In collaboration with Plays.org| Ever since I can remember, gaming has always been a key part of my travels and holidays. My first ever console, a purple Game Boy Colour, was packed into my hand luggage on both holidays abroad and staycations (or holidays from East London to Devon for those of you with an issue with the word) and I can still remember booting up Pokémon Gold at the start of the journey. You’d think with two straight hours of gaming during a flight, or a four hour drive, I’d have completed it, but no, I never managed it. In all my travel gaming opportunities, I only ever finished a handful of games.
Buying a new game was akin to buying a new bikini. My brother and I were taken to the little game shop on East Ham high street (which now no longer exists) to get a new Game Boy Colour cartridge, and could spend hours staring at the wall of colourful boxes. Pokémon Blue, Pokémon Pinball, Pokémon Gold, Pokémon Silver (can you guess what we were obsessed with as kids?), SpongeBob SquarePants: Legend of the Lost Spatula, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Shrek: Fairytale Freakdown. Can you smell the nostalgia?
In all honesty, it’s one of my earliest memories of travel, and I can still fondly remember the feeling of excitement bubbling inside. We weren’t allowed to play the new game until the holiday started. It was like summer Christmas!
Don’t mistake me though, we didn’t spend our whole holiday gaming – our mum would never let us. We did spend time playing in the pool, visiting historical places, hitting water parks. We never had our consoles out with us on day trips or in restaurants, and we never wanted them. They were for down time: journeys, flights, airport delays, waiting for my mum to do her hair, during the dodgy evening entertainment.
For us millennials, it’s quite easy for us to want to reject everything we did as kids, to think we are better than our parents. Screen time is bad. Live in the moment. We need to remember that everything is fine in moderation. We turned out okay, didn’t we?
Christmas of 2003, we upgraded to a Game Boy Advance SP. Remember the square foldable ones? I was 11, my brother was 8, and we acquired a new haul of games. Still, we packed our consoles into our bags, and I remember playing Sims 2 – Busting Out on a flight. Only a year later Nintendo released the DS, but I didn’t commit to one until a few years on. Teenage years had hit, and I was suddenly less interested in gaming, and more interested in MP3 players and boys. Having said that, I did spend a lot of time on online gaming platforms when I was meant to be working in the computer suite at school! I’m sure all of us spent an hour playing something like Endless Siege when we should have been doing coursework.
We also had a break in foreign holidays. I didn’t go abroad from about 15 to 18 – it wasn’t cool to go abroad with my family any more. School trips had taken precedent for me and my brother. My mum was studying. We went on UK holidays instead. My Game Boy was packed away, not to see light of day for years. Then my brother got his first Xbox 360 around 2010, and I suddenly became interested again. How? Fallout 3.
I was obsessed! But you can’t take a whole Xbox on holiday with you, can you?
My travel gaming habits soon moved over to mobile gaming. With the introduction of Pokémon Go, I was wandering around European cities trying to catch animals. Or I was channelling my inner chef with some sort of restaurant simulation game.
Then we got a Switch, and on a family holiday to Lanzarote in April 2019, we hooked the console up to the TV and spent the holiday ‘Cocktail Hour’ – you know, that time between about 4pm and 7pm, post pool, pre dinner, where you get ready for the night – playing Mario Kart.
Now, habits have changed. No one carries handheld consoles around any more. All of us have a laptop, a macbook, or a tablet, which we tend to carry around instead. Modern habits are to download movies, or stream TV shows. Hotels tend to have pretty good WiFi, so we don’t need to take a whole console away with us anymore.
So when we travel now, how do we get that gaming fix in our holiday down time? There are still online platforms that are packed with an array of gaming categories. I prefer simulation games where you have to be constantly watching what’s happening, slowly building coins to buy upgrades, like Penguin Café. In this one, for example, you play as a cute, little penguin waitress, in an igloo café, serving all sorts of Arctic and Antarctic animals. If you want an idea of how addictive it is, I may or may not have spent forty-five minutes playing it when I should have been cleaning the house this week…
But playing for forty-five minutes while waiting for your dinner reservation isn’t a problem at all!
Each to their own, of course. If you are a gamer, and miss the stimulation of bright colours on a screen when you’re on holiday, I want to reassure you that there’s nothing wrong with playing on your down time. Some of us read a book (or four), some watch television, some have a nap, some of us game. And some of us like a combination of all of them.
After all, it’s our holiday and we can spend it however we want!
So next time you make it abroad, don’t feel bad if you (or your kids) get lost in a bit of travel gaming. It enhances a holiday rather than ruins it – sit back and enjoy your down time.
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