The Nintendo Switch Gave Me Back My Video Games

Image: Kotaku

For the longest time it felt as though video games were growing up with me.

When I was a kid, video games felt like they were for kids. They were platform games with furry animal mascots. They were as vibrant and sugary as the cordial I guzzled whilst playing them. Even zeitgeist games like Street Fighter II, while technically violent, represented the benign violence of the playground. It was Jean Claude Van Damme. A spontaneous crowd around 8-year-olds that can't punch properly.

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT.

Then, when I was a teenager, video games were as clumsy as I was. The leap to 3D was as awkward as puberty. Video games had hair on their chest and nowhere to put all their bizarre, fucked up sexual energies. The writing was like terrible teenage poetry. We stumbled over words, our voices breaking as we tripped over our slow-moving, train-wreck avatars.

"You were almost a Jill Sandwich".

Video games were Resident Evil, Tomb Raider. We loved these video games then. They made sense in context. In 2017 it's like cringing through a re-read of our crusty teenage diaries.

But personally, over the last five years or so, it feels like video games haven't evolved with me in the way I'd hoped they would. It's less about 'sophistication', more the form video games take and what's expected of me if I want to engage. Over the last decade video games have become fragmented across an incredibly broad range of experiences and platforms, but the broad shift is clear: video games are Destiny. Video games are Overwatch, League of Legends or DOTA.

Consoles are designed, it feels, to keep us hooked on 'platforms'. To make it difficult for us to leave. Consoles are eco-systems, individual video games are eco-systems, with their own currencies, cultures and sub-cultures. That's fine. I get it. I just can't be part of it. Not really.

I simply don't have the time.

Image: Nintendo

Which is such a patronising, boring thing to say -- but it's true. I spend 90 minutes a day on public transport. I'm married with a full-time job and a house that's constantly being destroyed by my two very young children. Free time is at a premium and it's mostly spent doing banal shit. Folding laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher. The idea of sitting down on my couch, turning on a console and dedicating time to Destiny dailies is insanely alien to me. Impossible to imagine almost.

And if that all sounds a bit 'Old Man Yells At Cloud' that's because well... I am an old man and I am yelling at a cloud. That cloud is my ability to engage with video games in a meaningful way. An ability that was sorta stolen from me over the past few years for a number of reasons. The main one: video games haven't catered to my lifestyle in a long, long time.

But that all changed with the Nintendo Switch.

This year I played more video games than I've played in a long time and I estimate around 80% of those hours were spent on the Nintendo Switch.

20% of those hours were spent on my couch, in front of my TV in the regular 'gaming' sense. 30% were spent lying in bed before falling asleep.

50% was probably spent on the bus, on the M2 in traffic, headphones blasting. In another world.

The Nintendo Switch is on some Bruce Lee shit. The 'water becomes the cup' shit. If I'm at home and somehow have the time the Switch connects to my TV quickly and efficiently. If someone needs the main TV that's fine, I'll just slot the Switch into the controllers. On the bus, fine. In bed, fine. On holiday, fine. Waiting at the doctor's because your kid has hand, foot and mouth, fine. All of it is fine.

The Nintendo Switch is designed for a busy life. It's designed specifically to filter seamlessly into the gaps of a busy life. I can't tell you how liberating that has been for me. How convenient it is.

Handheld games have existed before -- even premium handheld experiences like the PlayStation Vita -- but the Switch is different. It's not just that the console works as both a home console and a portable, it's that the Switch is Nintendo's primary, main console -- that Nintendo's best work will appear exclusively on it. Breath of the Wild isn't a spin-off, it's the new Zelda. Odyssey isn't a weird Mario offshoot, it's the successor to Mario Galaxy. That means something. Playing those premium, A+++ video games on the bus means something. I still -- nine months later -- refuse to take this for granted. It still makes me feel giddy.

For the first time in a long time it feels like video games are growing with me again. Not the games necessarily but the way I'm engaging with them. The Switch feels like it's for me in a way that other consoles aren't. The kids who sucked down sherbet whilst playing Super Mario World; who spent their moody teenage years hiding from their parents playing Metal Gear Solid.

We're shitty boring adults now; with our kids and their shitty nappies and half a chewed up banana under the couch. With a pile of laundry we can't be fucked folding and a pile of video games we don't have time to play. Only the Switch gives us that time back. The Switch does an audit on the timeline of your garbage life and says -- actually you can still sink 200 hours into an RPG. You can spend hours tracking down every stupid moon in Super Mario Odyssey.

