Why the Nintendo Game Boy relied on those weird “green graphics”
However, it’s not entirely accurate to blame the Game Boy’s green screen on the idea that there simply weren’t better alternatives available at the time. After all, the Atari Lynx handheld gaming device was released in the same year, and its screen supports color graphics. Nor can you say that Nintendo was unaware of the existence of this technology. The creators of the Handy Game device (which eventually became the Atari Lynx) tried to buy their technology from Nintendo (as well as other major game companies), so Nintendo obviously knew there was more advanced alternatives that offered much more power and more advanced. visuals.
There’s a big difference between “power” and “convenience,” however, and understanding the difference between these concepts is key to understanding the philosophy behind the Game Boy’s green screen.
You see, Game Boy designer Gunpei Yokoi and other key members of the Game Boy design team were all keen on keeping things cheap and practical. I know that sounds like something companies say whenever they want to justify maximizing their profits and fooling consumers in the process, but that wasn’t the case here.
In fact, the Game Boy team rightly recognized that handheld gaming devices of this era had to be simple to be user-friendly. After all, the Game Gear and Atari Lynx may have been more technologically advanced, but their base costs were significantly higher. More importantly, these handheld devices required more batteries and a “vaunted” battery life that was atrocious even by the standards of that time. It’s also hard to call the Game Boy a cheap console with a straight face. Many of the original Game Boys still work today, and there’s still that famous story of the Game Boy surviving a Gulf War bombing. These things were built to last.
More importantly, Yokoi was a strong proponent of a design philosophy commonly referred to as “Withered Technology Lateral Thinking”. Basically, he believed that Nintendo was often in a better position to find new ways to use older, cheaper, and more proven technology than they were trying to deal with the costly growing pains of discovering new technology. His beliefs on this weren’t always popular (the Game Boy was even mocked internally at Nintendo for its low power and simple design concepts), but they obviously worked in favor of the Game Boy. Incidentally, Nintendo still uses elements of this design philosophy to this day.
All of this helps explain why the designers of the Game Boy didn’t even try to come up with color graphics, but why did they settle on that weird green screen? Well, there are really two good answers to this question.