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Gadgets: The wild world of Game Boy accessories


There has never been a device with the number of accessories that the Game Boy had. As the first mainstream portable game console, the Game Boy had the kind of user base to support a vast hardware ecosystem, and it came into being at just the right time to need those kinds of accessories to offer a complete experience. It was a perfect storm of hardware that resulted in some of the most varied add-ons ever made for a console. Looking back, there have been roughly two categories that Game Boy accessories fit into: the practical and the weird.

The practical side is less interesting in hindsight. After all, things like attachable lights, link cables, rechargeable battery packs, AC adapters, and screen magnifiers all make a certain amount of sense for a device that lacked these modern conveniences.

While it’s easy to look back now and deride the Game Boy (and its various successors) for their reliance on extra devices, back then, it made sense. Nintendo was already pushing the technological envelope to the limit with the Game Boy, and there simply wasn’t room for these other features. Throw a backlight on the Game Boy, and it becomes a battery-sucking hog like the Game Gear. The technology at the time wasn’t exactly mature, either: light accessories for the Game Boy were basically glorified book lights that shone down on the screen, and a rechargeable battery pack I once owned ended up being so awful that it was almost worth just using batteries instead.

A lot of these weird gadgets aren’t around anymore simply because the technology has evolved beyond it. We don’t need lights when our screens have backlights, for example. Wi-Fi has replaced link cables (although not without a detour into an incredibly bizarre local wireless adapter for the Game Boy Advance), and the existence of a system-level OS with adjustable accessibility settings and larger screens has killed off screen magnifiers. Technology getting better over time is a good thing, and I wouldn’t trade Wi-Fi or a built-in backlight for the days of old.

But we do lose something when we shift away from these accesso

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