1991 was a pretty eventful year for the United States. Nirvana released their legendary masterpiece of an album “Nevermind” that arguably started the grunge movement in America, some of the best films released in my lifetime such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hook were released to moviegoing audiences worldwide, and let us not forget George H.W. Bush’s Gulf War campaign to take the once-nuclear-capable nation of Iraq and turn them into the impotent pieces of sand dwelling shit that we decided to attack again 10 years later.
Yeah, 1991 was pretty great, but the best time of year always started just a little bit after Thanksgiving. After the Turkey-bloated gluttony was becoming a fading memory and the last of the leftover sandwiches dissolved away into the stomachs of midnight snackers everywhere, the gaping hole in peoples’ lives was about to be filled with the most magical time of year: Christmas.
However, not being an irrational religious peon, I always found Christmas to be less about christ and more about Presents. In fact, that’s the very reason I capitalized “Presents” and lower-cased “christ.” The presents always had much more spiritual significance than some middle eastern faker who duped idiotic early men into thinking he was an extension of the non-existent invisible man in the sky. All that aside, presents were the most important part of my childhood.
I was 5 years old in 1991 and at the height of my “gimme gimme” phase. My holiday wish list was filled from margin to margin with greedy little thoughts of Ninja Turtle toys and overpriced electronics. As is true of every kid of every generation, you wanted what every kid wanted: THE MOST POPULAR TOYS OUT THERE. In 1991, the most popular toy was a magical device that Nintendo decided to bestow on its loyal followers. It made every playground kid salivate at the very thought of owning one. It captured the magic of video games and allowed them to become portable playthings. It was THE GAMEBOY.
Following the successful-yet-technically-unimpressive Game & Watch series of handheld games, Nintendo relied on the genius of Gunpei Yokoi and Nintendo’s Research & Development 1 department to come up with a show-stopping idea that every person young and old could appreciate. That brainchild was the Nintendo Game Boy.
Beyond it’s seemingly simple boxy gray design and puke green screen, the device fulfilled every kid’s dream of not having to read Highlights magazine at the doctor’s office or listen to Luther Vandross cds on long drives with the family. It was an escape from the world around you that let you experience all the social seclusion of a video game, but from outside the confines of a television in your home.
It came packaged with one of the greatest games of all time as well: Tetris. Tetris appealed to everyone of every age and cultural background. No one could deny the addictive nature of the puzzle game that allowed players to create order from chaos. Those little blocks falling in sequence made for some of the best stress relief a person could ask for. Those who mastered its seemingly-infinite number of levels became gods among men.
The cult following and pop culture influence of the Game Boy is undeniable as well. To this day, people still buy Game Boy stickers to plaster across their rooms. It had a talking cartoon counterpart that helped Captain N on his pixel-based adventures. There’s even a way to modify your Game Boy to be used as an external hard drive. Although it’s hipster as all fuck, I find myself yearning to try it.
Suffice to say, the device has had a lasting impression and still remains the best-selling handheld gaming console of all time. Despite being out-matched in terms of processing power and graphical capabilities several times over, the handheld gaming market has always made its way back to our little gray friend, the Game Boy.