And for someone who thought those days were long gone, that's powerful. That's what makes the Nintendo Switch so special.


Comments

    Hand foot and mouth disease is awesome. I got it and went to the Dr.

    Here is a medical certificate and a script. Don't go to work for a week

    Wait, these spots on my hands that don't impact my life in any way get me off work for a week? Yay, videogame time.

      In my case it would be "luckily we have flexible working arrangements - you can work from home!"

      I had that in October. Legit one of the worst experiences I've had

        Really? I must have gotten it really mild.

          It was like my hands and feet were on fire. Lasted two days, then about a week before sores disappeared.

    Time is certainly a premium, however after playing Breath of the Wild in CEMU, I've also started appreciating just how compromised an experience some of these games on the Switch are.

    And well some, I mean BOTH and SMO, as bluntly, there isn't much AAA title stuff on a console that cost me $500 to warrant the price of entry (so my Switch is going to my sister for Christmas).

    Oh well.

      After checking out Doom on my mate's Switch (and playing my own copy on PS4) I can definitely feel that when the Switch is trying to 'play with the big boys' it feels compromised.. And not just in graphics.

      Mario & Zelda shine because of Nintendo programmers, not because of the console IMO.

      Curious to see if 2018 has anything else to keep me on the Switch as I am already finding myself gliding back to the PS4 for my 'real' gaming fix. The Switch only gets busted out now when the 3 kids wants to play against their 'old man' (It's sombre experience when you go from 'letting your kids win' to actively trying to beat them and still coming 3rd or 4th).

      If I spent $500 on a console that retails for less than that, I'd probably be salty to.

        Might have included a memory card, pro controller or similar.

          Pretty well much. 256GB SD card, Pro Controller, Screen Protector, Travel Case.

          It'd be more around $650 all up. And thats before I've turned a game on.

      Legitimate question - why does it have to be AAA stuff? The total "good game" line up for Switch is pretty incredible for a 9 month old system.

      - Breath of the Wild
      - Super Mario Odyssey
      - Splatoon 2
      - Arms
      - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
      - Sonic Mania
      - Snipperclips
      - Stardew Valley
      - Mario + Rabbids
      - Fast RMX
      - Golf Story
      - Blaster Master Zero
      - Xenoblade 2

        I would also take a well functioning and stocked virtual console (or just let me have REtroArch and be done with it).

        You can list off games, but four problems occur pretty quickly.

        A: In the case of BOTH, the experience is seriously compromised by the format and hardware (go play it in CEMU @ 4k and you'll see what I mean). This also extends to other ports like DOOM & Skyrim.

        B: Much of whats in the store are just ports from other systems (and a scary amount of shovelware from Android).

        C: Half of that list is rubbish. Fast RMX is a poor Fzero, Xenoblade 2 is incredibly poor compared to previous iterations, Blaster Master whilst fun, is about 30 years old,

        And lastly, D: Game prices in the Switch store for what is generally a bunch of ports is rather high.

    I don't understand how people can play video games on public transport. I once took my Vita with me on the commute to work just after I bought it. Trying to play a bit of Everybody's Golf was damn near impossible with the bus jerking about every time it started and stopped and getting jostled by people moving past my seat.

    I never bothered again - I just read a book on the bus and save portable gaming for when I'm travelling for work or holiday and want something I can play while sitting around in a hotel or airport.

      I had the same issues as you (plus mild motion sickness) but I persevered. I eventually got used to it. I can now play extreme rhythm games with only rare misses, and even first-person shooters with no greater problem than dealing with the glare on night levels. It took me a couple of months to get used to it, but it was worth it :-)

      I don't understand how anyone can read on public transport lol. I get motion sick when I try and read on public transport but games aren't a problem for me for some reason.

      Playing a game on a bus vs. playing on a train is a big difference. Buses jostle around like maniacs, trains are smooth as butter (usually). Much easier to game on a train.

      Lol git gud scrub.
      Sorry, I couldn't help myself there. Please don't take my poor humour seriously, ok?
      Real talk: it's just something you practice n get better at over time.

    Can't go past the Vita. It's kept me company on the bus and train for the last 6 years, more or less. I don't care that I can't play Horizon Zero Dawn on a bus. I've got JRPGs, VNs and rhythm games for that.

    When I'm at home I can either play more Vita games, switch to PS4 and play Madden, Mass Effect or Horizon, or even stream the games from my PS4 to my Vita.

    Switch just doesn't appeal to me very much. I don't like Zelda. I don't like Mario. I feel lukewarm about most of Nintendo's other first party stuff. I'm mildly interested in Xenoblade.

