Back in 1998, Nintendo released a peripheral for its wildly popular Game Boy handheld console—a camera add on.
This being before mobile phones took off, it was an ingenious and fun little thing that seemingly inspired a bunch of modern smartphone crazes.
History of the Game Boy Camera
Nintendo has always been keen to encourage creativity amongst its fanbase.
The company’s leading creative genius, Shigeru Miyamoto, has said as a game designer he provides the tools for gamers to go off and direct their experiences.
As playing games is a creative and intellectual experience (a lot of the time, anyway). You have to think your way around situations constantly.
The 64DD (which only ever came out in Japan) was trying similar things, but this simple concept managed to catch the public’s imagination.
With 1998’s Game Boy Camera, Nintendo went all prescient on us and launched a device that encouraged selfies and other tomfoolery.
Designed by Hirokazu Tanaka, Nintendo’s head honchos weren’t exactly impressed to begin with. But after some persuasion, they got behind the thing.
Functioning as a digital camera, you can take pictures of yourself with it. Then jam the pictures into a selection of in-camera games.
With the pictures you take, you can also add stamps and silly cartoon icons all over them.
Sound familiar with other stuff these days? Snapchat? Emojis? Instagram? We didn’t think much of it in 1998, but this thing was tapping into modern crazes decades back!
It was a good fun little device and we remember getting a bit addicted to it.
You slot the camera into the back of the Game Boy like a normal game cartridge. And you can swivel the bulbous camera on the top 180°.
You could also get a printer with the device and, yes, print off the images on thermal paper.
These came out as a little sticker, so you could bung your favourite pictures all over the place (such as on your forehead).
Bizarre 1990s commercials aside, the thing had a lot of fancy features:
- Delay timer.
- Time lapse.
- Trick lenses (such as mirroring and scaling).
- Combining images to make animations.
With room for an incredible 30 pictures, and focal distance of the lens at 20cm, this thing was cutting edge shizzles.
This beast was packing 640×480 resolution and an 8-bit colour capacity!
You also get a bunch of minigames you can impose pictures of yourself onto. If you want. These are:
- Space Fever II (a standard space shooter).
- Ball (a juggling game).
- DJ (a kind of open-ended music game).
- Run! Run! Run! (a very bizarre thing).
It’s a bit weird seeing your moronic face imposed on these things, to be honest, as you play along. But good fun when you’re a kid (or a grown up kid).
At the time, this was the world’s smallest digital camera. The technology may seem primitive now, but it was pretty incredible in 1998.
We remember trying to record us playing Goldeneye 007 using the Game Boy Camera and taking pictures of the game in action.
“The Game Boy could totally do Goldeneye!” Said our mate Phil.
All these years on, what we’re stressing here is this was a generation without the internet or smartphones.
Well, we had dial-up internet. But it was was slow and expensive. And mobile phones were around, but they were slow and expensive.
Basically, they were there. Just in their infancy. And our lives weren’t totally dominated by them.
Hey ho, the world moves on! But have the times really changed that much?
In 1998, Nintendo caused a selfie craze. Decades later, the first thing 99% of us do is wake up each morning and take a selfie. Who’s to blame? Vanity.