Nintendo’s newest creation, the Switch, is a visually stunning device – both digitally and physically. Intended to be a portable-console hybrid, you can play it on the go or hook it up to your home TV to enjoy it on the big screen. As such, it possesses hardware surpassing that of its completely portable predecessors – breathing new life into Nintendo’s popular franchises with beautiful, crisp graphics. The device itself is downright, (for lack of a better word), sexy. Its unique controllers (known as Joy-Cons) come in a variety of colours – I chose the neon blue/neon red pairing, making the device vibrant and a delight to hold.
The Switch is special because it redefines ‘multiplayer’ – or rather, what it provides is something more than the ‘multiplayer’ people have come to know and understand. In the present age with growing connectivity over the world, it is a simple affair to boot up a game on your PC/console, connect to the Internet and play together with others all around the globe. ‘Multiplayer’ has never been so global, convenient, and yet, distant. As connected as we are in this new age of ‘multiplayer’, I can’t help but feel something is lacking. It’s just not the same as sitting on a couch together with a bunch of friends and playing together on the same screen. There’s a real sense of ‘community’ there – a sense of being together in the same virtual world. It’s a very human activity – as we shout and scream together, whether cooperating or competing, we are simultaneously fighting together in the game world while hanging out together in reality. There’s something magical about that moment where worlds meet and our bonds themselves cross the boundaries between fantasy and reality.
But most of the time these events only occur around a console at somebody’s home. You can’t bring that world around with you – it’s locked in a place for people to visit together. Of course, there are portable gaming devices you can carry around to play with friends – but those require everyone in the group to own one. Everyone needs to bring their own miniature piece of world – each device is ultimately single-player. Even for home consoles, usually you’ll need to purchase additional controllers before you can play together with friends. And in most cases, whether on portable or console, you’ll be playing local multiplayer with relatives or friends – there isn’t the global connectivity of online multiplayer. The Switch surpasses all of this.
The Switch is a naturally two-player device, though it would be more accurate to say it’s convertible. It comes with two Joy-Cons – when alone, you use both and play with one in each hand. But if someone else comes along, you can change the configuration such that each Joy-Con becomes an individual detached controller. The Switch also has a stand which allows you to prop it on a flat surface so it can function like a small portable TV – visible by both parties. In essence, the Switch is a world, your world, which you can carry around anywhere and everywhere. A little virtual world you can hop into and enjoy on the go. But if you happen to meet someone curious, someone interested in going for a spin inside that little world of yours, you can share it. You can open the doors of your world, let them hop in and have a blast together. This is different from the shared world of consoles. For consoles, the shared world is created and intended for multiple users. When you turn on your PS4 with three of your friends, a world is being generated for the four of you. But the world inside the Switch is one that is yours and yours alone, yet shareable. It’s a very human thing – opening up our individual worlds to another. It’s something we do all the time when we meet new people or travelling in a foreign land. Yet, the Switch has managed to build this act of sharing into gaming, providing a new platform for us to share, one with no boundaries. For there is no language, no race, no nationality, no religion in the virtual world that lies beyond the screen of the Switch – there is just you and your opponent, friends and rivals, fighting or working together. And I think that’s beautiful.
I feel that this is especially important in the current age with so many conflicts arising from differences between people. Even at this very moment, there are people out there, in pain from all the fighting. Humans are stubborn creatures, after all. Despite the suffering we may cause, it’s always easier to cling to one’s beliefs instead of trying to understand another’s. But though it may be idealistic, I believe a day will come when all human beings will finally be able and willing to understand each other. To me, the Switch represents one small step towards that goal. This article was actually inspired by a trailer for an upcoming Switch game where a backpacker was depicted travelling in a foreign country, sharing his world with locals and other foreigners through the Switch. You may call it exaggerative but I think what’s important is the developers at Nintendo conceived this ideology, this philosophy, while creating the device known as the Switch. I am glad people are thinking about sharing and crossing boundaries, especially those in the gaming industry. Because although people may call gaming an affair of no importance, it is a form of media and art that is highly influential in the modern world and I wouldn’t be surprised if the world of the future comes to be one dominated by the arts and entertainment.
All in all, I’m glad I bought my Switch and I hope I too can become an ambassador of worlds with it at my side in the future.
The trailer that inspired this article: