Monday, March 28, 2011

The Nintendo 3DS: Holding A World In Your Hands

There's this moment after the unboxing, a moment when you're holding a children's toy in your hands, a moment when you look into the screen and see another world.

That moment is magic.

It's all inside the screen, a little diorama of other worlds. It's something that simply never existed until now, something that until very recently seemed like a moment out of a science fiction movie. It's not an exaggeration to say that when I first had that moment, when I first saw the tiny world deep inside the screen, I was overwhelmed. As someone who has a deep affection for technology and what it has meant to my life, it was singular and wonderful. I was looking at a dream made whole.

You require details, of course, and I will provide them. The details, though, are dry, and there is nothing dry about this tiny toy, this provider of worlds.

Nothing dry at all.

I spent several hours yesterday and today investigating the 3DS, thinking about what it was and what it meant. Eli 9.7, on the other hand, began playing immediately. "Dad, this is AWESOME," he said, taking a run through a Pilotwings course. It was new for him, but not amazingly so, as he is an adept consumer of the electronic world, and has no knowledge of any age before Wonder.

He rates it highly, this new future. He spent an hour making various Miis, noting that the ability to take a real picture and have it translated into a Mii was "wicked", but was disappointed that the machine was unable to recognize our cats' faces and turn them into Miis as well. It seems that at 9.7, the single question he asks is, "How can I use this as a toy?"

A savvy question, one that is not asked nearly often enough as we grow older.

As for myself, I still ask that question, and far more frequently because of him. Still, though, I note the details as I go. The elegant build quality, the snug feeling of the unit in my hands, the marked improvement in the built-in speakers, the smoothness of the analog stick. It's all so complete, this toy.

It is unquestionably true that the launch titles in no way match the wonder of the unit itself. Most of them I consider entirely insubstantial, although certainly that is at least partially due to the exponential growth in my expectations for the machine once I looked inside. However, playing Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars was a tremendous experience, for it let me see what was possible, the ways in which a world could exist deep inside the screen. Maybe no one will remember this game a year from now, but today, it is the future bundled with the future.

I'm nearing a milestone, if birthdays are milestones, because I will be 50 soon. Years from now, though, all I will use that date for is to easily locate the proximity of the launch of this toy, this silly thing, that made me stare in smiling wonder.

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