I first met "Bob" about five years ago. His mother dropped him off one morning at the not-yet-rebranded FuncoLand where I worked, and he came in to scour the Gameboy Advance games behind the glass for new arrivals.
Bob was not your typical GBA fan. He was about 40 years old and balding. Childlike, is how I would describe him. He had the demeanor of an intelligent 10-year-old boy: energetic, fanatical about his interests, and completely without guile or tact.
Although when I say "interests," I really mean "interest." Bob loved the GBA more than anyone I have known. Later, when I had come to know him better, I asked him if he had any interest in any of the newer consoles hitting the market.
"Well," he said, "the PS2 has some really good games, but you can't take it with you. And I've seen the graphics on the XBox, and they're great, but you can't take it with you, you know? You can only play it at home."
Sometimes as gamers, we get wrapped up in debates over console control schemes, or bits 'n pixels, or game libraries. But for Bob, his criterion was simple: can you take it with you?
At first, I wondered if Bob's devotion was financially motivated. Maybe all he had was a GBA, so there too did his loyalties lie. But Bob was a frequent enough game -- and especially accessory -- purchaser that this theory gradually proved untenable. Although Bob didn't drive and he lived with his mother, he did have disposable income from his job at the gas station. The day I knew that he had a connection with the GBA that I would never fully appreciate was the day he called the store about the GBA TV Tuner
Apparently Bob had been tracking the GBA TV tuner for quite some time, waiting for its North American distribution by Pelican (he knew all this when he called). If I had known what an RSS feed was in 2002, I would have sworn that he had one linked into GameStop's GBA database. So he began calling. Weekly, at first. Then more frequently. He wanted to discuss the state of GBA accessory releases in Japan vs. the US. He had also been calling the local Nintendo representative and Pelican Accessories. Although I had been unsure what to think of Bob at first, I had grown to like him, and looked forward to presenting him the GBA TV Tuner he had pre-ordered two months in advance.
Then the unthinkable happened. Release date delayed, no future date announced. Phone calls from Bob. Lots. A kid in the backseat, kicking your seat and saying, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" except "Is it there yet? Is it there yet?" I did my best to console him, and that would work -- for a little while. At different points, a coworker and I both snapped at him. It was like kicking a puppy for chewing on your shoes. Like the puppy, Bob backed off, the trust in his eyes replaced by wariness.
Weeks later: immediately after pulling the GBA TV tuner from its shipping box, I called Bob. His mom dropped him off to pick it up that afternoon. After he put the tuner through the wringer for a few days, he came in to report. "It's kind of a small screen for TV, but now I can take it with me."
I like to think that wherever Bob is now, he still has a special connection with the GBA. But love can be ephemeral, and gadget love even moreso. Maybe Bob replaced the GBA with a GBA SP, and then a shiny DS. I can't blame him. It plays his vast library of GBA games, and has new ones to boot.
Oh, yeah. And you can take it with you.