The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Why I Never Threw Away My Game Boy

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageI grew up in a very liberal household. My mom was very modern and gave me a lot of freedom. At the same time though she wanted me to become a smart kid and encourage my love for reading, which I exhibited from a very early age. This meant she tried her best to keep me away from television and video games as much as possible, because she regarded both as a waste of time and, frankly, stupefying. First she failed with TV, for the simple reason that she wasn’t home enough to monitor my consumption, hence I know every episode of MacGyver, Star Trek: The New Generation and Baywatch. But when a friend of my mom’s, who I referred to as an “aunt” back in the day, gave me a Game Boy when I was 11, my mom thought she had lost the battle against video games as well. She was wrong.

Fast forward a decade and you will see I outgrew my Game Boy rather quickly and yet never moved on to any other game console. Very seldom, maybe once a year or so, I still get out my badly battered old friend and play a level or two for nostalgia’s sake and to rehash some happy childhood days. Back in the day there was cause for alarm for a while, because my hands were practically super-glued to my Game Boy and the blocks of “Tetris” followed me all the way into my dreams.

That’s right, Tetris. It’s still a classic, even if it is copyrighted in 1989. Back in the day Tetris was the game included in the Game Boy Starter Pack, so it became the first video game I ever played and even now I am still a force to be reckoned with in Tetris. I continually get the reward rockets Nintendo created and make the little Chinese men dance and play their instruments, no matter how long it has been since I last played the game.

And since a friend of mine also owned a Game Boy at the time of my addiction we even got to enjoy the two-player modus of this game, Mario vs. Luigi. We played this so excessively we both had nightmares featuring our Game Boys. I remember I dreamed that if I didn’t get at least 200,000 points at Tetris, the red light indicating the battery level would turn into a laser and shoot me. And my friend dreamed something about there being a C-, D- and E-type to the game, which turned out equally as deadly as my laser dream.

My fondest memories of my Game Boy though are connected to the original “Super Mario World” game in black on grey-green. I would share my Game Boy with my best friend at the time, because she didn’t have one, I was a nice kid and we did everything together. We would take turns playing “Super Mario World”, alternating after every level. Even today I can play the whole game through endless times without even dying once. I have literally played it with my eyes closed and did amazingly well. Did you know there are higher amounts of exploding turtles and walking mushrooms and general nasties in the second run through the twelve levels? And did you know Mario can fly for short periods of time? That’s right, I know all these things, which shows you just how much time I have spent playing this game. Each level even had a name and just to geek out I will divulge the awesome names my best friend and I came up with:

1st level: First Level

2nd level: Second Level OR Turtle Level

3rd level: Egypt Level

4th level: Piranha Level

5th level: Robot Level

6th level: Underwater World

7th level: Kacka-Furz (translation: Shitty-Fart Level)

8th level: Elevator Level

9th level: Spider World

10th level: China Level

11th level: Second China Level

12th level: Flying Level

You can tell what little geeks we were, but we needed an effective way of communication, so levels needed names.

However, I was a kid who spent their allowance wisely, meaning I mostly bought candy and CDs, and so my collection of games for my Game Boy only expanded veeery slowly. An older friend gave me a game he hated, called Bubble Bobble and I never figured out how to maneuver the little bubble-spying dragon through all 100 levels, though I did crack some of the codes to jump ahead.

In a daze of stupidity I bought the incredibly lame Dr. Mario, which was essentially a Tetris rip-off featuring ridiculous-looking viruses mockingly laughing at you while you tried to stack enough antibiotics on top of them so they died.

And I honestly don’t remember where Kirby’s Dream Land came from, but I own that one as well. My best friend and I never figured out how to defeat the final opponent, mainly because our interest in the Game Boy had been diminished by our interest in horses by the time I got the game. But ten years later her little brother borrowed the game from me and returned it six months later, saying “I am through with it, I can play it blindfolded now.”

(I think I borrowed the Simpsons game once, when back then I had no idea what the Simpsons even were, but I was so horrible at steering Bart around on his skateboard I gave it back after two days.)

This concludes the pathetic tour through my video game arsenal. I never upgraded from my Game Boy to a gaming console. I got a computer at 15 and I do own “Age of Empires” and “Anno 1602”, but never mastered either. A couple of times I played on the N64 or the first PlayStation at my cousin’s house, but the fascination with video games itself had ceased when I was 14.

Looking at my Game Boy in its desolate state now makes me nostalgic. My mom bought a special rechargeable battery for my Game Boy once, because she hated how many normal ones I was using. But that thing broke very quickly and almost broke my precious Game Boy too, because it got stuck in the battery compartment and only rough violence could get it back out. I did have a cable so you could simply connect the Game Boy to an outlet without using batteries at all, but these days my poor Game Boy doesn’t accept juice that way either anymore. There are also two stripes running down the right side of the monitor when you turn it on, where it’s broken and you can’t see what happens in the game, but they are tiny, not so big it would matter.

But the best part is that I bought a new display cover for my baby once, when I was on vacation in Holland on top of it. The old one had been so scratched from use and the new one looked cool to me at the time. It’s not really, it is tons of exotic flags framing the monitor, and by now that one is so scratched you really need a good light source to see everything happening on screen. Back in the day though I was special with my fancy new cover.

My Game Boy is synonymous for three years in my life that were carefree and wasted in the best sense. Lack of funds and my new age-y mom prevented me from ever advancing from my Game Boy to any other game console, but I am not entirely sure I ever really wanted one. Sure, it was fun to play “Super Mario Race” on the N64 when I got to do it at a friend’s house, but ultimately I always became aware of how much time I wasted when I played these games and I felt the desire to go outside and leave the electronics behind. To this day I think that attitude is a blessing. Even if every now and then I get out my Game Boy and relive the carefree days by freeing some Chinese dancers or rescuing Daisy.