This year marks the 25th anniversary of the original Game Boy's debut in Japan in 1989. The game-changing portable device foreshadowed Nintendo's takeover of the everlasting handheld video game console war. However, the original Game Boy (and its many successors) served a greater purpose: to save children across the world from involuntary errand runs with their parents, and to relieve those parents (somewhat) of their child's annoying ass antics in retaliation to said involuntary errand runs.
The Game Boy literally saved my ass. In retrospect there were many moments where had I not owned a Game Boy, I probably would have incurred the wrath of my grandmother, and received a beating similar to the one that kid gets in that episode of The Boondocks with Cristal (like the champagne). I feel that I speak for a lot of people when I say that the Game Boy saved us from ourselves, suppressing that inclination to irritate our parents until they were ready to kill us.
By the time my grandmother gave me a Game Boy, the Game Boy Pocket and Color were available. Sure, the two were obviously better and, more importantly, looked slightly less like a tumor on your leg when they went inside your pocket, but I didn't care. As a seven year old boy I wasn't looking for any comfort but pleasure. I needed something for those Sunday church services when my pastor's sermon went into overtime, or for those family road trips where the only CD in rotation was Jock Jams, Volume 2. Plus, getting this Game Boy from my grandmother felt like a momentous occasion. I held the future in my little fingers, and like Frodo and his ring or Smokey and his weed, I never went anywhere without that Game Boy.
So, I know what you're thinking: how did I carry that bulky Game Boy everywhere I went? Well, owning a Game Boy indirectly influenced my style, which meant owning shorts and jeans with very deep pockets. In other words: JNCO Jeans. Aside from the fact that I actually thought I looked cool in those jeans, I loved them because they practically swallowed my Game Boy. Sure, I looked like a Juggalo-in-training, but those jeans made sneaking my Game Boy into school so much easier.
And with Pokemon Red and Blue out, recess was dedicated to battles, bets, and bragging rights. Like Vin Diesel in Fast in the Furious, we would play for keeps. You beat your friend who owns a level 45 Gyarados with Hyper Beam? It's yours now. Or you beat your friend who owns a Porygon worth 6,500 coins (9,900 in Red)? No more Celadon Game Corner for you. Talking shit to my friends and getting gassed up by them whenever I won are moments I'll always remember.
However, owning a Game Boy was not always easy, especially in regards to its power source: four AA batteries. A fourth of my allowance would go to AA batteries and, as many other Game Boy owners could probably relate, dollar store batteries sucked for the device. So spending the extra two to three dollars on Duracell batteries was always the way to go. Sure, carrying several AA batteries in your pocket was never comfortable, but it was worth it when your Game Boy needed a quick battery swap.
But seriously, was there anything worse than playing through a game as a kid, and having your Game Boy die on you halfway through? That hurt more than your parents promising to take you to Toys "R" Us or KB Toys for your birthday and then backing out of the deal. The psychological trauma associated with looking back and forth between the Game Boy screen and its visibly low red power circle was the equivalent to what we experience today when we have a low iPhone battery. And at least an iPhone is forewarning; with a Game Boy the red light could flicker wildly before shutting off completely, or it could shine for a few minutes only to turn off unexpectedly. And if you were like me and somehow lost the battery cover to your Game Boy, your problems only doubled. Now you also had to worry about your batteries scattering if you dropped your Game Boy, among other #GameBoyProbs.
Still, no matter its inconveniences the Game Boy became popular among so many people across the world, and proved its worth against the Atari Lynx and Sega's Game Gear. Fast forward to 2009, and the iconic console was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
Technology is constantly changing. And as a result, dated technology becomes rare and vintage. They are artifacts representative of a certain time and place. (This scene from an episode of Cowboy Bebop puts it into perspective.) The Game Boy came and left but those memories of first turning on your Game Boy and hearing that classic ringing noise as the Game Boy logo lit up, are forever.
I cannot remember where my Game Boy ended up. Maybe it's somewhere in my grandmother's garage, the D-pad and "Start," "Select," "A" and "B" buttons stuck in place from dust and inactivity. All I know is that my Game Boy was an essential part of my childhood. But I'll admit though: it feels nice not having to wear over-sized jeans and carry AA batteries in my pockets anymore.