Why I Love Playing Games On Handhelds

Look at your television. Look at where it’s positioned in your house/apartment. Look at what’s surrounding it: furniture: sofas, chairs. Silently pointing in its direction. This is the modern living space: all things gaze upon the television. It is the centre of your living space. Immovable. It’s heavy. It’s a burden. It’s an argument waiting to happen. You wouldn’t risk moving it by yourself. You’d ask for help. Your television might even be mounted; physically, irrevocably bolted onto the walls of the house you living in.

When you play a video game on that television you are saying something. You are taking control. That space you share with your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/roommate/children/friends: it now belongs to you. And they have to watch while you play. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. About the reasons why I’m often so hesitant to turn on my console and play a video game. I’ve been thinking about how I’m far more likely to turn on a handheld instead.

I’ve been thinking about that pressure: that feeling of knowing I am about to be watched, how that affects how I play, how it affects my willingness to play. At the moment I am enjoying handheld games almost exclusively. It fits my habits well; slots into my schedule perfectly. That’s the ‘traditional’ reason for enjoying handheld gaming over consoles: the convenience. I’ve been playing Majora’s Mask during my short commute, playing Grim Fandango on the Vita in bed before falling asleep. The accessibility of handheld consoles, the ability to simply flip them open, or turn them on at a second’s notice, the ease with which you can play – it’s appealing. So appealing in fact that, if I can choose, I’ll always play on handheld as opposed to a traditional console.

Handheld gaming is always on your terms. It’s play that bends and shapes to the player’s will. It asks very little of you.

Console gaming, on the other hand, asks so much of you. It asks that you turn on the console. Asks you to commandeer a public space solely for your own entertainment. Asks you to sit in this one specific spot. Asks you to download updates. Asks you to stop what you are doing and specifically do this one thing for the next hour or two.

The key word, I think, is ‘commitment’. Playing a console game requires a commitment. It demands this of you: “I am engaging with this thing. I am going to sit down, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and I’m going to play video games”. Handheld gaming is the opposite: “what is it you’re doing right now? Why not play games while you do that?”

I think that’s why, given the choice, I will always play games on my handheld console. I played Super Smash Bros. on my 3DS, I played Hotline Miami and Fez on the Vita. Games I am currently playing: Majora’s Mask on the 3DS, Grim Fandango on the Vita. Both are games that I started playing on consoles, but never finished.

The simplicity of handheld gaming, the accessibility of it. The flexibility. Consoles sit at the centre of your world and refuse to bend to your will, handhelds clutch onto your life like a barnacle. They’re available when you need them, at a second’s notice. They don’t inconvenience those around you. You are not being selfish when you play a handheld. You are not being watched. You are not being asked to make a commitment. You are simply playing a video game because, right this second, you have time to play a video game.


    Yep, I play tv games when the family sleeps.

      This, I wont play games on the tv unless people are out/asleep and if they are asleep its headphones on

      I have the consoles hooked up to a monitor so I just game at my computer desk.

        I own a Toyota Yaris

          at least it means I can game and not have to worry about waiting for people to goto bed.

            I can get from A to B at an affordable price ;-)

    I go through phases of using my 3ds a lot and not using it. I barely touch my vita. I've also just ordered a jxd s7800b gaming tablet for playing emulators on too which will be fun. I have a study with my consoles so I don't impact my girlfriend by taking over the TV but we both like that if I'm playing on a handheld I can still sit on the couch and half watch TV with her or talk to her.

    currently living with the inlaws - I never play games on the TV or hardly watch TV ... does not feel like my space, unless they are out

    wii u gamepad and 3ds takes care of this now ... and I game in the bedroom with no tv

    It's funny @markserrels, handheld gaming has always had a very special place in my heart for similar, and yet very different reasons. As a kid everyone had a NES, or a SNES, or a master system etc etc. All I had was an original Game Boy with a selection of 9 Japanese games originally loaned and then gifted to my sister and I from our Japanese family friends in Vanuatu. So that was the only gaming device I had until I was twelve. 5 years of sinking hours and hours into Tetris, F1 Race, Super Mario land 1&2, Kirby's dreamland... It was a good time, and punctuated by many hours of long family roadtrips both in Vanuatu and back home in Australia.

    In that time I also picked up Pokemon, which has had the single greatest effect on me in terms of gaming and pastimes than perhaps any other video game. What did it teach me? A gameboy was not intrusive. I could play in bed, in the backseat of the car, on the train, on a plane! Anywhere I wanted, as long as I was allowed to and I had some AA batteries on hand I could play my gameboy! Then the Gameboy Colour, then the GBA SP and the PSP and following on from that the DS and the 3DS.

    To this day I still take my gameboy Micro to Japan when on ski trips, and on those days when I've injured myself, or it's just a down day due to it raining, or the wind being too strong, I can crack out the Gameboy and play some Pokemon anytime I want. Is there anything better to while away the hours than handheld gaming?

      Still play f1 racing on my GB, it was my first game and first console.

