Paul Murphy is no stranger to print media, having successfully run his own magazine business, Ninty Media for the last few years. Producing great publications such as Switch Player magazine and the crowd funded magazine Ninty Fresh magazine he has built up a strong reputation for quality products. Back in 2021, Paul wrote his first book, the Amiibook – which catalogued every Amiibo that had been released up to the point of publication. But Paul now has his sights firmly centered on a new venture, one that is quite personal to him through his love of the Game Boy, the GameBook.

The GameBook accomplished an amazing feat by reaching its target goal within the first seven hours of the Kickstarter campaign going live. Paul has demonstrated the desire for Gameboy-related books (of which I am one!) and the enthusiasm for the Game Boy that still exists among the retro gaming community.

I spoke with Paul to learn more about his love of Pokémon, his personal relationship with the Game Boy, and what motivated him to develop the GameBook.

To start I believed it was important to know what Paul’s earliest experiences were with the Game Boy itself.

“I was about twelve or thirteen; my parents had just bought a Game Boy, and it couldn’t have been that long after it launched. It was actually my Mum’s; we weren’t really allowed to have technology of our own. My Mum would absolutely rinse the batteries on Tetris while I watched. Slowly but surely, I’d start to persuade both my parents to let me play on it, but the initial library was games that they wanted. So it was arcade ports like Asteroids and Missile Command rather than, you know, the actual iconic Game Boy titles. Both of these ports were pants as well! Luckily, Tetris is god tier. As I got braver (or stupider, hi Mum!) I’d start sneaking it into school. It fit perfectly in the inside pocket of my blazer, and during school break times, I’d be playing things like Super Mario Land, Snow Bros. Junior, and other such games that my friend owned.”

Through these early experiences, Paul really bonded with the Game Boy, but I wanted to know what Paul thought about what it was that made the Game Boy so magical.

“For me, it was the ability to close yourself away and play. Younger players today might look at the monochromatic visuals and scoff, but at the time, being able to play on a tiny little screen was captivating and so immersive. You could hide away, lose yourself in these fantastic little worlds, and play until you exhausted the AAs. Luckily, we had rechargeable batteries, but only four, with an agonising eight hour recharge time. Once I started getting money of my own (cutting the neighbours grass, not fun), I could start buying my own games. I played Link’s Awakening constantly, it’s probably why I still favour it over other Zelda titles to this day. It’s also why I prefer handheld gaming over other forms. Far more convenient, and the power trade-off is totally worth it.”

I was automatically magnetised to Paul’s comments on Link’s Awakening and had to check if it was his favourite Game Boy game.

 “If I am honest, probably. It’s certainly my favourite Zelda game. It’s just so magical and surreal. But you can’t overlook Tetris or Pokémon. Tetris was what sold the Game Boy to everyone, not just kids. But Pokémon is what kept everyone playing. Link’s Awakening didn’t even sell 10% of what those behemoth franchises did, but it probably entertained me more. Of course, it might just have been because I was fifteen and spent the whole time playing it. What else do fifteen year old boys do? We didn’t have the internet back then.”

Tetris was the first time I played video games with my dad. Each of us took turns until we crashed and burned, and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons the Gameboy was so special, Paul seemed to agree.

“Tetris was really the right choice. Multiplayer, either through turn taking or asynchronously, was genius. It ensured that the Game Boy (despite the name) was for everyone. Super Mario Land would not have had the same impact.”

With the strong choice of Link’s Awakening as Paul’s favourite Game Boy game, I was intrigued to find out what other Game Boy games he held dear to his gaming heart.

“I think that you also have to look at Donkey Kong. one hundred and one levels of incredible design and challenge, and that’s before you think about the Super Game Boy connectivity. Such an amazing game. Of course, it’s not as good as my actual favourite game (which is Super Mario World), but Super Mario Land 2 is wacky and weird. There might be a pattern in my game tastes. And, of course, Tetris. Those three Game Boy games, along with Pokémon Yellow and Link’s Awakening, that’s my top five games for the device.”

It’s not all about favourite games though and I hoped to find out what his Game Boy guilty pleasure was.

“Radar Mission! It’s essentially just Battleships, but that second mode where you are a submarine taking out an enemy fleet in real time is addictive. Many wasted hours on that. Mario’s Picross is perhaps a more appropriate time sink too, although I never experienced it at the time; instead, I wasted countless hours instead of writing the book.”

And to complete the set I had to ask what was his worst Game Boy game, which I hoped wasn’t Motocross Maniacs.

“I’ll be honest, I struggled a bit with Motocross Maniacs at first, but it’s far from the worst. Perseverance is key with that one. The Game Boy versions of Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct are pretty atrocious, so one of those would probably get my vote.”

