Okay, let me clarify. The Playdate itself isn’t necessarily essential to the future of the gaming world, but the idea of the Playdate is. The little yellow handheld may not look like the next big thing, and honestly it most likely won’t be nor does it have to be, but this pocket-sized machine is packed with enough pizzazz and panache that its own confidence in what it’s trying to accomplish is enough to push the industry in new directions.
Gaming has continued to grow as the one of the biggest forms of entertainment that we consume, and with that growth it means that more niche, unique ideas have the opportunity to find audiences. Innovation and creativity in any field, in any industry, are the things that excite me the most and the Playdate is an embodiment of that. It feels like something Nintendo would put out and half of the people on the internet would guffaw at the idea, while others would revel with Nintendo for pushing the boundaries of what games can and should be. The Playdate and Panic certainly aren’t garnering as much attention as a company like Nintendo would be, but I’ve still seen small waves of negativity about this plucky little portable and honestly, that utterly confuses me.
Panic isn’t trying to replace your Xbox or gaming PC, it’s simply a fun, creative thing for those that it appeals to. That’s it. It’s a modern day Game & Watch, it’s neat and nifty. It’s meant for a special engagement between you and your device, as the name implies. It’s a new episode of your weekly show, it might not always be the best episode nonetheless you look forward to the following week.
The Playdate is an experiment in hardware and software, that even if it fails, will certainly send specific ripples into the creative depths of the industry and continue to stoke the ingenuity and playfulness that the industry– at its best– thrives on. Although, with creators making things specifically for the machine, this is how things realize their full potential and why I don’t see the Playdate being a failure. There’s a reason why Nintendo developed and published games are usually the best thing on their hardware because they are made with the platforms limitations and unique attributes in mind. It’s why Microsoft and Sony first party games tend to look and play the best on their respective platforms– because they were made for them. Playdate is no different, but also not the same in so many ways.
Curation and oversaturation can oftentimes make finding and discovering new games on any platform a cumbersome task, but since Panic is curating the entire library with known and unheard of developers for their fledgling library, the quality and promise teems with potential. Will every game be for everyone? Most likely not, but the Playdate isn’t built to be that. It can be worrisome in some regard that the success is heavily weighted on the quality of the games that get created for it, but with the library being nurtured from the beginning in this way, I find it hard to believe that everything here will be unworthy of your time.
But that’s not all, the Playdate could usher in a unique sense of community relatively uncommon in the gaming world not only with it’s weekly and seasonal drops of games, but the promise of a budding community of creatives having easy access to create games for the Playdate, and even easier ways to get them onto your device. Since most Playdate owners will most likely be enthusiasts, they’ll theoretically already be ingrained in or have the avenue to seek out other Playdate players looking for these unique communal experiences. Chatting about the new releases weekly, sharing their own or other wonderful developed games they find– the Playdate could easily become one of my fondest times gaming. Just thinking about having thoughtful conversations with my colleagues and friends who decide to purchase this crank-wielding contraption is making my eyes swell up with optimistic tears and a childish smirk pierce my face.
The concept didn’t grab me immediately when it was first revealed, but after more information became available I quickly realized that this was an experience I didn’t want to miss out on as I patiently waited for the day pre-orders went live. I’m enthralled with the idea of having this solitary experience that will be enhanced when chatting with other Playdate owners, a living community of creators keeping the Playdate alive in-between seasons and long after they end, and something unique to play that I cannot find elsewhere. The promise of the Playdate could always not pan out, but the creativity of the platform and nuanced approach to the software will surely impact the industry in the years to come. Either way I am all in on this little lemon square.
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