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.
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.