My impossible side project, Game Boy World, has begun in earnest

Nintendo Gameboy

Yesterday was the Game Boy’s 25th anniversary, as you’re probably sick of hearing. Five years ago on the same occasion I kicked off the GameSpite Quarterly project, which was fun for a while but eventually ran its course (mainly because print and shipping costs increased so much that sales tapered off rapidly and I wasn’t able to give everyone cash for their contributions, and I’m not a big fan of the corporate “you should work hard for free because it’s good experience/exposure” line of logic).

This time around, I’ve started a project called Game Boy World. One without print overhead!

I was always disappointed that our Game Boy retrospective five years ago was, by nature, limited in scope to a few dozen high-profile titles. Still, I figured Chrontendo would eventually get to Game Boy and do its noble deed in the portable space as well as on 8-bit consoles. Turns out that wasn’t to be – the esteemed Dr. Sparkle (correctly) feels that the system had too much mundane content and was too visually unexciting to incorporate into the livelier, more colorful world of NES games. That means no one is tackling the Game Boy platform’s history in full depth, so a few months ago I started developing Game Boy World to take up the slack. I love portable games – they’re my go-to, my favored format – and Game Boy is where the medium got its proper start. I really want to chronicle its legacy if for no other reason than to have an excuse to discover great Game Boy software I’ve overlooked through the years.

The project is fairly straightforward: It will become a full database of the Game Boy’s library presented as a blog, with filtering possible through extensive categories and tagging. Each game is a separate blog entry dated to its original release date (as best as I can find – Japanese releases are well-chronicles, but that’s not true of U.S. games). It’s all in a WordPress backend, which means it’s extensible, and once I raise some money for it I’d like to build out some better archival capabilities (and a more attractive front-end). The site has a twofold style: Text and videos. I’m a writer, not a narrator, but video is a better way to show off a game, so I figure if I do both you’ll get a better sense of the whole. My intention is to dive as deep into the history and development of these games as I’m able – though the details behind these games can be difficult to dig up. I spent hours and hours researching Alleyway without much success; not surprisingly, GDRI was the most concrete resource I could find in English or with my limited Japanese reading skills. Still, I’ll do my best to present a big-picture look whenever I can.

The first entry, Alleyway, probably won’t be representative of the site’s majority content. There was a lot to say about this game despite its simplicity thanks to its place in the system’s library and its spot within Nintendo’s overall history. The system’s dozenth near-indentical shogi, baseball, or Sokouban clone… probably not so much.

Between my halting, improvisational narration and its overall editing and presentation, this first video turned out to be a watered-down monochromatic ripoff of Chrontendo, which wasn’t really my intention but maybe is inevitable. I suppose there are only so many ways low-key, sleepy-voiced, white dudes can talk about old video games without becoming fake YouTube Personalities (a prospect that makes my blood run cold). So it goes.

I’m doing my best to keep it real, as it were. For video capture, I’m working off real cartridges in a Super Game Boy running through a portable Super Famicom clone – which I guess isn’t 100% real, but still feels a lot more authentic as a play experience than a PC-based emulator. The video doesn’t look as crisp as it would if I were just dumping an emulator feed to disk, but it gives me a more authentic experience to write about. And god knows it’s all about me. (I’ve also been playing the games on an original model Game Boy and a Game Boy Light, to completely bypass the entire emulation question.) Really, though, I like the little artifacts that show up from time to time – there’s even a bit of screen roll in the Alleyway video – as they get across the imperfections of the Game Boy gaming experience.

I’ve been working on this project in the background since the beginning of the year, so it’s nice to finally give it a proper announcement.

Anyway, I guess that’s one more little side project site you can keep an eye on, if you care. You could also just keep track of my YouTube channel, which will be home for GBW videos (each video will link to its corresponding entry on the site). Needless to say, Game Boy World will eat into my writing here and at Anatomy of Games. But I’ll try to maintain an even balance. Because I love you.

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