Nostalgia Lane: GCE Game Time Wrist Watch

Today I want to talk about watches.

No, I don’t wear a watch. Haven’t since, oh, freshman year of college? 1994? I got sick of the tan line and started using cell phones and other devices to keep time. But before that, I had a long string of neat watches, especially in the ’80s.

Don’t know what it was about the era, but the ’80s had incredibly cool watches, especially if you were a kid. I had watches that transformed into robots (I actually still have the robot part of one sans strap), several of the almighty calculator watches, a watch that had a radio (that’s something that played music before MP3 players, kids), one super awesome watch that did so much that I’m going to have to write a separate article on it, and one or two game watches.

I actually lusted over game watches. Video games that you always had on you? Tiny? Cool? Yeah, sign me up. The Tetris, Zelda, and Pac-Man watches in particular looked incredibly cool, and I had limited amounts of fun with the Batman watch when a friend let me try it.

But in sixth grade I briefly owned perhaps one of the greatest game watches — the GCE Game Time Watch. There’s a story that goes with this as well.

So the GCE is a really novel little piece of hardware. By using a field of LCD dots and top-and-bottom parentheses, the designers were able to fit four fun and challenging games on it:

  • A dodging game where you had to scoot around oncoming walls
  • A skeet shooting game where you shot at an angle at a disc
  • Mini-Space Invaders
  • Mini-Breakout

The variety and sheer difference between these game modes really set it apart from a lot of other watches at the time — and it was made in 1982, which was pretty early for watch game technology to be pulling this stuff off.

So the story goes that one of my friends had the GCE in sixth grade (which puts it around 1986-7) and offered to sell it to me for $10. I agreed, went home and got the money, but when I came back to school the next day, he had balked. However, his mom heard about this and forced him to sell it, saying that he had to honor his word. To this day, I kind of feel bad that I went ahead with the purchase knowing that he wanted out of it, but I guess I got mine shortly thereafter.

The kicker to this tale is that after a few days of enjoying my nifty game watch, I ruined it. What happened was that I was falling asleep one night and my fingers found a little nub in my bed, like an eraser. I didn’t think about it at all, I just popped it in my mouth and chewed it up. I think I was doing stuff like that back then, but man, I kicked myself so hard the next day because this ended up being one of the control buttons for the watch… a watch which was now useless. Maybe I threw it out? I don’t remember.

I’ve thought of trying to track one of these down for the glow of nostalgia ownership, but let’s be real — I wouldn’t wear it, I’d play it for about two minutes, and then I’d give it to my kid. And he’s already got a watch that plays better games than my computer did in 1994, so that would be a waste.

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