On Christmas morning, 2008, I woke up at my father’s house to find that he had bought us a Nintendo Wii. I was beside myself. My sister showed some interest in games, as she had also gotten a DS (to not feel left out) but she was nowhere near as enthusiastic as I was about my very first home console. We played Wii Sports for ages. We eventually got a couple more titles, like Animal Crossing: City Folk, but being back and forth between my parents’ houses meant I wasn’t able to get into it much.
My parents divorced in 2009 and my father travelled less, eventually moving back to Germany. This was the start of my return to delayed experiences. I was fortunate enough to have the Wii, though, as it meant that I was able to accumulate Club Nintendo points from my old DS games and redeem them to get free games on the Wii. I spent hours with demos and games like Fluidity and Bonsai Barber and tided myself over with Animal Crossing when things got slow.
Club Nintendo points eventually dwindled, however, and the 3DS was on the horizon. By this time, I was closely following gaming news and websites like IGN, so I knew to start saving the lunch money I got to buy one for myself. Things were harder for us financially in a now single-parent home, and I couldn’t bear to ask my parents to get me something as frivolous as a video game console. I got $10 XCD in lunch money every day ($3.70 USD) and somehow managed to save half of it every day for months until I was able to buy one second-hand in 2012.
The reality of how difficult it was to be a video game fan in the Caribbean hit me once I started buying them for myself with my lunch money and any holiday money I received. Where I live, the import tax on video games is 43% of the cost price. For a $40 USD handheld game or a $60 USD console game, this becomes $57.20 USD and $85.80 USD respectively, before shipping and taxes. Stores then must make a profit, which resulted in 3DS games being sold at electronics stores for $200 XCD, or $74 USD, an 85% mark-up. For those living here, buying locally was often something you couldn’t justify. A lot of us, me included, relied on waiting for relatives to come home from abroad and asking them to stow games away in their luggage. This was how I later got my New Nintendo 3DS and my Nintendo Switch, as importing them yourself or buying them locally meant giving up an arm or a leg (or both!).
For those who did not have credit/debit cards to buy and ship things online to relatives, it can be even more difficult, as they would have to rely on their relative to buy the products they wanted, which may not be affordable for many.
One thing about the 3DS made it a great option for me: the eShop. I was able to enjoy my favourite franchises like Animal Crossing and Pokémon by giving the cash I’d saved to someone with a credit card, who then bought the games for me. Of course, there was no eShop support for my country, so at the time I had to change my region to Canada, as it accepted international credit cards and the 3DS is region locked. Digital games have been a godsend for me, although it does sting to not be able to hold the physical game cases anymore. Dedicated fans like myself somehow manage, and we do what we can to continue engaging in our beloved hobbies. My friends in developed countries with Nintendo support may find the hoops we have to jump through daunting, but I think it showcases how passionate we really are. Of course, this is not a universal Caribbean experience, nor is it a universal Vincentian experience. This is my experience, and I hope you found it interesting.