This past summer, I had the privilege of working with Alex Custodio and lee wilkins on a trio of Game Boy workshops, leading up to our Solar Game (Boy) Jam on August 26th. The work was completed as part of the Milieux Solar Media Project, which explores the affordances of solar energy for digital communication systems.
The three workshops invited guests to tinker with different aspects of the Game Boy’s hardware and software, to contemplate solar interactions and build familiarity with the venerable handheld.
Workshop 1: GB Studio and Makey Makeys
Facilitated by Alex Custodio and Michael Iantorno, this workshop focused on building Game Boy games using GB Studio, a free drag-and-drop game creation program.
While homebrew design for retro videogame consoles is not a new phenomenon, GB Studio makes the practice unprecedentedly accessible. This workshop focused on how to use the accessible game engine and how to use Makey Makeys as inputs to test the game and experiment with alternative control schemes.
Workshop 2: Game Boy Hardware Hacking
Facilitated by lee wilkins, this workshop focused on developing a competency with Game Boy hardware and solar sensors – familiarizing participants with the hardware aspects of videogaming in order to prototype games designed for alternative interfaces.
The workshop culminated in a cooperative playing of Tetris, using participant body parts as interfaces!
Workshop 3: Let’s Make a Solar-Powered Game Boy
In this workshop, we modded a Game Boy in order to introduce solar power to Nintendo’s 1989 handheld. By replacing the AAA batteries with a LiPo battery and a solar panel, we created a Game Boy that could be fully powered by the sun’s rays.
Although a bit rough around the edges, the mod was successful, and helped us learn more about the handheld’s inner workings.