Growing up I never played video games. At my Holy Communion, I was gifted my ever faithful, dependable, unbreakable ye olde Game Boy Colour (thanks Jesus!), a staple, go-to option for all kids with parents who had no idea what actual video games looked like. From that day forward, much to my parents' chagrin, my Game Boy and I were inseparable. With Pokemon Crystal comfortably lodged in its back socket, I used every unsupervised opportunity to click on the little switch, watch the red light turn on and prepare myself for my next (failed) Pokemon battle.
My Game Boy became my constant companion during never-ending road trips, boring Big People dinners, Middle School playground confrontations and "bathroom breaks", where I'd just sit on the toilet seat and play in order to escape chores. Tragedy only struck when I forgot to "Save" my game after I'd finally captured Lugia and I broke out into a cry-fest. This was my tween version of the Battle of Dunkirk - I had suffered long and hard, toiled away to capture this rare Pokemon only to have it disappear in a momentarily blip, the red light of my Game Boy fading into the darkness.
Eventually I graduated and left my Game Boy Colour to gather dust. One Christmas (once again, thanks Jesus!), I did get a Game Boy XP but by then I had already seen El Dorado - the Wii and more specifically, Rock Band. I had tasted the sweet elixir and now every Friday, I would grab my bike and cycle over to my friend's house in order to nail my expert level of bass. I didn't have the coordination for drumming or lead guitar and I sounded too much like a dying goat to sing, so playing bass was my calling. We'd play for hours on end, straight into the wee hours of the night. Through Rock Band, I developed my taste for indie rock music and my knowledge of basic metal bands. I knew the basslines for every contemporary 2000s indie band and I was proud of my 'cool girl' status, even though I had no idea how to play the actual instrument. But who cares? Rock Band was video games + music. I knew I was set for college. Who else could nail the expert level of bass of 'Enter Sandman' by Metallica? This girl could.
To no one's surprise apart my own, this expert level didn't raise me up to 'cool girl' status during college. In fact, I never played Rock Band again and like my Game Boy Colour, it became a relic of an old identity. However, this time instead of advancing to the more technologically savvy territories of Playstations or X Boxes, I regressed back to the N 64 and the coveted Game Cube, a memento mori of high modernistic Japanese design and 80s pixel nostalgia. This was an era I named The Smash Button.
During this era, I quickly realised that I had peaked during my Rock Band times. Despite being a bona fide expert on the bass, it hadn't prepared me for the complex dynamics of Super Smash Bros. Super Smash Bros was and still is my white whale. Call me Ishmael, I would say, as I plunged myself deep into the cotton candy world of the extended Mario Family, Zelda, Pokemon and other mysterious characters I had never encountered before. To say I was absolutely and utterly terrible at the game would be a complete understatement.
It all happened so fast. I felt like everyone around me was speaking a secret language - what buttons to press when? what to do as defence or attack? Did people read manuals about this? Were there courses taught on the fine techniques of Super Smash Bros? When did I miss out of this? I would consistently always choose Jiggly Puff because I knew she could blow up and fly away if ever attacked. This was the only move I knew how to consistently do and sometimes, looking at her just drift away, I thought how nice it would be to fly away from this game and straight into the comfort of my Game Boy Color.
I soon realised that I wasn't equipped for the mental gymnastics of Super Smash Bros so I remained content with my mobile games I played off my cracked iPhone. 2048 caught my 3rd year of undergrad by storm and during the depths of the winter, I would share my high score like a badge of honour. Next came Bejeweled, a classic game reminding me of the simpler times of Snake and Space Invaders on my old 2002 black and white Nokia. Every time I renewed my iPhone, my mobile game sophistication increased. I became fond of the games that reminded me of my pixelated Game Boy youth - the bigger the 80s aesthetic, the better. I started traveling more and it became my recurrent past time. I even got my mother hooked on and so began my lasting battle with her on Words with Friends. With these games, I started playfully engaging with friends who lived oceans away. We may not talk as often as we wanted, but getting the push notification telling me it was my move, made me my heart grow warmer.
It was then I realised, this same feeling I was getting with mobile games was the same feeling I chased with my Game Boy Color, ye olde faithful. And so, one year I came home for the holidays and I found the dusty yellow sarcophagus. Picking it up, it's heaviness was familiar in my palm. Pokemon Crystal was still lodged in the back and the glittery stickers I had slapped on years ago were still there. I flicked it back on and slowly it resurrected itself, just like Jesus emerging from the cave. With it's familiar jovial high pitch ring, I smiled and picked off where I had left off over a decade ago - recapturing that Lugia.
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About The Author: Caroline Corbett-Thompson
Caroline is the Marketing Director at Itavio. You'll find her listening to NPR and scowling 99% of the time.
More posts by Caroline Corbett-Thompson