September 25, 2021

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The GameCube at 20: remembering the invigorating boundaries of Nintendo’s magic box

My first GameCube didn’t work. When I picked it up from the store and brought it home, when I sorted out the wires and plugged it in and turned it on? It just sat there and did nothing. Actually, okay, it did one thing: it made a swift clicking noise, as if there was clockwork inside it and the clockwork was broken but still spinning and chugging anyway. This broken thing had personality; it was a stubborn box. I took it back and got a replacement and that one worked fine, but I still think of that first GameCube of mine, the clockwork GameCube that couldn’t be a GameCube, but that still seemed to want to be something at least.

Probably in part because of that, I’ve thought about the inside of the GameCube much more than the inside of any other console. The unseen wonders! What’s in there, what manner of energy flocks and shivers over this secret landscape that we never generally get to witness, but which allows such beautiful, magical things to happen on the screen?

I tend to think that the GameCube prompted these kinds of questions even if yours didn’t happen to make a sound like broken clockwork. It prompted them purely because of that audacious shape: a little jewellery box, not quite a cube, sure – you would need the GBA adapter fitted underneath to live that precise dream – but still far removed from the Robocop skyscraper of the PS2 or the Giger VCR of the first Xbox. What’s inside? Never has a games console been so beautifully, assuredly self-contained. Everything fits inside this, the GameCube says. And there’s even a handle to carry it about with! Surprised?

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