[ Retro Scan ] Game Boy, All Grown Up

November 2nd, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Nintendo Game Boy Political Campaign Speeches GQ 1992 Presidential Election advertisement scan - 1992"Have you had your fun today?"

So we've got this election coming right around the corner in the US. It hasn't been fun. In fact, it's been pretty nasty and stressful for everyone involved. But there's a solution: video games.

In this October 1992 ad from GQ magazine, Nintendo offers its Game Boy handheld console as an antidote to our grownup troubles during a long, grueling campaign season. Among displays of men's fashion, cologne ads, and strutting female models, you can find a rather remarkable sales pitch for this groundbreaking gadget aimed at adults.

In 1992, portable electronic entertainment pretty much meant one thing: Game Boy. There were no smartphones in everyone's pockets to twiddle away the time with. And the alternative handhelds like the Sega Game Gear, NEC TurboExpress, and Atari Lynx had such horrible battery life that very few people actually took them on the go. Of course, one could tote along a Walkman or a portable TV, but they weren't interactive.

The Game Boy was different. It was compact, light, durable, ran over ten hours on four AA batteries, and it had that killer app: Tetris.

I remember reading news reports, not long after the Game Boy's launch, about how adults were playing Tetris ("the jigsaw puzzle that fights back," the ad says) on long commutes. In retrospect, Tetris seems like the first video game for adults — especially since it had no cartoon protagonist, and its single-screen drama unfolded in four serious shades of gray (or green, technically). It was a thinking man's game, and it was addictive.

Or thinking woman's game, I should say, since we have this amazing 1993 photo of Hillary Clinton playing the Game Boy. While commuting, no less. So maybe the ad worked. Or maybe Tetris was just an essential, can't-miss game that finally legitimized video games for an older audience.

[ From GQ, October 1992, p.150 ]

Discussion Topic: Did your parents ever play console video games when you were younger? What games did they like the most?



3 Responses to “[ Retro Scan ] Game Boy, All Grown Up”

  1. Benj Edwards Says:

    By the way, this marks the first time I've posted two Retro Scans in one week. A sure sign of the end times.

  2. cozmo Says:

    My step-dad and I would play the Atari 2600 together. One of his favorites was Asteroids, and I still remember when he 'flipped' the score for the first time. I think he often played Mario Kart many years later with my brother on the SNES.

    A few years before we got the 2600, my grandpa had one or two of the many various 'pong' knockoffs prevalent in the late 1970s. He was an electrical engineer, so I think he was very intrigued by the technology.

  3. TheSaintOfPain Says:

    My father got interested in console video gaming shortly after the Sega Master System was released, and would regularly rent one from one of the local video rental stores he frequented. He would rent games like Alex Kidd In Miracle World and Choplifter along with it, and it was the first console gaming experience in my household. He would later buy a NES, and my siblings and I would regularly watch him play games like Dragon Warrior, Faxanadu, and Final Fantasy when we weren't playing something like Super Mario Bros. ourselves. This would continue with his purchase of a SNES on launch day in 1991, up until my parents got separated and eventually divorced about 2 years later.

    My mother wasn't quite as hardcore a video gamer, but she has enjoyed playing games like The Legend Of Zelda and Galaga on NES, as well as Tetris on Game Boy. She mostly plays flash games and other PC-based puzzle games these days, but every once in a while she asks me to hook up my NES for a round or two of Galaga.

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