The Nintendo DS features touch-screen controls and standard Game Boy controls, plus a screen keyboard and stylus for more-precise touch-screen control.
The first Nintendo Game Boy handheld video-game console became available in 1989, and soon they could be seen in many homes and other places populated by kids.
By the ’90s, it appeared (from a child’s perspective) that every kid had a Game Boy, or wanted one. A decade later, I view the Game Boy as our nation’s first personal digital addiction.
When the original Game Boy kids outgrew Mario and Zelda, their addiction simply adapted to more-adult games, like calendars and to-do lists, contacts and e-mail on a more-adult device called a personal digital assistant.(PDA).
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Today’s Game Boy kids are more tech-savvy than their parents were, and games and Game Boy console are more advanced.
The original Game Boy evolved into the Game Boy Pocket in 1996, the Game Boy Color in 1998 and the Game Boy Advance in 2001. The most-recent upgrade has dropped the Game Boy name, but still plays the Advance games. The new Nintendo DS has added games that take advantage of its updated capabilities.
The Nintendo DS ($150) is quite different from its predecessors. It’s a lot bigger when opened to display a double screen, with the main screen on top and support screen below, stereo speakers, microphone, 802.11b wireless capability for multiplayer games and a chat room for messaging and drawing.
The DS also features touch-screen controls and standard Game Boy controls, plus a screen keyboard and stylus for more-precise touch-screen control.
My 11-year-old daughter served as the chief tester for the DS, and she liked it from the moment she saw the 3-D video teaser from the new “Metroid Prime Hunters” game.
The DS graphics are much better, she says, because they make the characters and their actions look more realistic. She also thinks the double screen helps keep the player from getting lost, as the bottom screen displays a map that provides perspective for the close-up action occurring on the top screen.
I’ve read a few complaints about the DS’ larger size and weight, so I asked if she thought it was too big. She looked at me as if I was joking then shook her head with fingers flying over the standard controls. I asked why she was using the standard controls instead of the touch screen, and she answered that it’s easier and faster to use what she already knows.
Later, while riding in the car that night, my daughter pulled out the DS, started playing then remarked that the backlight is much better than having to attach the worm light she needed to play the Game Boy at night. She also said the backlight helps make the subjects stand out and the colors brighter, even in daylight.
The new DS games she’s been playing are the latest “Super Mario 64 DS” and “Spider-Man 2,” both developed for the DS, and both pretty good, she says. She’s also played her old Game Boy Advance games in the DS, but they don’t have the same high-quality graphics or take advantage of other DS capabilities.
A few of those capabilities that my daughter hasn’t tried include wireless multiplayer gaming and using the chat room.
OK, time for a parent-to-parent intervention. In truth, I almost wish I hadn’t handed over the console to her. She’s been playing for all too many hours. I’m noticing, once again, the tendency to get hooked on it such that she chooses to play it rather than read, draw or pick up any of her other interests.
Of course, I can limit her use, but I was hoping that at 11, she would have outgrown the magnetic power of this interactive toy. Seems that I should reread my own opening paragraphs.
But the weekend passes, and I realize there’s no need to worry. My daughter was caught up in the challenge of learning new Nintendo DS games, then puts the handheld down for other interests.
Nintendo, however, reportedly has plans to recapture kids like her by offering more games that take advantage of the new wireless connectivity, voice recognition and touch-screen capabilities. Plans also include a free Wi-Fi connection service to Nintendo DS owners.
For example, later this year a new game is expected that encourages players to nurture and interact with digital puppies by using voice commands for training and playing with them.
Another game, Electroplankton, reportedly offers a variety of sights and sounds intended to soothe or stimulate players and create harmony rather than adrenaline.
This step away from fast-paced and violent games is positive from a parent’s perspective, and in time we’ll see if the games are popular with kids, too.
Linda’s hard drive died this week, and she’s lost all e-mail sent before Tuesday. If you want her to get your message, please write her again at firstname.lastname@example.org; to read other Getting Started columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/gettingstarted