Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Would You Like That Supersized? – DSi XL and Social Gaming

I love portable gaming. Love it. Over the years, I've probably owned about every iteration of the Game Boy (minus the Micro, and even then I was eying it for a while), and have absolutely loved my DS Lite. That is, until this last summer, when it went MIA.

I can't even think what happened to it. I told myself it was under my dresser for the longest time, but when I moved out of my room completely (my brother inherited it) it wasn't there. I was saddened. That sucker went everywhere with me: Italy, Japan, Salt Lake City for the Warped Tour, my entire then-present Carroll career (I remember sitting in my room freshman year, playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance because Eugene and I didn't have a TV), everywhere. My only hope is that it's found greener pastures now, because it is sorely missed. Hell, I want to pour out a little liquor for it right now.

Goodbye, dear friend. You are truly missed.

I've been holding off buying a new one for a while now, partly because

  1. I've been holding out hope that I will magically find it every time I go back to my parents' house (I feel like the boyfriend who's still waiting for his old beau to walk back through that door "any day now")
  2. In truth, I hadn't really used it that much in the months leading up to its disappearance, and I didn't really want to buy the thing and not use it
  3. I'm a college student, and have only so much disposable income (see part b for why this would affect my buying judgment)

I've scoped out other models at pawn shops (for excellent prices, might I add), but I haven't been able to push myself into buying one again.

With the recent release of the DSi XL, though, I've started having thoughts about repurchasing my lost companion. This comes largely from my reading habits; with the launch of new Nintendo hardware comes an inevitable tidal wave of "review" or "impressions" articles from various gaming and tech website, which I happen to frequent. Still, there is one thing I gleaned from those articles that has been starting to take hold in my mind: the DSi XL's potential for social gaming.

DS Lite (left) and the DSi XL (right). The thing is enormous; its screen is supposed to be almost twice as big.

Keep in mind, when I say social gaming, I mean not that others will be able to play with you, but that others will be able to experience the game you are playing with you. This is made possible by the XL's massive screens (seriously, they're freakin' huge!) and the greatly-increased viewing angle that comes with them (meaning that it's way easier to look over someone's shoulder and see what they're doing).

I mentioned my love of portable gaming. I also love social gaming. Some of my favorite memories are of playing Rock Band with a bunch of buddies or throwing down at a great big Goldeneye multiplayer party, and I am part of the camp that thinks WATCHING someone play games is underrated. I love sharing things I enjoy, and it only stands to reason that I would want to share my gaming experience with others.

Therefore, this combination of taking my games everywhere and inviting people to be interested in those games (potentially) is an intriguing one for me. Part of the reason I think I wasn't using my DS very much is because I often felt like I was excluding people from my presence whenever I used it. I have reached an age where people are no longer curious about what game I'm playing (lamentable, but them's the breaks), and I always felt guilty about shutting people out whenever I was gaming on the go. Hence the slowing-down of usage.

The XL is aimed mostly at older people (grandparents, etc) who may not have the eyesight required to squint at a tiny screen for hours on end. Hey, makes sense to me.

While I don't think that the DSi XL will magically make people gravitate towards my piece of handheld plastic, I do think that the potential exists for someone to want to sneak a peek at what might be going on in my hot little hands (for much of the same reason that people snoop out the cover of the book you're reading: the thing is huge enough to notice, and you might as well check it out). And that potential is enough for me to be confident enough to bring out my device of choice in public again.

Of course, the big obstacle at this point is price: the DSi XL retails for $189.99, which is a BIG chunk of change for something I will use pretty casually (not to mention that I have a large stack of games going unplayed as we speak). The pawn shop DS Lites I found have gone for about $80, meaning that I would face a price hike of more than a hundred bucks if I were to jump on this thing.

Still, I have a feeling that it would be pretty worth it to go for the XL: the screens are bigger, all reports indicate that it simply feels better to handle, and the platform sounds more usable in a group setting. With my family's upcoming trip to China on the horizon (which prompts an immediate excuse for the purchase of a portable gaming device), I think I'll have to set aside some money so that I can enjoy gaming on the go once again.

Anyone purchased a DSi XL and can tell me about it? Have any thoughts on the topics of portable or social gaming. Sound off in the comment section below! I would love to see what your ideas are on this subject that is close to my heart.

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