Let’s talk a little bit about Minecraft. Minecraft is quite possibly the game of the decade, an ubiquitous presence in video games since its 2011 release.
It is, in its simplest form, a game of digital LEGO, where players fashion their own blocky worlds and do whatever they wish. It’s a bona fide phenomenon in video games, embraced fully by a new generation of young video game fans and available on just about every screen capable of playing it. (Just about all of them.) It’s coming to the Nintendo Switch this weekend, and I’ve never really played it for more than a little bit—but now I’m thinking about it. The same way I’m thinking of finally playing last year’s indie success story, the farming/small-town hangout game Stardew Valley, when it comes to Switch this summer.
The Nintendo Switch Has Us Wondering: Should A Grown-Ass Man Play Handheld Games?
I’ve had a Nintendo Switch for two months, and there hasn’t been a video game that’s come out since then that I haven’t wished were on it. I know it’s not technically possible for every game—a lot of modern blockbuster video games require some heavy-duty power to run, more than can fit into the Switch’s skinny frame. But if a game can run on the Switch, I want it there, even if it’s old as hell.
It’s not even because the Switch hasn’t accrued a large library of must-play new games of its own yet—that’s certainly a valid complaint to levy against the console if you’re a hardcore video game player who burns through games all the time and hasn’t missed out on many titles over the last few years. There’s little that’s straight-up new available for the console, and it won’t feel like the system has a fleshed-out, varied library until the holidays at the earliest. Personally, though, I’m okay with that. I want to take my time with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild—still the console’s marquee game—and still haven’t decided I’m done with it. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe—released at the end of last month—is a great new version of a nearly-perfect crowd pleaser that not enough people got to play when it came out on Wii U the first time around.
But the Switch is also great for knocking down a huge psychological threshold
The idea that you can only play big, expansive games when you block out two-hour windows to dive into them. Much like with reading books, making progress in a video game is only really possible as an adult when you stop being precious about it, and squeeze in time when you can. This is why I never gave into the temptation to check out games like Minecraft or Stardew Valley—my time in front of my television is limited, and the stuff I can play there is tremendously varied. Usually there’s another game pulling at my time and attention, something I can only play there. But on a machine I can slide in and out of my living room with? I’m much more eager to play everything. (I recently took it on an international flight, and I have never been more excited to get on an airplane.)
The central promise of the Switch will always be a good one—because games are big, and most of the means we have for playing them limit the kind of games we can play.
Sure, there are annoyances. The Switch’s versatility is a bit less simpler than advertised—there’s some extra plastic and hidden costs to tangle with, and depending on your habits and how you use the thing, it can be a lot to have strewn across your coffee table or arranged neatly in a travel bag. You’ve got a grip for sliding the Switch’s two attached Joy-Con into while the system is docked, so you can use them as one big traditional game controller while playing the Switch on your TV. There are these wrist straps for using the Joy-Con separately in motion-control games that attach the Joy-Con via plastic strips that also happen to make them slightly bigger and more ergonomic, you’ll want to tote those around too if you plan on playing with others.
You’re also gonna want to leave the plastic dock attached to your TV and not fiddle with it at all afterward, only you won’t be able to do that if you plan on charging your Switch while you’re on the go—you’ll have to disconnect the charger from said dock. (Easy enough, but if you, like me, see the dock as a kind of permanent fixture to be left alone, you’ll have to buy a separate charger.) If you have hands anywhere approaching “big”, you’ll probably want a “Pro Controller” that will set you back $70. What’s more, it’s tremendously hard to find a case that isn’t extremely bulky, covered in video game regalia, or gaudy as hell.
A lot of video games aren’t all that big on respecting players’ time, proudly advertising estimated playtimes longer than the entire runs of most ’90s television series. As a result, many great games get overlooked by anyone whose time is at a premium. Game consoles have always been boxes under TVs, or handheld devices that often compromised quality for mobility. The central promise of the Switch will always be a good one, because it’s a solution to a very real problem: Games are big, and the means we have for playing them often limits the kind of games we can play.
Nintendo has made my ideal system in the Switch, but it’ll only be truly great if it irons out a number of kinks (namely, its features for online play and library of classic games) and does everything it can to make sure every game the Switch can possibly run ends up on the device. Because the Switch is where I’ll most want to play it.