Monday, 6:23pm
16 February 2009

Video game obsession

Aporva Baxi’s expanding collection of Nintendo’s Game & Watch

Remember these? A lot of people that I know seem to have had one, or remember being envious of a school kid who had one, writes Aporva Baxi. Typically, it would be Donkey Kong or Mario Bros. (the most popular). Made by Nintendo, the video-game company currently best known for the Wii and DS

(notice the similarities), they are collectively known as Game & Watch.

I had one, which gathered dust for twenty years until a few years ago when I looked at it again and realised that they were really well crafted devices – each a self-contained game with lovely detailing. I wondered if there were any more, little knowing I was about to enter an expensive obsession.

There are 60 in total, divided into eleven different styles, each being classified in a certain series – Silver, Gold, Wide Screen, New Wide Screen, Multi Screen, Table Top, Panorama Screen, Super Colour, Micro vs. System, Crystal Screen and Special – a collector’s dream.

Compared to other games, then and now, the quality, detail and craft with which the Game & Watch was made is unusually high. The game units feature brushed metal surfaces in vibrant colours, in packaging with graphics distinct to each series. Details such as metallic inks, uncluttered design and line-work illustrations make them eminently collectable.


The games themselves are fairly easy to find, but mint examples with complete packaging are quite rare, as their young owners typically trashed them. Many G&Ws never made it to the UK, and a few limited editions were never made available to the public. My collection has grown from one to 46 through furious bidding on eBay, patience, geeky forums and one eye-opening trip to a fellow collector’s home to do a trade. The missing fourteen are so rare that they cost a fortune, or are safely stored in other collections. If anyone has one that they’d like to donate, they’d be going to a good home . . .

Aporva Baxi is a principal (with Simon Dixon) of DixonBaxi. See ‘Power of two’, Eye no. 70 vol. 18. DixonBaxi’s new identity for Five USA goes live today. More later.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.