Gaming on the go

Our infatuation with mobile play...from Tiger to Coleco
February 04, 2011
Kids these days with their hula hoops and their Game Boys and Tamagotchis didn't know what it was like to be a kid in the 80s.

Our portable video games were self-contained. Our parents bought us one game, and that was what we were stuck with forever. And we LOVED IT.

If we wanted to play something different, we had to ask them to buy us a whole other handheld game. We didn't have none of those fancy cartridges.

Here's one my folks bought me when I was seven years old. A strange take on the Nintendo classic, it offered a black and gray glimpse of the real thing...with crappy graphics.

It wasn't long before I got out my screwdriver and took the game apart to see how it worked. That was a mistake. Who knew all that stuff was inside it and you had to put it all back the way you found it?

Here's one that my uncle left at my parents' house when I was about six years old. At the time, I didn't understand football, but it made sense to me somehow.

Deep in my brain, I knew that I needed to get the tiny red blinking square to the other side of the screen without the other tiny red squares stopping it, even though I was outnumbered.

Now, a friend of mine had one of the tiny Coleco arcade games, and I thought they were so cool. I never had one myself, but always envied my friend for his.

It had most of the features of the real thing on a small-scale. You could bring all the joys of the arcade games from the skating rink or Pizza Hut to your own bedroom...or into the family's wood-paneled station wagon.

The only downside was the tendency for these devices to gobble countless packs of C batteries. You might have been better off pumping quarters into the real thing at the arcade... was worth it to have it all to yourself and not have to wait in line or swap quarters for tokens.

Now, these were the next generation of the same idea. Except some of these you could actually fold up and put in your pocket. Talk about convenience.

They were kind of the same type of graphics as the Tiger games. The black and gray look with crappy 'appear and disappear' animation.

But goddamn were they fun. And I'm pretty sure they used watch batteries, which was probably kind of revolutionary at the time.

I spent a lot of time with my Mario Game and Watch. I carried it with me everywhere: church, school, the dinner table. One day, I actually got it taken away from me by my fifth grade teacher, and I about had a heart attack. Luckily, I got it back at the end of the day.

One thing that made these so sweet was the pop culture tie-ins. I was hardcore into Batman and Batman Returns stuff, so this kind of advertising made me drool.

As well as a few other childhood cultural icons which had their own portable games. I was in nerd heaven.

So next time you see some spoiled brat walking around complaining about his PSP or whatever, whack him over the head with an old school gaming classic.

Actually, maybe that's a bad idea. They were the size of VCRs. Just explain to him how lame he is...and spoiled.
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