Around 2003, after what had been a long break from video games, I decided to jump back in. I was driven by feelings of nostalgia from the good times I'd had throughout my youth. By then, Sega left the hardware business, but there was still Nintendo. The N64, though seen as limited, was still a great console thanks to an excellent assortment of exclusive games. Perfect Dark, Goldeneye, the Turok series, Jet Force Gemini, Banjo Kazooie, Cruisin USA, Starfox, Zelda, Super Mario 64. Need I go on?

 

Still looks good, don't it?

 

But Nintendo had also wisely chosen to continue to evolve the Gameboy. The Gameboy Color was just simple and fun. You didn't buy a Gameboy because it was a technological marvel. You bought it because you knew it was the best way to kill time when you were on the go.

When the Gameboy Advance arrived, I didn't even have to think twice. I bought one within the first month of it launching. The GBA had so many things going for it that made it irresistible. A price that was well within range of "impulse buyers". Sufficiently powerful hardware. And, some really great launch titles.

I must have carried my GBA with me everywhere. To work, to the movies (to fill in those boring minutes before the previews begin), practically anywhere that I might have to wait and endure long periods of boredom. And I loved it. The GBA fit so neatly into my lifestyle, and the fact that I could slide it in my pocket, and go, just made it even cooler. I honestly thought portable gaming couldn't get any better.

 

(Sigh) Sooooo many good times!

 

Then, it was almost as if every maker of portable electronics decided that they wanted to take a shot at knocking Nintendo off of it's perch. Around the same time the GBA arrived, Bandai launched the Wonderswan Color. Cell phones, still in their infancy, were just beginning to show potential as gaming devices. Some companies tried too hard. Nokia's N-Gage comes to mind. Then, the Palm devices began to evolve from being merely productivity tools, to viable gaming devices.

As a result, I rushed out and bought a Palm T/X. I probably got one solid year of enjoyment from a device that cost me $199. That same money would have bought two GBA's, or one Gamecube, or several games. But, I thought I was buying into "the future". I was certain the Palm products would continue to be a key player in portable electronics. I couldn't have been more wrong.

 

Disappointment has a face.

 

Around that time, cell phones were getting larger screens, and deeper functionality. I owned a Motorola Razr which was loaded with about 5-10 games. Still I couldn't begin to imagine how rapidly technology would change.

As I was trying to resist the bitter angst of buyer's remorse, a new Palm OS device appeared called the Tapwave Zodiac. Designed more like a proper gaming handheld, it boasted an incredibly large screen (for the time), and plenty of power for visually demanding games. A little voice in the back of my head began to mock me.

 

Tapwave-Zodiac2-FL.jpg

If only...

 

Then, Sony announced the PSP, and it was a thing of beauty.

Suddenly, it seemed that Sony's handheld was well positioned to be the one and only true threat to the Gameboy.

After feeling the burn of investing in my increasingly useless Palm T/X, I waited several months before deciding to purchase a PSP-1000. I can still remember standing proudly in line with my PSP and three games, feeling like the luckiest guy. I kept telling myself, "Now this will be my little do everything device!"

 

Props to Sony for a gorgeous design.

 

How could it not be? It could play games, music, movies, digital comic books, AND had a built-in web browser. Once again, I was telling myself that I'd never need a device to do more than my PSP could. It's so strange, but I had built up an elaborate set of ideas about how I would use my PSP, and how it would change my life. I imagined myself sitting on long voyages, aboard a bus or a train, blithely passing the minutes and hours with my sleek little gaming wonder.

 

Perhaps Hercule Poirot and I would drink cognac while playing Patapon?

 

I imagined hosting parties, and loading awesome music playlists from my PSP at said parties. Surely, my friends would remark in wonder, "You're doing that with THAT LITTLE THING?!?!"

That bubble was burst quite violently with the arrival of the iPhone. And on, and on, and on it went. For a long time, I viewed the arrival of every new gadget as being the final realization of my dreams. A gadget that would be able to handle everything I could throw at it. Now, after many dollars spent, and many wasted, I now reluctantly acknowledge that such a device will never exist.

Much like my backlog of video games spread across multiple platforms, I now have an assortment of unused electronics that remind me how much I've been a sucker for advertising. With all of these devices, it was always THE IDEA of what they might do, that appealed to me. But ironically, when it came to actually using them, the experience left something to be desired.

I mention this because, well... I've begun to feel that way with consoles. This generation in particular, seems to be punctuated by endless hardware revisions, in order to keep up with the blinding pace of technological advances. And yes, I made my choice to finally jump in with the purchase of a PS4. But, at least now I have no illusions about it's longevity. Whether the PS4 is supported for another year, or another six years, I will enjoy it for what it is now.

Although I love, and appreciate the features in my little gaming machine, I don't view it as my "entertainment hub" so to speak. I would not view any other console as such either. It's fairly ironic that in a world full of devices that all purport to be all things to all people, it almost doesn't matter WHAT you buy. And though I may lament not being able to keep up, the truth is that there is nothing to keep up with. The line that defines "the cutting edge" is always moving.