Outdoor Gaming Ep. 1

Gamers spend way too much time indoors. And why is that? Because our gaming systems have screens that can’t be viewed outside! Yes, sometimes you see a gamer hunched over their super-reflective mobile phone screen, squinting and trying to make out what the hell is going on, playing a game in the park. It might work if they’re sitting in the shade of a tree, but it’s a very bad gaming experience in broad sunlight.

There are (or were) a few systems that can be played just fine outdoors, though. That even prefer strong sunlight: the Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance all have transflective or reflective screens. So did the Neo Geo Pocket and Neo Geo Pocket Color. There was also the WonderSwan, but you can’t play any of those because Kelsey bought all of them. I’m ignoring the backlit Game Boy SP AGS-001 and Game Boy Micro for the purpose of this article, since what would be the point taking those into the sun?

Owning all those Game Boy iterations, I tried thinking of an excuse to avoid being outdoors and couldn’t, so I decided to work this the other way and actually go somewhere. Just take the first road I find and walk until I’m bored, but at least for an hour, then play some Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.

Here’s the story, with pictures.

Diary of a former indoorsman

July 14, 20XX

I looked up from one of the various backlit screens surrounding me and with sudden conviction I knew: The time has come. If I don’t move about in fresh air for a bit, regularly, I will die a terribly boring death from arteries clogged with fat and gamer man-juice. But the world out there is big and scary, far bigger than anything I have ever played so far. Let’s take it slow. I’ll go one day at a time and see where things take me and what secrets I can uncover in that place.

The day wasn’t too bright, as you can see in the first picture, but still bright enough for the Game Boy Color, which I lovingly wrapped in a microfiber cloth and slotted in a safe spot in my backpack. I do have some replacement parts in case it breaks, but why face risks? Going outside is risky enough.

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Oooh, crossroads! I’ll take the right.

There was a forest on the right side, not far along this road. It was all pretty mystical-magical, particularly this obvious sacrificial stone:

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Here is where the village population sacrifices goats, cats, people and whatnot. It’s obvy.

Unfortunately, all the pictures from the forest turned out crap. I’m guessing it must be some enchantment on the place. Whoever lives around these parts doesn’t want people to take any photographic evidence of their mystical holy places. I continued on along bleak roads until I hit a sign that forbade entering if you’re a car or a motorbike or a moped. I’m not a moped, so I continued.

For the next four or five kilometers, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. It was foggy, clammy, and generally grim and frostbitten. Until all of a sudden:

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Surely a cult symbol

I had already guessed something was fishy when I saw that sacrificial altar stone right there in the middle of the forest. And now this! Clearly the symbol of some cult that is wreaking havoc on this mountain. I must investigate more! Maybe this is something for the police.

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An innocent bunny-rabbit turned into wood.

My suspicions were confirmed when I walked up a road (to a dead-end, no less) and encountered an innocent bunny that someone had turned into wood, surely by way of eldritch magicks performed under a steamy summer night’s full moon.

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The road is safe. For now.

I realized I’d probably stumbled onto the lands of the fish-frog people. But now I was caught in a dead-end and had to reverse, so I came by that cursed symbol of theirs again. To keep myself safe, I performed a purifying incantation in the style of the people of Blashyrkh.

I can’t be sure the incantation worked, but I encountered no more wooden animals anywhere along the road. And as if to confirm the efficacity of my performance, the fog lifted, the clouds parted and for the first time on this day, I cast a shadow.

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You know what’s useful for casting shadows? Sunlight. And sunlight also allows you to play Game Boy Color.

I crossed an ominous, wet, wooden bridge, further proof of the presence of frog-people, dragging their amphibious feet over it and spreading their slime hither and thither. It was slick with epidermal excretions:

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My elation at the appearance of sunlight was soon interrupted by a new wave of fog and rain. Perhaps whichever unthinkable deity these people believe in was stronger even than the blast of concentrated grimness that had been sent forth from Blashyrkh.

The rain became stronger and I had to seek shelter under the roof of this inviting place:

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None of this looks like Silent Hill.

At this point I thought I had walked enough. Time to hide behind the shed and whip out my thing:

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Perfect visibility!

It was glorious. I scored the first of the six Golden Coins and I was amazed how much of this game I had forgotten. This has way quirkier enemies than any of the home console Marios I’d played in the meantime. Also, different physics.

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Sux. I’d expected more.

The weird moiré effect you see on the photo isn’t really there in real life. In reality it just looks completely dreamy, even with the strange pastel tones that Mario Land 2 uses (many other GB games have a more contrasty appearance on the GBC). I implore you to buy one of these consoles if you don’t have one. If you do have one, track down some games, move your ass outside.

After a few levels played leaning against the shed, the rain subsided a little and I prepared for descent. A quick check of the altimeter revealed I’d only ascended about 320 meters. That sucks, I wanted to go higher. But everywhere around me were dead ends, so for today I gave up. It seems the frog-people don’t want me to reach the summit of their unholy hill. But perhaps it’s better that way. Maybe my mind would break when faced with the forbidden rituals they must surely carry out here. I’ve seen the wood-rabbit. I’m scared enough and don’t want to end up turned into kindling.

Next week and for the next Golden Coin I shall explore another mountain. Gamers everywhere: it’s summer! Or not monsoon season, whatever! I challenge all of you to spend five hours a week outdoors, walk or hike at least 10 kilometers and play for just one hour. But while outside. Obviously.

And if you uncover signs of ancient cults, purify them in the usual way. Let’s keep everyone safe.

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