Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: Looking for Touch in All the Wrong Places

Russ Pitts | 3 Mar 2008 17:00
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I'll be perfectly honest: I don't do handheld gaming. The screens are too small, the devices are too large and I remain convinced the experiences to be had on handhelds are - at best - watered-down versions of those to be had on other, TV-based platforms. And playing games on my big screen TV doesn't remind me of the fact my eyes are more than three decades old and getting older.

Also, I don't take public transportation, so I don't have much occasion to play games away from my more comfortable gaming setup. And I don't believe in playing games on the toilet. I know some of you do; don't pretend. I've heard the clicks and bleeps in the stall next to me. But I don't do it. The idea of holding the thing in my hands again afterwards ... no thank you. So I don't do handheld gaming.

Except now I apparently do.

The one place I ever seriously considered playing with a handheld device is on the airplane. And I've been spending a lot of time on those of late, from family reunions to game conventions. My former SOP was reading a book on the long flights to anywhere from North Carolina, but I'm so particular about what I read I expended my ammunition of interesting reads some time late last year. Plus, sometimes you just don't want to read a book. Or at least I don't.

Magazines are great for a while, but even Esquire gets tedious after the initial ascent, and Runner's World only contains so many insights. I can't write on planes, so that's out. Not sure why, but part of the reason is the nearness of so many other people. I get squidgy writing in the office with the occasional passing co-worker peering over my shoulder, so pouring out my deepest thoughts while a total stranger sits a millimeter to my left breathing my air is a bit overwhelming. Anything written in that environment inevitably turns into:

allworkandnoplaymakesjackadullboy. allworkandnoplaymakesjackadullboy. allworkandnoplaymakesjackadullboy allworjkandnoplaymakesjackadullboy. allworkandnoplaymakesjackadullboy.allworkandnoplaymakesjackadullboy.

So this winter, with a number of flights still on my schedule and very little entertainment in my carryon bag with which to pass the time, I turned to handheld gaming. Or tried to anyway. Inspired by my successes with Puzzle Quest on the Xbox 360, I figured that would be a perfect point of entry into the DS. Trouble was I couldn't find a Nintendo DS to save my life. So I borrowed one. This worked perfectly until I had to give it back. Suddenly I was ruing the fact I'd waited until everyone else and their monkey decided to buy a DS to buy one of my own. Thank Vishnu for the internet.

Utilizing a service designed to alert you the exact moment a particular item goes on sale at any of a number of online retailers, my lovely assistant found me exactly what I was looking for just in time to take it on the plane with me to D.I.C.E. last month. To celebrate, I bought Chibi Robo: Park Patrol.

First, a word about Wal-Mart. You may not be aware (I wasn't), but Chibi Robo: Park Patrol is a Wal-Mart exclusive, meaning you can't buy it anywhere else. Meaning, if you want to buy it you have to go to Wal-Mart. No, I'm not kidding. I wish I were. Yes, I'll get to why I wanted that particular game in a minute. For now: Wal-Mart. Focus.

Just like I don't do handheld gaming, I don't do Wal-Mart. Yes, I know everything is cheaper there, and yes, I know they have everything. But I don't shop there. What can I say, I'm a snob. I don't mind paying a few extra dollars to not feel like I'm buying house wares in a third-world country. And don't even get me started on the food. If you're buying food at Wal-Mart, it's time to seriously reevaluate your priorities.. Nevertheless, I wanted Chibi Robo: Park Patrol, and I didn't want to wait for delivery from the online store. So I had to go. I won't lie, I carried a knife.

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