    I think it says a lot that I only got a 3DS a couple of years ago, only have a dozen or so games for it, and have no desire to get more.

    I'll probably get a Switch in a couple of years' time, if that.

      If you don't like Zelda pre-BotW, I'd very much encourage you to give it a go if you do end up getting a Switch.
      Having played all of the Zelda games (obviously I like them so perhaps take this with a grain of salt), it really doesn't play like a typical Zelda.
      If you like open world (hate that term now) games like Horizon, I think BotW may just win you over.

        I'm still on the fence about giving Breath of the Wild a go. Three things turn me off: stamina meter; weapon durability and lack of compelling narrative.

        I haven't played Skyrim either, but I've played Oblivion. I get the feeling that Breath of the Wild would be kind of in the same vein as those games, although with the aforementioned issues that would likely sour me on it.

          Hmm, I must concede that whilst I adored the game, the weapon durability mechanic is tiresome at the beginning. Later on, as your weapons get stronger, their durability increases in turn and it become less of an issue, but it's certainly an 'interesting' design choice.

          Stamina is fine and I barely notice it. Your mileage may vary though. In my opinion, it's a solid mechanic that allows a sense of progression in terms of traversal of the world's terrain as your stamina meter increases.

          Narrative - no getting around that. It's simply a by-the-numbers good vs. evil, save the princess affair. If narrative is important to you, this may be a sticking point for you. For what it's worth, exploring Hyrule's truly varied terrain was all the motivation I needed to push forward where traditionally, I myself enjoy a good narrative to keep things going.

          In any case - and this goes for any non-PC game you buy - purchasing it at EB gives you a 7-day refund window so you can give it a try with no harm done! :D

    Wow Serrels, you and I are clearly around the same age and point in our lives with the married life and little kids. I could not agree with you more regarding every point you made about the Switch and how it gives me back some time to enjoy things I really love like exploring in Zelda. Sounds corny but it actually helps me feel like me again a bit. You do seem to get lost a little once kids and life in general starts bombarding you.

    Also, if someone had told my kid self that one day Nintendo would have a console this good thats portable....mind blown. I hope I never get over how special it is to be on the train horsing around in Hyrule.

    Great read, can fully relate.

      I made an account just to echo this.
      I've got two young kids and work long hours so my free time is incredibly limited and at a premium. I got a switch as an early Christmas gift from my wonderful family a few weeks ago and it's incredible how it fits into your life where no other gaming system really can.

      My trips to Sydney on the train every day now have me playing Nintendo's AAA best. Being able to bring out the switch and immediately with no load times have Link up on top of a mountain where I left off earlier ready to shield surf around Hyrule in what has fast become one of my favourite games ever is convenient and accessible to a level I never expected, and the magic and creativity they've put into their latest titles (Zelda and Mario in particular) make me feel like that kid playing his NES for the first time.

      The 3DS etc always made a great go of being that device that fills this gap but I feel like Nintendo have absolutely nailed it this time around by making it not only a great mobile device but by also making it their one and only focus. The fact it's completely kid friendly and you can break the controllers off and immediately go into a 2 player round of Snipperclips or something is just icing on the cake.

      Now if they could just do something about that absolutely atrocious kickstand...

      Last edited 13/12/17 8:58 pm

        Oh, isn't it the worst?

    The Switch has now become my preferred console for any release. I'd much rather live in a world without 4k graphics or 60 fps if it means I can pick up all my games and take them with me on the go.

      Now, if only Sony would sense the Zeitgeist and do a new hybrid system capable of playing all its first party stuff...

        Considering how much I loved my Vita (still do, really), I wholeheartedly agree.

    I'm in my 30s, we just had our first baby a few weeks ago, and I decided to buy myself a Switch for Christmas. I fought the call of Switch all year, attempting to fill the void with a Nvidia Shield Tablet, but it's just too strong. I've never been a Nintendo kid, and was concerned some of their franchises would be lost on me. But it just makes sense as a family-centred, time-efficient gaming console. :)

    Last edited 13/12/17 7:04 pm

    On the flipside the Switch has been making me constantly ask if Nintendo and I have finally grown apart. But then my life is nothing like the above so I'm just here wishing it were just a proper console instead of being a sub-par console and practically useless handheld.

      Oh wow, I didn't expect that from you Gooky. I love my switch. I find it's incredibly useful as I often do a lot of my gaming on the go.
      Do you not like Splatoon 2?

