Gaming has been ingrained in my life since childhood. My journey started alongside my sister, who ruled the NES while I eagerly awaited my turn, and was promised a chance after she’d lost all her lives. We then got the SNES with Super Mario All-Stars, sans Super Mario World. It brought fresher graphics but the same beloved Mario games—with the added bonus of more playtime for me. With a decade’s gap between me and my sister, her retro gaming interest waned as it became my consuming passion.
The Good Ol’ Days
My parents recognized this love for gaming and gifted me a transparent GameBoy Color with Pokemon Yellow and Rugrats the Movie in first grade. I still attribute my early reading skills to playing Pokemon, whether at the mall while my family shopped or during car rides under the fleeting glow of passing streetlights.
Gaming memories are amongst my most cherished: discovering the cuss words in Conker’s Bad Fur Day at a friend’s house, staying up all night on Christmas nights playing Simpsons Hit and Run on the Gamecube with my sister who had become too cool for her little brother, marathon sessions of Rock Band until my fingers numbed and eyes burned, and the endless hunt for batteries to power my GameBoy during road trips.
During high school, I aligned my gaming choices with my friends, transitioning from Nintendo to Xbox. The allure of RPGs and whimsical platformers faded as I delved into titles like Madden, NBA 2K, Call of Duty, and NCAA Football. This trend persisted
through high school, college, and beyond, with gaming losing its spark, my Xbox becoming more of a streaming device once I moved in with my current wife.
Growing Up Gaming
I remember asking my class what they did over the weekend (I am a teacher) when a student’s mention of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch at work reignited my dormant Nintendo love. This prompted research, leading to an impulsive addition of the Switch to our wedding registry. Post-wedding, I remember unboxing the Switch and couldn’t believe how it felt. I rushed to the store and bought Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8, and Zelda, It felt like revisiting my childhood—rediscovering a lost joy.
I became a bit of a Nintendo fanboy at the time and was watching videos about gaming news and mainly Switch news. Then I ended up following creators like Beatemups, SpawnWave, RGT85, and WulfDen. I remember seeing a weird thumbnail of a wooden-looking GameBoy posted by WulfDen, so I watched it. It was about something called an RG351V and it could play games up to PlayStation.
Retro Handheld…What’s That?
He recommended checking out someone called Retro Game Corps so I went over to that channel. I watched his review of the device and watched his setup guide and had to have this thing. It was May and a week before my birthday when I found this device, so I ordered it off of Amazon and went to Walmart to find SD cards.
I remember watching that guide over and over until I got it right. Now I had this funny-looking faux-wood GameBoy that could play the games from my childhood and more. I could play all the games I have ever heard about, I could finally see if Mew was hidden under that truck by the SS Anne. Life was good.
This Retro Game Corps guy had wormed his way into my brain. He had such a relaxing voice that I just kept watching his videos about all these weird devices. I was trying to figure out what in the world the names meant – 351P, V90, rock chipsets?
I was so lost but also so eager to learn more, then saw that Russ, from Retro Game Corps was going to be on a podcast for Retro Handhelds. Soon I listened while cleaning up the house and they talked about their Discord so I figured out what my old login was. I had joined Discord previously to read news about Blink 182, but couldn’t figure out the app. Now I was in and was determined.
I found something called Game of the Month and there was a list of 3 games you could play and talk about. I remember joining really late and blitzed through Dr. Slump in days to beat it and use that to introduce myself to these internet strangers.
Before I knew it, I was enveloped in this community, playing games, and sharing experiences in a digital book club setting. My nomination for Legend of the River King won a couple of months later, a moment of pride conversing about it with these internet strangers who felt like companions.
Throughout the year, my RG351V witnessed countless games, adorned with PSX buttons and GBA screen bezels in a bid to make it “cool.” But beyond the aesthetics, it brought back a joy long absent from my gaming life. That fake wooden GameBoy got played so much that the B button wore out and was hard to press from having played Star Ocean on it.
I felt like I was part of a community and was excited to open my phone and discuss games with these people. I remember someone posting some music they created and I thought it was great, little did I know at the time that it was Stubborn Pixel (Stubbs) and he was the granddaddy of the whole thing. Everyone knows that mods can be mean or be jerks, but every mod at RH felt like a friend to me.
Stubbs was always so fun and kind, Thor and I would bond about Indiana, Rapid would geek out with me on so many topics, eems would make the most awesome GameBoys (he even made one for me that I still cherish and play daily now). This was a special place.
A Gaming Grand Prize
A pivotal moment arrived at the year-end handheld giveaway. An announcement sent my heart racing—I’d won the grand prize, a Nintendo Switch OLED or the unreleased AYN Odin. I yearned for the Odin, barely containing my excitement while waking my wife to share the news, and I was answered with an unenthusiastic grunt.
The Odin opened up so many doors for me in the hobby of experimenting with different consoles and Android. Over the years following I have bought and parted ways with so many handhelds. I have made some great friendships and look forward to logging into Discord to talk to them. I have even found myself as a mod here and even writing articles like I
am right now. I have found myself another family and it is all thanks to this fake wooden GameBoy, the RG351V.
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