Buying a Switch at age 28 feels like a win for my childhood self
When we were young, my brother and I always played video games together, until he got a Game Boy and I didn't.
How I Bought That takes a peek inside the process of making a major purchase, whether your budget is big, small, all your own, or supplemented by family and/or financial institutions. In this series, we look at many different spending situations, from how people afforded big purchases like first homes to the Nintendo Switch to splurge-worthy bags.
My brother is four and a half years older than me—and when I was growing up, I wanted to do everything he wanted to do.
Because of him, I’d pick Mighty Max over Polly Pockets any day. I insisted on playing Manhunt with him and his friends, even if that meant hiding in the trunk of our parents’ minivan for three hours. And while all of my friends were listening to the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, I was stealing his Walkman so I could listen to Green Day and Blink 182. (Looking back, it wasn’t particularly age-appropriate material, either.)
We also played a lot of video games together: GoldenEye, Diddy Kong Racing, Resident Evil, Age of Empires, Metal Gear Solid. One summer, we got up every morning at the crack of dawn just so we could work our way through Banjo-Kazooie; we would take turns on the N64 controller for a few hours before our mom made us go out and play—and if that wasn’t enough of a nostalgic image for you, we were both sitting in neon-colored inflatable chairs.
Then, one Christmas in the late ’90s, my brother got a Game Boy, and I got an Easy-Bake Oven.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not accusing my parents of gender typing (I’ve always loved to bake), and I’m not complaining about my obvious privilege. But that Game Boy largely marked the end of my brother’s and my cooperative gaming. Sure, we could take turns playing the Game Boy—and he did share a lot more than the average kid—but it wasn’t really the same when only one of us could see the screen. It felt lonely.
While I always wanted a Game Boy of my own, I never ended up getting one. It seemed like an insurmountable amount of money to save with a prepubescent allowance. And as playing video games became more of an independent activity, my parents started to encourage my other hobbies, like learning the guitar, instead.
From my teens into adulthood, I had formed an association between video games and the comforting memory of quality time with my brother. Now, I’m 28 years old and often play games on a PC. When the Nintendo Switch came out in March 2017, I instantly thought of my childhood and I was very intrigued—it is called the Game Boy of this generation, after all—but I couldn’t really justify spending $500 on a handheld game console when I’d already invested so much time and money into a PC gaming setup.
And then two overlapping events simultaneously changed my mind: the release of the Nintendo Switch Lite and the announcement that most New Yorkers had to stay home in March in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Suddenly, the Nintendo Switch Lite seemed like a much more feasible purchase. While it didn’t have TV projecting capabilities or detachable controllers, it would still allow me to play all digital handheld Nintendo games while on the go—or, realistically, while lying in my bed.
It also had something that the original Game Boy never did: an online mode where you could play collectively with your friends and, more importantly, your siblings. Maybe, if my brother got one, too, we could revive our childhood gaming days even while living apart.
I bit the bullet and ordered it. When it arrived, I plugged it in, set up an account, and downloaded my first game, all before work one morning; then, psyched to start playing, I rushed through all of my writing assignments in just three hours.
I want my 8-year-old self to know: It was worth the wait.
Like most people, I started with 2020’s best-selling game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and I’ve found it to be extremely therapeutic during all of this chaos. Having never played the prior versions, it reminds me of a mix between Pokémon, Minecraft, and The Sims, all games my brother introduced me to. If there was ever a combination so drenched in nostalgia and world-building satisfaction, this would be it. The reward-based journey, soothing aesthetic, and social interaction (whether real or simulated) have been a huge help in terms of managing my mental well-being. Plus, New Horizons just feels safe, like my childhood; unlike other modern-day options, there are minimal retributions and endless lives, which reminds me of simpler games and simpler times with my brother.
While my brother doesn’t have a Switch (yet—Christmas gift idea, perhaps), this console still offers some of the best online games for me to play with people during quarantine, including Mario Kart, Splatoon 2, Overcooked! 2, Jackbox, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It’s not only a way to pass the time, but unlike its handheld predecessors, it’s a way to connect—especially while most of us are still participating in social distancing. So many of my friends are currently using video games as a means of connecting with the family members they can’t physically see, so I hope to take a page from their book in the near future.
I appreciate the Switch Lite because it combines the high-tech features of a modern-day console with all the childhood nostalgia of a Game Boy. What’s more, it couldn’t have come at a better time; it’s offered me satisfaction in a stressful situation and comforting memories of my family when I can’t see them in person. Now all I need is an inflatable neon chair.
If you want to shop your own Nintendo Switch Lite, check it out at GameStop for $199.99.