Joeblade

Blinded by the light

One of the many problems of renting a home in London is that all expenses are generally spared, so although you’ll get the basics — a fridge, a washing machine, maybe a flushing toilet — you’ll often find a small note reading “fuck you lol” in place of, say, light shades, or door handles. Curtains, in my experience, come very low down the landlord’s impossibly-long list of “things I will only by from Poundland, and even then only during a sale”; you’ll get a fitted sheet slung over a wobbling curtain rail, and you’ll like it.

My current flat has curtains so thin that not only do they fail as insulation during the darker months, they also fail to block out sunlight during the lighter months: I keep them drawn at all times because there’s no point opening them. When the sun comes out, my living room is filled with glorious sunshine. It’s awful.

Suddenly there are great blocks of the day when my flat is so full of ambient light I can’t watch a film or play a game on my TV without everything on the screen vanishing. My Sunday habit of getting up early to watch cartoons like an irritating five year old is broken. The leisurely hours I might have spent in front of a Zelda or Mass Effect now have to be wasted on pursuits like, I don’t know, reading, or, help me, walking.

The sun slowly passes across my living room window through the morning and when it’s finally moved out of range I have about an hour before the light starts reflecting off the windows of the houses opposite. Even screens which I can move out of direct light — the laptop, the 3DS, etc. — suffer from the brightness. My book spines fade and my picture frames leave ghosts of themselves on the walls. I once lost a Dreamcast to sunlight, its pristine white slowly washed a smoker’s yellow.

The point is, with so many of my hobbies dependent on having a clear view of a brightly-lit bit of glass, sunlight’s a problem, but after a bit of nostalgic eBay trawling I realised I could solve this and indulge my Nintendo habit at the same. Enter, the Game Boy.

Not the original Game Boy, with its tiny, blurry, pea-green screen, its brick-like heft and its hunger for batteries; I may be fond of Nintendo hardware but I’m not a complete masochist. The Game Boy Pocket, on the other hand; slim, light, with a black and white reflective screen that’s useless in the dark but thrives in the light. At its best, it’s like playing games on a printed page.

It’s not just that I’m a sucker for vintage ’90s videogame hardware, though a transparent Game Boy Color is about as deliciously ’90s as you can get. There are hundreds of games I’ve never even heard of, let alone played; with the Game Boy, the Game Boy Color, the Neo Geo Pocket and even the Bandai Wonderswan that I’ve flirted with before, a rich seam of retro gaming has opened up. I could even play them outside, if the idea of a paunched, greying 36 year old playing Pokémon Blue on a monochromatic, battery-powered handheld in a public park wasn’t just completely tragic.

Either way, I’ve got more enthusiasm right now for the games on these platforms than I have for anything in the pipeline for the 3DS, the Wii U, or the other platforms I don’t (or won’t own) — the PS4, the Xbox One, the PC. While the sun is shining, instead of looking forward, I’ll look back.

By Paul Haine, in