Handheld Systems – “I don’t get it”
Author :        Date : 13-Feb-09

With my console collection pretty much fleshed out I have decided to take the plunge into collecting handheld systems. This is an area within the video gaming field that I have totally neglected, almost to the point of refusing to recognize their existence. I have never understood the attraction to this method of gaming. Some of my peers might even say that I am a bit of a snob and view these as ‘half-breeds’, kid toys or worse. Upon reflection, I guess I am rather arrogant when comparing ‘true’ consoles to these half-pint counterparts (yes – the pun was intentional). Well, after repeated urging (beatings) from others and hearing from them that “I just don’t get it”, I took the initiative to learn more about these little guys.

After doing a little investigation and with the help of my friends at RF Generation, I was able to compile a list of handheld systems to ‘target’ for my collection. It was now time to do some self-education prior to making any purchases so that I do not repeat the same mistakes that I made early on when collecting consoles (and hence had to replace). This task is right up my power alley.

To my pleasant surprise I discovered that the great diversity that I know to be fact in my experience with collecting consoles is equally true with these handheld units – technology, functionality, package variations, etc. Once again – a home run in my interests as a collector. What struck me were the wide use of face plating andor various color of the actual handheld hardware chassis.

Most of the handheld manufacturers utilized this strategy, regardless of the era their respective system was released – the majority of console developers did not (Nintendo 64 & the Nintendo Game Cube among the few exceptions). My only guess for this difference is that handhelds are designed marketed to also be a personal expression of the respective owner. The target audience seems to be rather diverse compared to perspective console owners. However, I still can not apprehend this pseudo-emotional attachment to a gaming device that companies try to sell to the consumer. I fully admit that I am an old school gamer and that may be the reason "I just don’t get it".

Backward compatibility seems to be a pretty consistent offering in handheld units as a whole – much more so than in consoles. Improvements in providing additional multimedia functions and networking capabilities usually appear within a year or so after their initial debut in ‘big brothers’ hardware. Certain handheld systems have even been at the forefront of technology by including text messaging, PDA, MP3 playback and other applications. If I didn’t have a cell phone or computer, I would have to admit this is pretty impressive. That leaves us to the core purpose of any hardware – the gaming experience.

There is no comparison in this area – console games blow away the handheld’s by a mile. There is no reason why they shouldn’t with the space available for technology in a standard hardware chassis. I fully agree that the portable system offers many conveniences. But why would I want to play a sub standard game on a tiny screen (as the default) when I can kick back in my lounge chair and experience much better on my big screen from my console? This is another area that "I just don’t get it".

Overall, my initial investigation into this area leads me to believe that I really haven’t been missing out on much in this handheld area. Obviously this is my personal opinion and is based upon my needslikes as a gamer and my experience with the nine (9) handheld systems I have acquired. Sure, I think the manufacturers’ ability to squeeze in the massive amount of technology into that tiny package is extraordinary. And yes, as admitted before, I am an old gamer who prefers to use other devices (like a cell phone) to perform some of the extra networking multimedia functions that are pretty standard on today’s handheld units. I like my games displayed on my big screen TV (my eye doctor did warn me that bifocals are close to being a required reality for me). Maybe I am over the hill – who knows. What I do know is that even after researching this field and playing games on these mighty-mites….

"I still don’t get it."

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