We’ve all got an old console lying around. That old system that used to give us so much joy, but is now just collecting dust. But even if you wanted to play it, it’s not like there are any new games. Right?
GreenBoy Games is the only studio still making physical GameBoy games. Run by Dana, a solo developer from Andorra, the studio’s goal is to “maintain the physical cartridge game”. Dana and I have recently been sharing emails and she has kindly given me an insight into her passion for the GameBoy.
Check out the Kickstarter for her upcoming game The Shapeshifter
The Games That Define Childhood
Most people have that console that they grew up with and remember fondly. For Dana, that console was the GameBoy.
“The GameBoy launch was lived with immense passion and enthusiasm. I remember that I had to save every coin that fell into my hands in order to buy it!
I guess the effort and sacrifice to get a gameboy has contributed to this close relationship.”
One of the first handheld consoles, the GameBoy introduced the world to all-time classic games like Dr Mario and Pokemon Red and Blue. From a young age, Dana has been collecting GameBoy games and now owns the entire GameBoy catalogue. A pretty impressive feat for anyone.
“Before the Internet, buying a cartridge game was not as easy as now, so I think I have always liked difficult challenges. I remember once traveling from Barcelona to Paris to buy a cartridge from a friend of a friend.”
First Learning C and Python 10 years ago, Dana found her passion for making games using the GameBoy Developers Kit (GBDK). Since releasing her first game, Leo Legend in 2018, Dana has made 5 games on physical cartridges which can be purchased on the GreenBoy Games website
Growing up with the GameBoy, as well as classic Lucasarts games like Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, Dana created Where’s My Body?, the first point-and-click adventure game for the GameBoy. The game was funded on Kickstarter, smashing the goal of €4000 and raising over €24,000.
Dana has now made a new Kickstarter for her upcoming game The Shapeshifter. Which contains a stretch goal of €40,000 for an NES port.
Creativity by Restriction
While art can be made from an artist who is not bound by any constraints, it is often that great art can come from an artist who is restricted by these constraints in many ways. For example, Georges Perec’s 1969 novel A Void is a 300-page book that doesn’t contain the letter ‘e’. And Sam Mendes’ 2019 film 1917 is a war story filmed in a single shot.
This idea of creativity by restriction is the basis of GreenBoy Games. For comparison, Toby Fox’s 2015 game Undertale is a pretty small game and contains a total of only 155 Megabytes. One GameBoy game can only be between 32 Kilobytes to 1 Megabyte.
On top of only being 1/155th the size of Undertale, the games can also only use a resolution of 160 x 144 pixels, 4 colours (all a shade of green), 40 objects per screen, 10 objects per line, and only 4 channels for music. There’s a lot of restrictions.
“Believe it or not, the limitations of developing games for Gameboy is what I love the most! My goal at Greenboy games is to make contemporary games for Game Boy (with all its limitations) but that can be enjoyed like current games. It’s a difficult challenge!”
Dana is also selling her games on physical cartridges for the GameBoy instead of just the ROM files. The reason being that her games were designed to be played on a GameBoy and not a computer with 16 cores and an RTX 3090.
“It’s like using a skateboard on an F1 track.”
Making Games for Passion
As most of you could guess, there’s not a huge market for GameBoy titles. There’s certainly plenty of interest to fund a project like this, but not enough for it to be a sustainable business. Fortunately, none of that matters to Dana. This is simply a hobby that she loves doing.
“Greenboy games go at their own pace. I have no interest in running, competing or expanding. The games I develop are for personal satisfaction”
All too often, it feels like we get caught up in the world of the big AAA studios. Thinking about what games make money and what Sony or Microsoft are planning. We always forget that this is a passion-driven industry. Developers like Dana are a beautiful reminder of that love we all share for the consoles of our childhood and the passion that they have to make something that we can all enjoy.
“You can’t make money with it, but you can make a lot of people happy with a new game release. That’s what matters at Greenboy games.”
To anyone interested, please go and check out Dana’s Kickstarter for The Shapeshifter here. And follow GreenBoy Games on Twitter, Instagram, Twitch and Youtube.
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