If there was one particular franchise that started on the Game Boy that Paul has a strong passion for, it would be Pokémon. The game that blew up in the ‘90s and took over the world is still as strong today as it was when we first encountered Squirtle and friends. I wanted to know if Paul was an early adopter of the series.

“I was! We didn’t get the Pokémon games in the UK until 1999, so that’s when I grabbed myself a copy of Pokémon Blue. And then I upgraded my silver Game Boy Pocket to a swanky atomic purple Game Boy Color, but that’s a story for another time!

Ultimately I was always going to get Blue of the two versions; I’m a Spurs fan. Never red!”

Though Paul is still a strong Spurs (Tottenham Hotspurs) supporter, I asked him if he was still a strong supporter of Pokémon Blue and if it was still his favourite Pokémon game.

“Blue isn’t even my favourite game from that first generation, Yellow is far superior in my opinion. For me, I believe Generation two, more specifically Pokémon Crystal, to be the best in the series. I think the things they did in that game haven’t been topped. The Ruby/Sapphire generation was a worse game than Crystal was; it didn’t even have some of the features from that game. Time of day, day of the week, events, animated sprites, sixteen gym badges, I could be here all day.”

Pokémon fuelled a passion for the Game Boy and took the machine from being a popular device to another level. But what was Paul’s opinion on what it was that these early games did to capture his and many others’ attention?

“I don’t think that there has ever been anything like Pokémon before. I was eighteen when it was released, so I am sure I was not the intended audience, but there was something addictive and compelling about the entire game. It was a game that had something for everyone, whether you just wanted to play an RPG, were a collector and wanted to complete the Pokedex, or enjoyed the competitive battling element. Trading and battling over the link cable was quite possibly THE quintessential image from the Game Boy era.”

I took a guess at Paul’s first starter of Squirtle, I was way off! 

“Oh no, this is where I contradict myself. I say “never red” yet my favourite gaming company is Nintendo, notorious for its use of red. And I went with that cute little Charmander. I should have read a guide or something, since the first two gyms aren’t suited to a fire starter! Charizard is easily my favourite Pokémon by some distance.”

As Pokémon has continued through the years, the series has kept growing and, ahem, “evolving” from these early games to where it is now. The craving for more open world experiences and being free from the shackles of previous games grows stronger through the Pokémon community, but does Paul feel the same way?

“There was a period of time that I moved away from Nintendo so I missed the 3DS era. The Switch got me back in a big way, so when I played Sword and Shield I was actually impressed, since I’d not played a mainline game since Diamond/Pearl came out. I know that I may be in the minority.

I feel that Pokémon has just become this huge behemoth now and you are never going to make everyone happy. Everyone has their own ideas on where the franchise would go. If you look at Scarlet and Violet, on the whole these should be the best Pokémon games ever made and in many aspects they are, the scope, the ambition, the open world.  And yet they still lack that magic that the earlier games had. I spent more time replaying Let’s Go Pikachu!.”

I agreed and was surprised The Pokémon Company hasn’t made more Let’s Go games.

“It did very well commercially. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a Let’s Go Johto of some sort in the future.”

If there’s one thing that holds everything we have talked about so far together, it’s the game boxes. There was just something about having a box rammed with posters, instruction manuals and receiving the game in its little plastic case. I also adored the art that covered the boxes. I asked if Paul had a similar fondness for them.

“The death of game manuals is a particular grievance for me. Some of the manuals you would get could be lazy or rushed, but sometimes – especially first party ones – they’d just be magical and mesmerising. Not many things beat that “new game” smell either, ripping open the cellophane wrapper and wrapping and the innards. The Game Boy games having clear plastic cases was also a nice touch, and the presentation was second to none. These days, if you want posters or extra bits, you are shelling out silly money for collector’s editions.”

It’s clear to see Paul’s love for the Game Boy and its games,  but what else inspired him to want to create the GameBook?

“The Game Boy was my first love. After writing about two hundred+ Amiibo, I wanted to challenge myself with something far more ambitious. The Amiibook was incredibly fun to write and ultimately justified my complete collection purchase, as well as my decision to quit working as a teaching assistant at a school. This is now my full time job as a writer, but I don’t want to just churn things out. I want to make something that I would want to read, to really research something, and to make a truly beautiful product. We are always our own biggest critics, but I know that what we have made is special. There aren’t that many books like this that exist, looking at a series of games for one platform, complemented with art and photography. It really is a love letter to the DMG-01.”

Paul touched on what we would find inside the book there, and here he elaborates more.

“A timeline and history of the three initial Game Boy devices, the OG model, the Game Boy Pocket and the Game Boy Light. There’s multiple retrospectives of some of the more high profile Game Boy titles and these were outsourced to some incredible freelancers, and are complemented with some outstanding bespoke artwork. Finally there’s a round up of what I think are forty of the best experiences, written by myself.