        I like Splatoon in spite of the Switch :P

        I'm glad I don't do much gaming on the go, because then that would mean I'd have to try and play it as a handheld. And I completely and absolutely detest the joycons, they're by far the worst controllers Nintendo has ever made. They need to make a "joycon pro", which is just a pro controller split in two. Then it might be usable. Except then I don't want to have to pay another hundred odd bucks to get yet another controller and add to the redundancy.

      I honestly feel similarly, though for me it does about what I expect. My main issues have been the games (nothing has particularly engaged me to be honest - apparently what I enjoy in games is not what Nintendo expects me to enjoy, and I have no childhood nostalgia for them to prey on), the typical Nintendo stupid bullshit like Friend Codes and purchases tied to the system and the fact the entire system software layer feels like it's still in beta, and the stupid joycon thing which still feels like a solution looking for a problem and actually compromises the controls by forcing them into awkward placements.

      I'm also really worried the system won't have legs due to the poor hardware. It's not going to get much AAA multiplatform stuff since the hardware is so different - the perennial Nintendo problem - and I can see it basically going the way of the 3DS, with the bulk of the solid games being developed specifically for the system. Meanwhile I'm not sure the hardware is there. Xenoblade 2 having to drop to 376p resolutions in order not to chew the battery in five minutes is a big problem. Aside from looking like ass, if the system is running into perf bottlenecks on a first-party game released in the first 9 months that doesn't really bode well for games coming out in year 3 or 4.

        Yeah, I think you're mostly right, particularly about the third-party support. Even the 3DS, which sold in the tens of millions, got pretty much zero third-party support except for shovelware and the odd LEGO or Skylanders game. We can see that the Switch is doing better by at least being a port machine like the Vita is (was). So Nintendo first party stuff (bonus, Nintendo not having to split its efforts between handheld and console) plus indies plus ports plus the Japanese games that would otherwise come out on Vita, and you have something that will sell more than the 3DS but I don't think will sell on the same scale as the Wii, for example.

          It seems like the rate it's selling in Japan is making the Japanese publishers consider it at least. Gust (which is to say, Koei Tecmo) jumped onto it almost immediately and seem to have basically ditched Vita for it now, with the platforms for the Atelier games being PS4, PC and Switch. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw eg Namco doing the exact same platform breakdown for the next Tales release.

          Next 6-9 months are really going to be telling. Nintendo managed 2017 extremely well, probably the best they ever have, with solid releases monthly, but I'm worried they have nothing in the pipe now. What am I meant to be getting excited for on the platform in Jan/Feb/Mar? I don't know at all. The only thing Nintendo's dated at this point is the re-release of Bayonetta 1 & 2.

        the stupid joycon thing which still feels like a solution looking for a problem and actually compromises the controls by forcing them into awkward placements.This.

        Also curious on the Xeno 376p handheld (/tabletop) thing. Does it still drop the resolution like that if it's running on mains power? It'd be nice if it literally only did it to save battery, and didn't have to when it was plugged in.

          No when docked it's 720p constant. It's clearly pushing the hardware hard though - fan runs flat out. The dynamic resolution is definitely a power saving measure since the system doesn't run any faster docked.

            Oh, I meant undocked but still plugged in.

            I've taken to laying the Switch flat on a defrosting plate as kind of a big heat sink, and plugging it into the dock via an extension cable. Dunno if it's the best idea but at the very least both vents are uncovered instead of just one. Fans don't seem to get as noisy now, and with all the graphical glitches that kept happening in Splatoon I was getting worried about how it was going to handle the Summer.

    Pretty sure I'm a similar age (29) to Serrels and a bunch of others who comment here. I'm married, work full time and have 3 kids...and I also have plenty of time for games. Is that odd? Am I one of the rare people here?

    My bus ride to work, including walking to/from stops is 1hr each way. I generally have a snooze on the bus and lately I've fired up Pokemon Go too.

    Other than that though I get time to game every night from 7:30pm till around 10:30-11 when I got to bed. That's a solid 3 hours every night without kids to interrupt me. I skip Tuesday nights to spend time with my wife. Until July this year I was also working 2 jobs which cut out Friday and Saturday night too...but I still had time for games.

    I average something like 20-25hrs playtime per week on games (even more if you include mobile games which I never do). I didn't think this was that odd until now. I've been playing WoW for the last year and a bit and there's a number of others around my age with kids of similar ages and they all play games about as much as I do.

    Last edited 14/12/17 9:04 am

      If your kids are in bed by 7:30, sounds like they're a little older than mine. I've got an infant who's awake every 3 hours. X.x Gaming in bursts is the only way to get it done. :)

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