Material Reflections – ‘Press the Start Button’ – Harrison Charles

By Iain Taylor on February 28th, 2020


Material Reflections is a collection of short reflective pieces exploring the complex personal relationships that people form with material things. Bringing together perspectives from a range of academics, students, and cultural practitioners, the project seeks to highlight the breadth and plurality of ways in which material things impact upon our ideas, identities, research, and practice. This Material Reflection comes from Harrison Charles, a Master’s student studying Media and Cultural Studies at Birmingham City University. His work is mainly interested in sexuality in video games, focusing on issues revolving around gay masculinities, queer authorship and exploitation, and exploring fan enterprises in video game development.

The adventure begins with a young boy, who one day travelled to a far distant land, coming across a new land for him to explore. Thanks to those before him, one person particularly, he found this utopia. He would continue his journey for many days and many nights, finding experiences that would remain with him for many years to come.

That adventurer was me. Whilst I did not find undiscovered islands or paradises, I had indeed found a new world for myself – a world for me to enjoy, to escape into. I was welcomed to this world thanks to my grandmother, who owned an ‘old’ piece of hardware – the ‘Game Boy Color’. Thanks to her, I have been attached to it for around twenty years. Despite not using it herself, it was something she had prepared for any of my visits when I was younger – it became a past-time, a leisure, something I enjoyed when seeing her.

The Game Boy itself has seen its fair share of battles in its own journey. Bumps, scrapes, drops – it has fought against them all. The compartment that seals the batteries powering it has been broken for many years, and I remember when me and my grandmother would tape it over in order to keep it in place. It was simple but effective – and something we had to continuously redo every so often. I imagine the remnants of the original tape still exists somewhere on the object. But it was an activity me and my grandmother did together and not soon after I would rush off to my adventure.

Hours and hours would fly by, then my journey into my new paradise would end, and I would return home, back to my start position. This was my ritual, for days, for months, for years. It was only a few years ago that I had become the personal owner of the Game Boy. My grandmother knew of my attachment and had then let me live out my days exploring into my utopia in my own home, except over time it has been collecting dust on a shelf in my room – sitting there, waiting for my return.

It was only recently that I came across it once again and I realised how significant it was, and is, to me – and yet it still works perfectly. Each time I see it now, nostalgia hits and I am reminded to playing when I was young, but I am more reminded of the familial ties to my grandmother, to a time that is no longer present but still in memory. Soon after I then discovered I had collected more similar gaming hardware over time, most, if not all, from family members. I have now in a way a small but meaningful archive of memories, and thanks to my grandmother’s introduction I know that to relive the pleasure of the adventure and the happiness of the nostalgia, all I have to do is…

“Press the Start Button”