Twenty years old. Wow.
Despite the name, there is one thing that Virtual Boy is not: virtual reality. The system was conceived during a period of fascination with VR and was originally intended to be a headset, akin to a proto-Oculus Rift. But 1995 technology was not up to the job of generating immersive worlds. As a result, the console has often been the recipient of unfettered scorn from fans and critics alike. With no defense coming from Nintendo, who swept it under the rug long ago, the Virtual Boy has become video game history's favorite whipping boy.
Still, the system typifies Nintendo's historical willingness to take innovative risks. Sometimes these bets succeed splendidly (Wii, Nintendo DS), and sometimes they don't (Wii U). But the ones that don't pay off are just as fascinating as the ones that do. That makes the Virtual Boy worth examining in more detail, especially since its negative baggage typically obscures the story of its creation. It’s an intriguing tale about entrepreneurship, invention, East-West cultural relations, and the price of relentless invention.
If you've never seen a Virtual Boy, or if you don't know how they worked and came to be, this is a fascinating insight into a failed but noble experiment by the then world-leading Nintendo.
Full disclosure: I still have a Virtual Boy, all boxed up. And it never gave me headaches.