My Playdate pal Pocket playing perfection
8 March 2023 #life
I really like my Playdate.
Hang on, rewind: you need a bit of context for this.
I’ve always been drawn to videogames, and I’ve mostly been terrible at playing them. This, despite writing a professional videogames reviews column for a while during the late 1990s. Not quite sure how I got away with that. Anyway.
Yes, I’ve always been drawn to them. School friends of mine had home computers (lol, that phrase - “home computer” - sounds so prehistoric now).
Tim had a ZX Spectrum, and I’d go round to his house after school to play it, or watch him play it more successfully. John had a BBC Micro, and I’d do the same at his house. A couple of years later, in 6th form, Chris had a PC and I vividly remember him showing me how to play SimCity on it. I oggled and cooed. It was amazing.
Most of the time, I was - and remain - just a bad games player. I don’t understand most in-game puzzles. My reflexes aren’t quick enough, so I lose all my lives in rapid succession. I spend hours exploring every corner of a dungeon for power-ups, when most players would be charging ahead on their quest. I tend to get stuck on level 2 or level 3 of most things. It’s embarrassing.
There have been a few successes:
- Defender, the arcade game, which I got good at because there was a unit to play on in the Sports Centre cafe, and the Sports Centre was literally 2 minutes walk from my childhood home. I spent a lot of time in that cafe, shoving 50ps into the slot, and getting good at Defender. Which is odd, because it has a reputation as a very difficult game to master.
- Tetris, obviously. Kate and I took a GameBoy on honeymoon with us. Things got quite competitive
- Populous on the GameBoy
- GoldenEye 007 on the N64; I was terrible at story mode, got quite good in multiplayer mode
- Flight Control on the iPhone
The main thing, I think, is that the constant fail-then-try-again of most videogames just bores me too quickly. Once I reach a level boss (or even just a level) that’s too tricky and I’ve tried playing it a few times without success, I switch off. Emotionally and literally. Life’s too short and all that. I’ve spent too much money on Nintendo Switch games that I never finished. (They did get finished by my son, though, he’s an avid and very successful gamer.)
But then I ordered a Playdate, waited a few months until I’d almost forgotten it, and got a surprise package in the post.
Playdate is great because:
- it’s tiny, so taking it out alongside a phone (which of course you can also play games on) doesn’t feel like a hassle
- it’s tactile; the hand-crank makes you want to pick it up and spin
- it’s excellent value for money, you get a huge amount of entertainment included with the device up front
- it’s the perfect casual gaming device; grab it when you have 10 minutes to kill, make a tiny bit of progress in a game, then switch off and carry on with your day; ideal for game-players with more important things to think about (like life)
The casual gaming thing is so important. I don’t play games with purpose. I don’t block out time in my day to play games. I’ve got too many other things to do and think about. But I do like being able to fill life’s unplanned gaps with a quick spin on the Playdate.
My fave games so far: Sasquatchers, Executive Golf DX, Pick Pack Pup, Casual Birder. I’m looking forward to seeing what new stuff comes out, especially puzzle or strategy games.
Another reason to love Playdate is the excellence of the comms and marketing that surrounds it; but that’s a post for another day.