In the early days of handheld gaming, it could be quite frustrating when batteries needed to be thrown out and replaced. While modern handhelds like the Nintendo Switch run on rechargeable batteries, those still eventually end up in landfills. That was the inspiration for a new project from researchers at Northwestern University and the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. Their Game Boy-inspired device requires no battery at all, instead converting the user's actions into energy that powers the handheld unit! It also utilizes solar power, and can theoretically work forever. On the university's website, project co-leader Przemyslaw Pawelczak discussed the venture.
“Sustainable gaming will become a reality, and we made a major step in that direction — by getting rid of the battery completely,” said Pawelczak. “With our platform, we want to make a statement that it is possible to make a sustainable gaming system that brings fun and joy to the user.”
It should be noted that this is not an official Nintendo product, but the design is clearly influenced by the original Game Boy. It's not just an aesthetic choice; the project impersonates the original system's processor, allowing it to play original Game Boy cartridges. The project is being called the ENGAGE.
While the ENGAGE sounds amazing, there are some drawbacks. There's no sound, first of all. When there isn't a ton of sunlight, the system will also have one second of gameplay interruption for every 10 seconds of play. For games like Tetris, Chess, and Solitaire, this is a smaller issue. This can be a bigger problem in games that are more action-oriented. However, in order to accommodate for any type of power failure, the system saves at the exact point of a power loss, allowing the player to resume exactly where they left off.
While the ENGAGE handheld is far from perfect, it shows how designers are looking for ways to improve the future of the video game industry. The importance of sustainability has driven the system's creators to look for a better solution. As technology evolves, this small step could change the landscape for gaming systems. Perhaps a future successor to the Nintendo Switch will have no need for a battery at all, thanks to efforts like the ENGAGE!
What do you think of the ENGAGE? Would you be interested in a handheld that didn't need batteries? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!