Pushing Buttons: Need nostalgia? Crank up the new Playdate console | Games

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These days, video games aren’t often tied to a specific console or device – even if something like Halo or God of War originally comes out on Xbox or PlayStation, it will often find its way to PC, and most games come out on everything at the same time. Unless you’re playing a console-exclusive game like Returnal, which is designed specifically for the PlayStation 5 controller with its adaptive triggers and fancy haptic feedback, the gaming experience isn’t heavily influenced by the hardware you’re playing it on. You can play Minecraft with a controller, a mouse, or on your phone, and it’s still largely the same.

The exception to this, as always, is Nintendo, the gaming powerhouse that always seems to be the exception to every rule. Its games are still inspired by and inextricably linked to the machines that the company develops. There would be no Wii Sports without the motion-sensitive Wii Remote to wave around, no Dr. Kawashima’s brain training without the Nintendo DS touch screen.

The DS in particular had many games that could only have run on this hardware with all its little gimmicks. In one of the DS Zelda games, there’s a puzzle where you have to get someone across a river to lower a bridge for you, and after a few perplexed minutes, I suddenly realized that in real life, I was actually yelling at them had to , into the console’s microphone. I tried it and it worked, and it was at the same time one of the silliest and most magical moments I’ve ever had in a game.

I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve spent the past few weeks messing around with the Playdate, a small yellow handheld console with a black and white screen, two buttons, a D-Pad, and a crank. A real little crank on the side of the machine used in all of the experimental games that come with the console. You use it to focus a camera, surf waves, move forward or backward through time. The creators of these microgames – including indie legends like Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Bennet Foddy (QWOP) – clearly found the crank to be a wonderful source of inspiration. It’s a reminder that gimmicks can and do indeed inspire creativity.

New games will arrive each week on the playdate, in the seasons. None of them last long, usually a few minutes to half an hour, but each one I’ve played has been very endearing. This little console is definitely an oddity and pricey at $179, but it’s just so charming. I miss my old bright yellow Game Boy Color, which I begged my parents for several years and finally arrived just in time for the prime years of the original Pokémon craze. I still remember how the smooth buttons felt under my thumbs.

That’s one reason why, despite the gaming industry’s current craze for streaming and subscription services, I doubt the console (or controller) will ever be a thing of the past. We have sensory memories associated with the Spectrum’s rubber keyboard, or the GameCube’s odd little controller with its bizarre button layout, the clamshell snapping of a DS, or the clicking shoulder buttons of a PlayStation pad. (I’d say something nice about the Dreamcast pad, but let’s face it, it’s mostly memorable because its analog sticks were so awful.) We how gimmicks. It’s fun to play with them. Game consoles and controllers are more than just tools, they are toys too, and their design is an art in itself.

PS: Following last week’s post about the bizarre social stigma that sometimes still accompanies video games, I got an update from Daniel, whose boss has been making it difficult for him to play Switch on his lunch break. He writes:

“I haven’t had any further incidents between my boss and my switch and I’ve continued to play during my lunch break, if only for a few valuable minutes. I told a few colleagues about our CEO’s reaction and interestingly, pretty much everyone thought it was ridiculous, and it turns out a couple of them are gamers too, which we hadn’t talked about before… One is a pretty serious guy in his late teens 20 year old who just got her hands on a PS5 and the other is a colleague in her late 50’s who was given her nephew’s old Xbox 360 to try out and to her surprise found that she really enjoyed the gaming experience and she’s now converted (she’s taking a tour of Skyrim – her words). It was nice to discover that I now have a small playgroup in the office. I’m sure there are others, we just haven’t smoked them out yet.”

Video games that bring people back together. It’s like a not very secret club full of fun people.

what to play

Nintendo Switch Sports
Nintendo Switch Sports Photo: Nintendo

Do you remember Wii Sports? Family Christmas enlivened by virtual bowling? Kids who get overly enthusiastic about the boxing mini-game and almost send a Wii Remote through the TV or in their siblings’ faces? Nintendo Switch Sports Coming this week, a modern take on motion-controlled multiplayer sports, and honestly not much has changed aside from the sleeker aesthetic. Tennis is still there. Bowling is still there. It also has badminton, volleyball, swordplay, and a clearly Rocket League-inspired version of soccer. It’s all playable both online and in-person, although frankly without the inherent slapstick comedy element of watching someone else swing a pretend tennis racquet, it rather loses a bit. A breeze for anyone with a Nintendo Switch and at least one real friend or family member.

Available on: Nintendo switch
Approximate playing time: As long or short as you like

what to read

  • If I’ve piqued your interest in Playdate, Polygon has a nice in-depth article on how it came to be and the folks at Panic who made it. It speaks a much over the crank.

  • The Washington Post examines why esports careers are so short: The average professional gamer only competes for a few years and typically retires before their mid-twenties. In short, if you know a 17-year-old rising esports star and he’s not competing, you’re already leaving a bit late.

  • Also on Polygon, Charlie Hall interviews game developers in Ukraine who are staying right where they are and hoping to boost their country’s economy. “When peace comes, we will all be needed even more to help rebuild, and the idea of ​​completely abandoning Ukraine at such a time is unthinkable,” said Paul Milewski of Frogwares.

  • Not really games, but I can’t stop thinking about this NYT story about a man who married a fictional character (Hatsune Miku, an actual fictional Japanese pop star).

What to click

shoot them! How TV fell in love with video games

question block

Another great question from readers this week Law Muhammadwho asks: “What are the best games about jobs? My vote would probably go to Crazy Taxi (Sega Arcade/Dreamcast) or Cannon Fodder (Amiga).”

Games about jobs are absurdly compelling for some reason, as evidenced by the enduring popularity of football manager and Euro Truck Simulator (and his kind). But I really enjoy them when they have absolutely nothing to do with day-to-day work. I lost a whole summer with it History of game developers Once upon a time, one of a series of cute management games on smartphones that managed to raise money, hire developers, get your first hit game and then make endless sequels to a crazy dopamine rush. I love being a lawyer in the crazy anime courtrooms of Phoenix Wright. And at the risk of going down a self-referential rabbit hole, I have to mention job simulatora comedy VR game imagining a future career museum in 2050 where you can try yourself as a salesman or an office worker, only it’s way funnier than anything that’s ever happened in a real office.

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