trips to work sites. We would pass the time by taking turns on the Game Boy, seeing who could record more lines than the other. When we turned the Game Boy off and actually started doing the road construction work, our brains would still be in “Tetris Mode,” organizing blocks in our heads as we removed road stripes from the pavement.
Between my Tetris frustration and my Tetris Nirvana, I played a lot of Super Mario. It was a great game, one I took pleasure in beating after much practice. Donkey Kong was another Game Boy classic that I pursued endlessly. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I tried to sneak games of Mortal Combat in every now and then. Of course I devoted a lot of hours to the sports games as well, playing ones such as Big Hurt Baseball, NBA Jam, Madden, and NCAA Basketball.
My parents had rules for our Game Boys. The sound was to be muted at all times while in the car, we had to share the games, and we couldn’t play longer than hour stretches. If I got too worked up while playing, which happened often, my parents would tell me to turn the Game Boy off, saying that the machine “needed a rest.”
I fondly remember the red battery light of the Game Boy, the up-to-down scrolling Nintendo logo that would appear before you started any game, the black Game Boy case I had, and the simple control layout of the console. Ahhhhh, good times.
Even though I haven’t played Game Boy in probably 10 years, I could still pick one up and play it as if I was riding a bike. Perhaps for next year’s 30th anniversary I will try to get my hands on one and play for old time’s sake. Don’t Blink.