Five years ago, in February 2017, I just decided to move to the country. I moved out of the ridiculously expensive London apartment I shared with two others the previous year, to travel the world a bit and generally a lot. in my 20s. I mostly jump from couch to couch, staying with generous friends, here and there, which gives me the freedom to go to conferences and conventions in unfamiliar locales without having to worry about rent.
In other words, it’s the perfect time for a home-and-handle combo – and I’ve come to the perfect place, too.
A week before the release of the Nintendo Switch, I went to San Francisco for the first time to attend the Game Developers Conference, and the attendees were given a standing ovation. palpable. The Switch will release on the last day of GDC, which means anyone with a talk or a game to show on March 3 is basically done. It’s also a Friday, which gives everything an end-of-school vibe.
GDC is essentially the game developer’s social event of the year, much like The One Ball Where People Get Married in Jane Austen’s novels. Developers from around the world come to San Francisco’s Moscone Center, whether it’s networking and streaming images, showcasing their games, attending and speaking, or demonstrating demos.
Some of the biggest names in gaming were there, from Double Fine’s Tim Schafer to Arkane’s Harvey Smith, plus basically any independent person who can afford travel, bedding sleep and eat in one of the most expensive cities in America. Investing in a week in San Francisco while GDC is happening can make or break the game, because if you play your cards right, you have a chance to meet people who can get you millions. Sponsor dollars with just a handshake. It is a crazy week. You don’t even have to buy a ticket to the event – just get to the right city at the right time, which is good, as tickets cost between $300 and $2,000. (There’s a lot to be said about how completely exclude and limit this way of doing business, but that’s for another time.)
All of this means that I, through a series of coincidences, choices, and peer pressure, ended up arriving in San Francisco at the same time as the people driving and changing the game industry, in that glorious and shining week also coincidentally the launch of the Nintendo Switch, a console that would change my life in some pretty significant ways.
Some game developers at GDC No doubt about it had developer kits, but they were bound to secrecy by the harsh embargoes and embargoes of Nintendo lore; The rest of us, despite trying to develop the game and all its woes, are just as excited as the usual nerds. A few people were meant to go to Target or GameStop or wherever Americans usually buy their consoles for their midnight launch, but I didn’t join them. After all, I don’t have a permanent address – so why would I buy a home console, even if it’s a hybrid?
Instead, I enjoyed the Switch vicariously for the first week of its life. At the dormitory many of us were staying in, someone hooked up their brand new TV to the only shared TV in the common area, and we were all crammed into the small, empty movie room. This window to sit on the beanbag and see the first hour of the Breath of the Wild.
Forgive me for being extremely upset and perhaps small hyperbolic here, but the Switch changed the game world in its time – and the game developers’ presence makes it even more exciting. Link stepping out of the cave to the bright sunshine of Hyrule after 100 years felt poignant, as if it were a metaphor for we move from Nintendo’s disappointing Wii U era to something new, unknown, and full of possibilities. For the first few minutes, we were all like children again, and then quickly everyone in the room seemed to simultaneously remember that we can also make games like this.
(In case you’re thinking “haven’t you told this story?” You’re right – I talked about it in my article on making the Switch a perfect companion!)
No wonder we all felt like children in that moment. For the first time in a long time, the Switch feels like a toy, as the console has slowly moved away from its reputation as Things For Kids and towards luxury gadgets for Adults. The Wii U is Nintendo’s attempt to try to break into that market, and no one really wants that – so the Switch is them going back to home, accepting their position as “the Merry Uncle” and do it all.
The possibilities for indie games were clear from the start with a great launch game Snipperclips, manages to capture the home game feel from the Wii era while bringing it into the modern era. It was presented perfectly and it was received perfectly, as people gathered in groups to play the game, instantly making everyone want to buy their own Switch. In fact, it sold itself, and for the game developers, that was all it took to convince them to join as well.
I forgot who was in that room at exactly but the people I met that year at GDC would go on to make games like Celeste, Flinthook, Beast Breaker, Untitled Goose Gameand Wargroove, all of which showcase the Switch’s capabilities. Yes, we’ve got some great first-party games, from Breath of the Wild to Super Mario Odysseyand about fifty more Pokémon games… but what I will miss most about the Switch is the breadth and depth of the releases.
It’s amazing to think that I’ve spent the first week of the Switch surrounded by game developers who will continue to help define what the Switch will be. In that moment, none of us knew what would happen from this shiny new rectangle, but quickly realized that its potential was enormous and we all wanted to be a part of it. its.
It was only a week or two after that first magical day before I bought my own Switch. It didn’t last the full five years. Even if I spend 8 hours a day playing Skyrim for the first time (!) or I’m poking my head in Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island to check things out, there’s always something to do.
The switch defined the last five years of my life, just as it defined a trip to San Francisco with a bunch of other dorks. I might not have appreciated it at the time, but there’s no better place to launch the Switch – and no better place for a console that’s going to be something indie and studios alike. AAA can also rally around.
Thanks for the memories, Switch! I hope I’m somewhere equally exciting for the next launch.