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A Handheld History: exclusive article reveal

Ahead of the launch of the portable compendium known as A Handheld History, Lost in Cult and Retro Dodo have shared an exclusive article reveal from the book

A Handheld History article reveal: stylised pastel artwork shows a pair of hands, with the left applying plasters to the right, withe each plaster decorated with artwork from a different Playstation Vita game

Lost in Cult is on something of a hot streak, after four successful crowdfunding campaigns for its journal Lock-On, and with the fourth eschewing Kickstarter for its own service, gaming enthusiasts have three gorgeous premium gaming journals in their hands with a fourth due to arrive very soon. Not content with just producing Lock-On however, Lost In Cult is teaming up with Retro Dodo on a new and exciting project.

A Handheld History is a gorgeous coffee table book set to document everything from Game Boy to Steam Deck, with stunning artwork and interesting articles accompanying every handheld under the sun. It also had a successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this year and is now getting ready to head to print and be in the hands of eager gamers within the next month or so.

To celebrate the launch of A Handheld History, Lost in Cult and Retro Dodo have given us an exclusive look at one of the articles from the upcoming book, titled ‘Finding my community through the Vita’ by Georgina Young. You can also see the artwork set to accompany the piece, and if you’re interested in getting your hands on a copy of this beautiful book, you still have time to enter our A Handheld History giveaway for a chance to win one of two copies of the upcoming release. Enter now!

The following is an excerpt from the article ‘Finding my community through the Vita’ by Georgina Young and can be found in A Handheld History, which releases soon from Lost in Cult and Retro Dodo. It addresses some heavy themes, so please consider this before you read.

When people ask what I’m passionate about and I respond “the PlayStation Vita”, there is usually one response: the many kinds of why. Why are you so enamoured with a console whose creator tried so hard to smother it? Why do you cling so dearly to a handheld which has been made redundant by the Switch? Why do you hunt down, collect, and crave games for a console which is known for its limited library? I mean mostly it’s just “the Vita is dead lol”, but I thought I would expand on that concept for the sake of being verbose.

I can only attempt to explain to you the ‘why’ if you allow me to be a little self-indulgent in describing my past. People who obsessively collect, as I do, are usually dealing with a ghost. In many ways, my Vita collection is my way of dealing with a mind haunted by the memories of my birth mother. Over the years I have attempted to fill that mother-shaped hole inside myself with console variations and over six hundred games. To explain the why, I have to first explain the place from which I came.

I was 24 in 2014 and had just begun a new relationship with a man six years my senior, months after ending things with the man I thought I would marry. It was also my third year living in Japan, the place I escaped to as I attempted to put distance between myself and the oppressive weight of a childhood embedded with fear and punishment. I was still learning what it meant to be loved unconditionally. Living through a childhood where no matter what I did, how brilliant or caring I was, it was never enough. I wanted to enter into a relationship where I was enough; one where I could care and nurture and mother and help in a way I wished someone had for me.

He had depression, and he didn’t want professional help. He didn’t want professional help because he wasn’t ready to admit that he had depression.

Depression manifests in all kinds of ways. His depression manifested in crippling indecision. We are not talking about indecision like should I take this job offer, or where should we go on holiday; though he couldn’t make those big decisions either. This was indecision to the degree that he couldn’t decide whether to play games or watch TV, and so he did neither. He couldn’t decide what to eat, and so he starved. He couldn’t decide what to wear, and so he never left the house. Not making a decision, though, is a choice in itself. You are making the choice to lie motionless in bed all day. A form of semi-voluntary catatonia.

I long for positive reinforcement. I want to be thanked, to be told what a great partner I am, to be loved. As he lay in bed all day, I lay there with him. I brought him food he did not eat, I gave him drinks he did not drink, and I made conversation which garnered no reply. However, it wasn’t for the thank yous that I did all this. It was the guilt. The accusations that if I left the bed I didn’t love him, I didn’t care for him, and that I didn’t want to be around him. I was taunted that my behaviour was the reason for his depression. If I was just more attentive, a better girlfriend, he wouldn’t be this way at all.

He was my second job. I had an obligation to be there for him. It would be right to say that he alienated me from others, but it is equally correct to say I alienated myself. Even when I didn’t get the validation from him, I got the validation from myself. I thought to myself what a good person I was for taking care of him through all of this, and also that I shouldn’t give up on a man who I believed to be gentle and kind outside of his illness. I genuinely believed that if I persevered that one day he would get help. That one day he would manage his condition. And that one day he would thank me for the years I worked and the investment I made.

I looked for things to occupy me in the long hours I lay by his side. Originally I carried my 2DS with me, but I cycled everywhere, and the one thing that console is not known for is its durability. So I turned to my Vita. I had gotten it the Christmas following its release but had only played a handful of games that I’d received for review. At the time I adored RPGs and yet I’d never played the game which is synonymous with the Vita: Persona 4 Golden.

There were several advantages to playing a game like Persona. A mix between visual novel and turn-based RPG, it didn’t require my constant attention as he did. I could play one-handed. The fingers of my left hand moved between the buttons and the D-pad, while the fingers of my right traced the curve of his spine. Persona is long, and yet also a game you can dip in and out of at leisure. I could read in silence, strategise in peace, listen out for his needs, and equally become absorbed in the escapism.

The story of Persona 4 was not so far removed from my reality. Years earlier I had worked in a high school in the Japanese countryside. I was personally familiar with precisely that surrounding. While the protagonist had been sent to the countryside from his family home, I had escaped there. It had been an unfamiliar world to me too, and one which I learnt to call home. I found mother figures in teachers I worked with, took solace in my friendships, and I battled with my identity. What exactly made me tick? The story of Persona was similar to my life, and yet not. I found my own life banal. I found Persona to be intriguing, fantastical, and adventurous.

Persona is a long game, but he lay in bed far longer. I finished it and picked up Yomawari, a horror game also set in the Japanese countryside, where you play a small girl shrouded in loneliness, engulfed in the darkness of her thoughts. The key to the sense of fear that Yomawari instils is the unknown. Yomawari has no music, no soundtrack at all. Instead, you listen to the increasing beats of your racing heart. Anything you see can be dealt with — managed — yet you can see so little. It is that which is unknown that is the most threatening. A motherless child who is still unsure of who she is, it was easy to draw these parallels too.

If you like this excerpt, be sure to enter our A Handheld History giveaway for a chance to win one of two copies of the book, or head over to Lost In Cult to order a copy when it ships later this year. If you love handheld gaming and want to find something new to play today, be sure to read our huge guide to the very best Switch games updated for all the new additions in 2022.