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However, it’s not entirely accurate to blame the Game Boy’s green screen on the idea that there were simply no better alternatives available at the time. After all, the Atari Lynx handheld gaming device was released the same year, and its screen supported full-color graphics. You also can’t say that Nintendo wasn’t aware of the existence of that technology. The creators of the Handy Game device (which eventually became the Atari Lynx) tried shopping their technology to Nintendo (as well as other major game companies), so Nintendo obviously knew there were more advanced alternatives out there that offered far more power and more advanced visuals.
There’s a big difference between “power” and “practicality,” though, and understanding the difference between those concepts is the key to understanding the philosophy behind the Game Boy’s green screen.
See, Game Boy designer Gunpei Yokoi and other key members of the Game Boy design team were all about keeping things cheap and practical. I know that sounds like something corporations say whenever they want to justify maximizing their profits and screwing over consumers in the process, but that wasn’t the case here.
In fact, the Game Boy team rightfully recognized that handheld gaming devices of that era needed to be simple in order to be consumer-friendly. After all, the Game Gear and Atari Lynx may have been more technologically advanced, but their base costs were notably more expensive. More importantly, those handheld devices required more batteries and “boasted” battery lives that were atrocious even by the standards of that era. It’s also hard to call the Game Boy a cheap console with a straight face. Many original Game Boys still function today, and there’s always that famous story of the Game Boy that reportedly survived a bombing during the Gulf War. Those things were built to last.
More importantly, Yokoi was a big believer in a design philosophy commonly known as “Lateral Thinking of Withered Technology.” Basically, he believed that Nintendo was often better off finding new ways to use older, cheaper, and more proven technology than they were trying to deal with the expensive growing pains of figuring out new technology. His beliefs on that matter weren’t always popular (the Game Boy was even mocked internally at Nintendo for its weak power and simple design concepts), but they obviously worked out in the Game Boy’s favor. For that matter, Nintendo still utilizes elements of that design philosophy to this day.
All of that helps explain why the Game Boy didn’t even try to offer full-color graphics, but why did they settle on that weird green screen? Well, there are really two good answers to that question.
Source: Den of Geek