MAY 1, 2020


I recently held a GameCube controller in my hands, and it made me remember the time in which it came out — a time where it felt like at any moment and with any announcement, technology could change forever.

Thinking about it, it’s clear that video games have always been a good window into the world of technology, ahead of other industries in many ways. I cared about E3 way before I cared about WWDC, I read video game magazines before I ever thought to follow a more wide-ranging publication, and I was introduced to ideas like ‘exclusivity’, ‘brand partnerships’, and ‘hardware update cycles’ by the likes of Nintendo, Sega and Sony before Apple and Google arrived on the scene in full force.

I have always been captivated by announcements of new video game systems. I still am, the PS5 and Xbox Series X look interesting, and I’m so curious to know that the next version of the Nintendo Switch will look like. While PCs remained beige rectangles for two decades, each generation of console (and competitor which entered into the race) brought something incredibly different to the table.

To have been a Nintendo fan in the 90s and 2000s was to watch technology itself evolve, as each system promised not only new power but new ideas. Every console, controller, and game storage medium was different, and gave onlookers so much to marvel at.

The NES was a gray box with a two button controller that took giant rectangular cartridges, bringing something previously stuck in arcades into the home.

The SNES changed it up with a more svelte purple console clearly meant to be displayed instead of hidden away, carts that emphasized the artwork and remained always in view, and an incredible upgrade in terms of graphics and sound.

The N64 went 90s-weird with a dark grey aesthetic (with an optional bright red 'expansion pak' that made you feel like you were tricking out your car with aftermarket parts) and a controller that had three handles in defiance to the fact that humans only have two hands — while of course also bringing video games into three-dimensions.

Let’s stop there for a second. I have a vivid memory of reading about the N64 for the first time. A journalist said that with it, quote, “gaming would never be the same”, and although this is the sort of hyperbolic message that gets rolled out again and again in media…it was kind of true! That’s the power of technology! I simply couldn’t play Mario 64 on my SNES, and at the time of its announcement I honestly couldn’t even fully comprehend what games for the system would look like.

As I read about the N64 I would try and imagine what 3D Nintendo games would feel like. What would a Mario game be when played this way? How about Zelda? I had grown so accustomed to 2-dimensional words that I couldn't help but fantasize about what might come next.

Of course, Nintendo didn’t stop there.

After the N64, the GameCube brought a playful system which compacted the idea of a console into a cube with a handle so you could take it to a friend’s house. It moved away from cartridges but kept it Nintendo-unique by going to minidiscs, and the controller was not only purple (like the system) but just…looked absolutely wild, as if the designers were put off at the idea that the N64 was as crazy as they could get.

I won’t belabor the point, but this continued on and on. The Wii brought motion tracking controls that convinced the world’s septuagenarians to play video games (provided those games were 'Wii Bowling' or 'Wii Golf'), the Wii U added a screen into the controller in a way that still feels innovative, and the Switch turned the entire console into something both handheld and modular.

With each system announcement came the promise that your home would soon hold something new and 'other' that had never yet been created. This promise is so intoxicating! When you get to watch technology evolve in front of your eyes, it means that you begin envisioning what life would be like when release day finally arrived.

As time has gone on, I still get this feeling from new tech announcements, but the company that most often does this for me is no longer Nintendo, but Apple. Do you remember where you were when the original AirPods were first announced? I sure do. Apple announced them while I was on a long trip traveling across Europe, and as someone who had been using headphones more than usual I immediately thought about how useful a wireless pair would be. A day later I took a night-train from one country to the next, and the noise was so loud I used my headphones and a rain machine app to fall asleep. It wasn't particularly comfortable. I couldn’t help but think about how much better the experience would be when I had AirPods; how often I would pop one in my ear for even just a short time to listen to a podcast, take a call, or play some white noise.

I was right.

AirPods have become one of those 'must-have' items that's in my pocket at all times. But, years ago, before it was announced, that space was empty. And this makes me wonder — what empty spaces in my life will soon be answered with a keynote reveal? Only time will tell, but what I know is that each time it happens, I find myself savoring the moment of announcement.