The Game Boy was hugely influential in the game industry, playing its part in bringing video games into the mainstream. It’s still very much loved despite its limitations, from its basic specifications that restricted the scope of its games, down to the modest screen. Those limitations, though, can be a strength in the right hands.
That’s highlighted rather nicely in the tweet below from pixel artist Klas Benjaminsson, showcasing some works produced on Nintendo’s classic portable.
As you can see in the tweet’s details, these images are part of the ‘Memory Limits’ exhibition at Vapriikki Museum Centre in Tampere, Finland. The exhibition sadly draws to a close soon, on 6th June, and it’s had an interesting approach to showcasing artwork. Featuring work from nine artists, it’s designed to highlight the power of platforms like Game Boy to fire the imagination and inspire players.
For an entire generation of children growing up in the 90s, the Game Boy was their very own ‘personal computer’. It was not just another piece of hardware, but their first private screen on which adventures could be had, often without the interference of parents. On the schoolyard with friends, or under a blanket with a flashlight, worlds could be discovered on its small and dim 4-colour display. All you needed was a bit of imagination to bring these pixelated realms to life.
Playing is never a one-directional act of consumption. A good game impresses itself on the mind of the player. It is taken in and transformed, and it tickles the imagination of the one playing it. The magic of the Game Boy inspired children to fill in the gaps that games did not want to express, to dream up their own worlds and to express their own ideas. For some, these experiences sparked a career in art.
Memory Limits brings this full circle. For each of our nine artists, the Game Boy becomes the medium for their individual ideas, stories and visions. They have created artworks, one pixel at a time, that are running as software on the original, old hardware. The Game Boy may or may not be part of each artist’s history, but through its plastic lens it becomes our window into their memories.
Many of us won’t be able to go and see the exhibition, but it seems like a terrific idea that will hopefully be recreated in the future at more locations. Let us know what you think, as always, in the comments.