I went on a trip to New York City this past weekend, and I saw this as an opportunity to use my Switch console the way Nintendo wanted me to. My Amtrak trip was running over the scheduled two hours, so I jumped into some newly-acquired titles I had been enjoying. You can imagine my ecstasy as I played the full L.A. Noire experience on the train. After cracking a couple of cases, I glanced at the Rocket League icon on my Switch home menu. My eyes darted on a sign reminding me that wifi was available on the train. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, something could be done with this.
I successfully connected my Switch to the Amtrak wifi network, and booted up the game, being greeted with that familiar Euro-trash techno music in the menu. Within a few minutes, I found myself in an online game.
Did it run well? Absolutely not.
Unless the game added a new teleportation feature, the cars were lagging all over the goddamn place, in a soccer field that felt like it was replaced by an ice rink. It could be say that this ran like a dream, but only if that dream is a complete and total nightmare. Somehow, I scored two goals within a couple of minutes—and I’m not even that good at this game. Of course, Amtrak is to blame for the connection issues (or perhaps I was to blame for expecting anything more), but it is hard to deny that this unlocks some huge possibilities. Imagine playing a blockbuster videogame like Overwatch or Call of Duty online, but on a handheld and outside of your home. The future was looking pretty darn cool.
I met up with a friend in Queens, and after demoing the absurd touch screen controls of L.A. Noire to him (a wonderful feature for anyone eager to stroke dead bodies), I decided to show off Rocket League. The game ran as smoothly as it does on any console, and he was quite impressed—but he wanted in on the action. Playing splitscreen on the small Switch screen wasn’t very viable, but I cracked the idea of utilizing his roommate’s Xbox One. It is a well-known fact that the PC, Xbox One and Switch versions can interact with each other through matchmaking (PlayStation 4 owners are stuck with just PC players), but neither of us had put cross-platform private matches to the test. It felt like a Hail Mary, but I created a private room (room name: “butt,” password: “butt”) while he booted up the Xbox version.
To our amazement, we had a full one-on-one Rocket League match, with him on the TV on an Xbox One, and myself in the same room on the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode. I can’t imagine that this was an intended use case from either Microsoft or Nintendo, but the results were astounding. We noticed some interesting differences; our match was held in an underwater stage, and there were far more fish and other sea creatures in the background in the Xbox version compared to the Switch version. And, while I had a Mario battle car and hat equipped, and an avatar with my Mii, the Xbox version instead had me as a generic starter car and a question mark as the avatar.
I’ve enjoyed my Switch for as long as I’ve owned it, but something really clicked with me during this brief adventure. The novelty of bringing full console games with me on the go became even more appealing and substantial, and when you add the possibility of not only online play on the go, but cross-platform play, I’d say that the future of videogames is quite exciting (assuming the industry continues to go in this direction).
I remember when the Switch was first unveiled, and we were fed the usual lifestyle photos of people playing the Switch from Nintendo. We make fun of the scenarios in those photos and that debut trailer, with these millennial hipsters playing Mario on their rooftops, and playing NBA 2K after wrapping up an actual basketball game. One lifestyle photo stuck out to me: a blue-haired hipster playing the Switch on a train. For those of you who don’t know what I look like, I’ve since had my hair dyed blue, and I imagine I’d be called a hipster, too. One thing was evident from me from my weekend Switch adventure: I have become that blue-haired millennial hipster.
Chris Compendio is a Paste intern desperately trying to figure out how to dribble the ball in mid-air. Check out his personal website here, and follow him on Twitter @Compenderizer.