A father and son stand facing one another, hands at their sides, five feet apart. Each holds a small Nintendo controller in his palm. Right now, that controller is a firearm. Later it will be a samurai sword, a ping-pong paddle, or a cow’s udder. The son looks at the large television to his left. “Don’t look at the TV,” a Nintendo employee says. “Look at him,” he says, gesturing to the son’s father. “Look into his eyes.”
The son, about 9 years old, looks up. His father towers over him, but the child’s gaze is steady. Each waits for the game’s single instruction. Dad’s mouth purses. Junior’s arm begins to shudder. The Nintendo employee’s bright red shirt is a looming sunset in the gunslingers’ periphery. Then: “Fire!”
The child flings his arm up and hits the trigger button on the controller’s undercarriage. The father, slow on the draw, brings up his arm but knows he’s too late. The TV shows two stand-in cowboys, real people dressed in Western regalia; the one on the right falls over, his knees buckling. The son was faster on this day. His dad clutches his chest in mock pain. The son laughs. His eyes are wide open.
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Last week, Nintendo revealed their latest video-game console, the Nintendo Switch, which it will ship worldwide on March 3. The concept: a home system you can play anywhere. Plug the tablet-sized device into a TV to play traditional games on the couch. Then take the same device on the road, to play in the car, on a plane, or in the park on the console’s own 6-inch HD display. While tablets like the iPad or Kindle are all screen, the Switch comes with two detachable controllers that bookend the system. Slide them on and it becomes a handheld game machine. Slide them off and each becomes its own controller, allowing play with a friend. Fold out a kickstand from the back of the system to set it on a table, and both players can look at the screen on a desk or an airline tray-table.