Friday, April 25, 2014

Game Boy's 25th anniversary

And in other missed-opportunity news, this past Monday the Nintendo Game Boy celebrated the 25th anniversary of its first release. I can apocryphally report that it was the top-selling handheld gaming unit of all time, largely due to its running battery-life laps around its competition the Lynx (from Atari, but originally Epyx!) and Sega's Game Gear. Also it was the single video gaming machine that was continually in production and on store shelves for the longest period of time (from 1989 to 2003, 5 or 8, depending on who you ask and what you mean by "Game Boy" -- the original pea-soup unit, or the whole line that ran through Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance) -- a record that will likely stand, given Moore's law. Different markets saw different advertising campaigns for it; here are three entries from a single campaign that stood out to me in my excavations:
Game Boy.  More fun than a ferret down your trousers.
Game Boy. More fun than a hole in the head.
Game Boy. More fun than a clip on the ear.
It seems clear that they're using the same model in all three shots here, though they get a radical hair restyling in the second ad. Am I just perverted to be questioning what, given its relative position, the ferret is up to in the boy's pants? These are '90s ads, self-evidently, as demonstrated amply by edgy non sequiturs. A hole in the head isn't fun. (A putting green on the head doesn't even make it much more playful.) And then "a clip on the ear" is a Britishism for being smacked upside the head, which is quite clearly also not fun -- though this expropriation of office supplies for the purposes of literally misinterpreting the phrase also appears to be no fun, despite whatever his whimsically unshod feet might suggest to the contrary.

The house is lit by an eerie blue ambience, and the floor appears to be, for no apparent reason beyond obligatory middle-finger surreality, made of astroturf. In conclusion, these ridiculous ads (and the Game Boy has some humdingers in that category) really help to establish the brand, but if you don't already believe the product to be something that you need or want, I'm not convinced that they're going to sell you on the lifestyle depicted in the ads. The model? I'm sure his mom told him to stop making that face or it'd stay like that, and he didn't listen.