Rub, Wiggle and Blow

Rub, Wiggle and Blow
Portable Soup for the Soul

Tom Endo | 9 Dec 2008 13:18
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Contrast that with the intimate experience a portable game system offers. People sit in bed, on a plane or sprawled out across the floor. The TV is on in the background, somebody is making dinner - life continues as we play. Occasionally we pause and respond to distractions cheerfully, hardly concerned that our concentration has been broken. Is it any wonder that casual games first took off on portable systems? We play a few segments of WarioWare between long commercials and coo ourselves to sleep with the sounds of Electroplankton. Portable systems don't dominate living spaces; they become a part of them.

Hardware manufacturers have tried to force public opinion on portable systems only to see their efforts repeatedly rebuffed. Early on, Nintendo was very much about portable games acting as the younger siblings of proper console releases. Big console games were always ported in one fashion or another to the Game Boy. They went so far as to port Donkey Kong Country's pseudo 3-D, pre-rendered graphics onto the Game Boy's sickly yellow and black screen. Even as late as the initial launch of the DS, Nintendo still showed grand aspirations with perfect ports of Mario 64 and the console imitative Metroid Prime Hunters. But among portable consoles, none has been as ambitious as Sony's PSP in trying to reshape the way people use their devices.

The PSP represented the first major attempt to bring the home entertainment system into the portable realm. Other handhelds had similar ambitions, like NEC's Turbo Express, Atari's Lynx and Sega's Nomad, but none had the force of will (especially financially) that Sony brought to the table. The PSP would serve as a thematic preview of the PS3. A shiny, black monolith of a handheld, the PSP offered nearly current console technology, complete with a widescreen display. The PSP also interacted with the PS3 and Sony's online offerings in a number of unique ways. As an enthusiast's game system, nothing has rivaled it. But three years after its launch, how do most people use their PSP? The demise of the UMD as a movie format indicates that the PSP, like the DS, is still just a game system.

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