    This is why the Wii U and off-screen play is the best thing ever. I do most of my gaming while doing other stuff.


      Can monster hunt and watch TV at the same time. Or occupy myself while the wifey watches some dreadful drama or cop show.

      3ds is also good for that, but more choice is only a good thing.

    I live with my girlfriend and never have this problem. She's happy to watch TV in the bedroom or sit on the couch playing the 3DS. TV doesn't really get watched that much at our place (unless we're watching DVDs together), so loading up a console to play on the big TV never seem a like a big deal.

      you are lucky .. marry her now

        I'm doing that now. I'm playing Zelda on the 3DS and she's playing Minecraft, I've also recently got her into binding of Issac, she's not a great gamer but she's willing to learn, and teaching her to game better is less stressful than teaching her to drive : p

      Of all my past girlfriends, not one has been even remotely interested in watching me play games. I think I want a geeky girlfriend...

        My girlfriends never been in to any games except for mario kart and professor layton.

    #handheld master race

      Yep. The convenience is the reason I carry 4-5 handhelds with me whenever I leave home, each with a game suspended on it, so I don't even have to switch games, just instantly on and play. The only reason I'd leave a handheld at home would be when I'm fearful that someone will steal my backpack full of handhelds and I'd lose them all in one fell swoop.

      I wish I were joking.

    I recently bought a Vita, against the advice of many people, and I'm already thrilled by it. It's not just the prospect of playing through a new Uncharted game, some new Metal Gear Solid games, a handful of great indie titles, and a pretty cool PS1 back catalogue... but also that I can now play my PS3 and PS4 off-screen via remote play. Fantastic. :D

    Also, some of my favourite games ever are handheld titles. For example, I hold the Ace Attorney series up as one of the top five game series of all time.

    Last edited 27/02/15 1:49 pm

      I even heard some schoolgirls on the bus this morning commenting on my Vita, saying that it 'intrigued' them, that it was like the PSP 'except better'. Made me feel good that it is slowly but surely gathering steam. Vita means life!

    I love how recent handhelds have suspend resume letting me sneak in some game time between doing things. No worry about save spot nonsense, just hit the button and bam.

      This is true, but remembering to keep all my handhelds charged is a pain in the arse, particularly the 2DS and 3DS XL. Those things lose charge so quickly when in sleep mode...

    The pick-up/put-down nature of handhelds is becoming increasingly appealing and important to me. I always have either my Vita or 3DS (sometimes both!) suspended on a game and there are many moments during my day when I play for a few minutes and then resume my original task. With consoles I have to dedicate a period of time which I don't always get or feel up to. The one thing I absolutely love about the Vita TV is that it is a console you can put games in standby on (It's a Vita after all) and then just start playing them again later.

    My partner is a media professor and genuinely interested in gaming despite being awful at them (getting so much better though) so she genuinely enjoys watching me play games because even though she physically has trouble with controls, she gets stuff like narrative, representation, design and agency so it's still interesting. She actually finds handhelds preferable because she doesn't need to engage so completely, she can close the lid of her 3ds any time she wants and the games are never super action-heavy.

    I love watching her play games too but she actually prefers to play on the tv alone. I have to get out until she's good enough.

    I think I prefer a big screen but I guess it might be because I don't live with an ignorant person. I'm not sure why people can't be all like; "Hey, you like (whatever)? Well, I don't but since i'm not an asshole I won't just assume that it sucks because I don't get it, I'll learn but I expect you to do the same for me!" Problem solved. So many people I know who like games have their partners constantly ridicule them like a child and treat their interests with zero respect whatsoever.

    There's enough options to be flexible with where you game now.

    My PS4 and WiiU are set up in the main living room. I have my gaming PC set up on a small desk in the corner of the living room with a monitor and headphones if I need to game quietly. I also have a long HDMI cable going to the receiver on the TV setup if I need to get it on the big screen (also making the PC function as a media PC), and by swapping a couple of cables I can also get the PS4/WiiU going to the PC monitor.

    There's also another TV set up in spare room and I can use Steam to stream to my laptop plugged into the TV there, or my PSTV to stream the PS4. Plus there's the WiiU gamepad for remote play (although I would love a doodad to stream it to another TV)

    While I have the option of setting up a dedicated 'gaming room' I don't really want to be segregated (I don't believe in having a man-cave or whatever, it's my house too!). I'd rather just plonk down and play in whatever part of the house is most convenient at the time and technology allows that nowadays.

    I love my 3DS. I can take it anywhere and play awesome games on it.

    I've never understood the appeal of playing video games on a TV. Even when i had a ps3, it was connected to my PC's second monitor (it used HDMI, the PC used DVI. I switched whenever i wanted the other) in my room.Naturally i play PC games on said PC in my room.

    If i ever get another console (there needs to be an exclusive worth playing for that. This generation doesn't have any), i'd set it up again on said monitor in my room.

    But for now... my PS3 is connected to the living room TV doing nothing but playing blurays.

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