I originally mapped this out to be 160-odd pages when I first conceived it. It’s already 220 pages and I still haven’t written it all…

The foreword has been written by Steve Jarratt, who was the man I saw when I opened TOTAL! every month, and I sat upon his every word. To have him open my book is unbelievable.”

Steve Jarratt!! I couldn’t believe my eyes and had to find out how Paul had managed to persuade a legend of gaming journalism to write the foreword for his book.

“I just asked him! Over the years, I’ve been quite lucky with my projects, and I’ve been able to get quite a few game writing legends to scribble a few words together. Once I explained the basics of what I was doing, he was in. It’s all very surreal sometimes.”

Paul mentioned earlier that he was including the Game Boy Light in the book, which I took as an interesting inclusion considering it only came out in Japan.

“I think there are a lot of people that didn’t know it existed, and if I’m delving into the history of the platform, I should really cover all of the devices. There’s always that one person who will say that I missed a device isn’t there.”

 If there’s one thing that is an important ingredient in any good quality book of this kind, is the artwork. From what we have seen from the mockups on the Kickstarter page, this area looks to be in fine form. I wanted to know from Paul what his vision was for the bespoke art included in the GameBook.

“I want something striking and iconic that complements the features. The retrospectives and the writing are a work of art in themselves. I just want someone to look at these pages and just be wowed. So many things these days are happy to do the bare minimum for your attention. That’s not how I operate. It’s also important to me to have many different styles too, so it’s not the same and feels fresh as you leaf through the pages.”

The other important ingredient in any high quality book is the materials that are used to create the book. Paul here confirms my suspicions that we are in for a good time in this department.

“We are using high quality uncoated paper for the internals with a hard cover finish. The Amiibook used glossy, lightweight paper with a soft cover; I wanted this to feel far more luxurious. It’s a proper coffee table book.”

Looking to the future, and with the hopeful success of the first GameBook, I needed to know if Paul has any plans for more GameBooks in the future.

“I would say it is very likely. I envisaged these books as a trilogy, and it very much depended on the success of the first one. All three Game Boy devices are their own distinct platforms with unique software and deserve their own time in the spotlight. Once this first GameBook is complete, I will know how to start work on a new one. I also plan to remake the Amiibook in this new form factor too down the line.”

The Kickstarter campaign that is running at the moment has a few different tiers for you to choose from, with the highest tiers coming with a bookmark and art prints. Paul elaborates on these with some extra details.

“The deluxe version will come with a soft-laminate art print which features a luxuriously designed blueprint of the DMG-01 to actual size dimensions, with a silver foiled finish. The test prints are beautiful! It also comes with a foiled bookmark featuring outlines of some of my favourite games, but we are still tweaking that design. The signed copies also get those, as well as five of the most iconic art prints from the book. I haven’t decided which ones yet; I’ve still got a month to choose. That Tetris one will most likely be one of them.”

And with all good Kickstarter campaigns come stretch goals! The GameBook’s stretch goals consist mainly of extra written pieces, and Paul explains what those may cover.

“There are three goals for an additional five game write ups. The first five are adding five games that may not necessarily have been everyone’s picks, but I played a lot of them and they shaped my Game Boy experience. The next ten will be games that aren’t on many of the top game lists but are typically underrated gems. The last game spread goal is to add five “dual mode” Game Pak games from the Game Boy Color. These games, despite having colour functionality, played in monochrome on the original/pocket and light devices. The final stretch goal is to write a section for the ill-fated Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s only real gaming misstep. I can’t write a two hundred-word book when it only has twenty two games!”

And that is a fair point, but it is a goal I am desperate for the campaign to hit, as it would be fascinating to read up on the history of the Virtual Boy for myself and for others who do not know the full story.

“Obviously, I really want to hit that final stretch goal! In the event it doesn’t make it, I’ll include the section in a future project one way or another.”

Great to hear! And there was only one way to end our conversation on the Game Boy, and that was to ask Paul what his favourite Game Boy accessory was! 

“Over the years, there were a few who transformed the device into a rather hideous monstrosity. I have to say that of all of the accessories, it was probably the Nintendo 64 Transfer Pak. I know it’s technically an N64 add-on, but it allowed you to send your team from your Game Boy Pokémon games into Pokémon Stadium. What a game. What a feature.”

Just like the link cable, the N64 transfer pak was a true piece of Nintendo magic, and one that was an incredible chance to see your Pokémon transform into 3D models.

“Nothing like Pokémon had ever been made before. It truly was a phenomenon in every sense. The imagination and creativity to use your own critters in that way was very clever.”

Many thanks to Paul for his time and If you would like even more information or to back Paul’s book, please check out the Kickstarter page (affiliate link)


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