It is so hard not to abuse puns about the Nokia N-Gage! As big fan of video games and theology, I like to collect older game consoles and handhelds. In the great annals of video game history, there have been amazing successes and there have been colossal failures. Unfortunately the N-Gage was not a success and after a few short minutes with the device I was able to see why.
But first let me share how I caught N-Gage fever. I was at a Goodwill store in Charlotte and came across a bin of cartridges. There were several games for the 3DO. The guy at the register said, “You should have been here thirty minutes ago, you could have bought the system.” I can not tell you how awesome it would have been to get my hands on the 3DO. However, I went ahead and picked up the games. I grabbed a few cartridges for the Atari 7800 as well (I don’t have that system either) and spotted a game for the N-Gage. “Why Not,” I thought to myself and picked it up. Later that evening, I decided to go on Ebay and saw that people were selling the phone/game system for as much as $100. However, I found a listing of 2 systems for $40. I snatched it up with Buy It Now. The listing made it clear that these were demo machines and the phone was disabled. There apparently are instructions on the internet for unlocking.
They arrived yesterday and are in excellent condition. Each phone had a game but the cards clearly are marked as demos and not for resale. The games are NCAA Football 2004 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. They both powered up so I’m going to give the seller a good review.
Think about how this concept was ahead of its time. You can play games on your phone. Why did this idea not work? Today, there are millions of people playing games on their iPhones and Androids. One, reason is that the world just wasn’t ready in 2003 to combine their GameBoys with their cell phones. Two, the cost was $300. Three, like many hybrid products – it doesn’t function great as a phone or a game system. Nokia tried to release an improved version about a year later but it was too late.
Almost immediately, my initial impressions about the device found it to be confusing and awkward to use. I had a hard time figuring out the menu. The screen seems so small by today’s standards and there is no touch feature. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve become used to touch screens! The buttons are numerous and I’m not sure what they all do. One of the great criticisms of the phone was that when talking on the phone you held the thin edge up to your head. Due to the unique shape of the phone, it led to jokes about talking into a taco.
As a gaming platform, the games just don’t look good. They look like PlayStation 1 games on a bad hair day. Plus, to change a game card, I have to remove the back cover, remove the BATTERY, and then change the card. Who ever thought that would be a good idea? I’m going to play around with it some more. I’m happy to own this small chapter in video game history, but I don’t think I will be using it very much. The nerd in me is thinking about activating it and using it as a phone anyway!