I bit the bullet mid-April and got Nintendo’s newest game system. Two months in, forget the advertisements; let us review the actual ways it has been used in (my) day-to-day life.

Before getting to that, though, we ought to first go over what equipment I have for it, as this forms the basis for everything mentioned below. That would be the Switch, a dock that plugs into our TV, two JoyCons, one JoyCon grip, one Pro Controller that charges via a USB-C cable plugged into our surge protector, and (most recently) one deluxe Switch carrying case.

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I should also mention that the JoyCons are almost always snapped onto the Switch, because there are barely any reasons not to do that—even tabletop mode with a Pro controller still works with JoyCons attached—and my oh my does it makes switching between the different ways to use the system so easy. I highly recommend this as a best practice.

With those items covered, let’s get to the use cases.

On the TV by one person

If the Switch is not already in the dock, we slot it in. It’s remarkable how easy it is to do this, by the way. Even if the Switch doesn’t totally fit on the first try, all it takes is the slightest push for it to virtually fall into place on the USB-C port.

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Additionally, after more than a year of messing with HDMI and (optionally) power cables to put my laptop on TV, the Switch is such a revelation. Where the laptop takes minutes to set up on TV, the Switch literally takes seconds to do the same, courtesy of the dock.

With Switch in dock, we pick up the Pro controller, set the TV to the respective HDMI output, and go to town.

On the TV by two people

Maybe we’re about to play some Puyo Puyo Tetris or Mario Kart? Then we do the following.

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If the Switch isn’t already in the dock, we first take the JoyCons off the sides of the Switch and set them up in the JoyCon grip. Then we slot the Switch in the dock.

If the Switch is already in the dock, we take the JoyCons off the docked Switch—surprisingly easy to do once you figure out the technique for doing so—and set them up in the JoyCon grip.

Next, we hand out the controllers. I usually volunteer to take the JoyCon controller to be kind to my mate. I’ve gotten used enough to the Frankencontroller now, and it’s pretty decent in that “makeshift solution that’s thankfully rather functional” kind of way.

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With Switch in dock and controllers in hands, we set the TV to the respective HDMI output, and go to town.

On the TV by three people

Maybe we’re about to play some Puyo Puyo Tetris or Mario Kart? Then we do the following.

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If the Switch isn’t already in the dock, we take the JoyCons off the Switch, put on their wrist straps, and slot the Switch in the dock.

If the Switch is already in the dock, we take the JoyCons off the docked switch and put on their wrist straps.

Next, we hand out the controllers, i.e. the Pro controller and the two JoyCons. I usually volunteer to take one of the JoyCons to be kind to my mates. I’ve gotten kind of used to the microcontrollers now, but how I feel about them mostly depends on the game.

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For example, except for the stubborn shoulder buttons, they’re a good fit for Mario Kart! But playing any sort of Tetris or Puyo Puyo without a d-pad at my disposal suuuuucks. Though not enough to prevent us from always having plenty of fun.

With Switch in dock and controllers in hands, we set the TV to the respective HDMI output, and go to town.

Two-player Snipperclips on the TV

Snipperclips is a notable exception to the usual two-player scenario, and thus warrants individual attention.

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If the Switch is already in the dock, we take the JoyCons off the sides of the Switch, put on their wrist straps, and slot the Switch in the dock.

If the Switch is already in the dock, we take the JoyCons off the docked switch and put on their wrist straps.

Next, we hand out the controllers, with the Pro controller notably not among them. But that’s perfectly alright; Snipperclips was a game specifically designed with the little JoyCons in mind, which is wholly evident in what a pleasure it is to control. I hope more games follow its example of thoroughly considering how to best leverage those microcontrollers.

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With Switch in dock and controllers in hands, we set the TV to the respective HDMI output, and go to town. 95% of our time is invariably spent trolling each other and trying to cut ourselves into the stupidest paper designs possible. We spend the leftover time solving some of the game’s puzzles.

Thanks for the info / #TeamIceCream

Handheld mode on the couch

Maybe one of us is using the TV—watching a show or some YouTube, gaming on the PS4—while the other wants to do something else. Or maybe we want something else to do WHILE watching our show or some YouTube. Enter the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode, where the JoyCons are attached to the sides of the system, essentially forming a big-ass Game Boy Advance.

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If the Switch is on the dock, we pull it out the dock and bring it with us to the couch.

If the Switch is not on the dock, we pick it up from wherever we last left it—that usually means the coffee table or somewhere in the bedroom—and bring it with us to the couch. Note that the key to these transitions being totally seamless is how we nearly always have the JoyCons attached to the Switch.

Handheld mode is awesome. It takes nearly everything that was appealing about the Wii U’s tablet controller and does it better. The exponential increase in portability from not having to be tethered to a central conventional game console—with the Switch, the tablet is literally the whole game console, whereas the Wii U’s tablet was just its screen—is especially welcome.

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With Switch in hand, we go to town.

Handheld mode in bed

Maybe one of us still wants to get in some game time while the other is sleeping. Or maybe it’s the morning, and we want to play, but we also want to still enjoy the laziness and comfort of our bed.

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If the Switch is already in the bedroom, then perfect.

If it’s not, we get up to locate it—usually on the dock, or maybe laying around on the coffee table—and bring it back to the bedroom. The JoyCons being already attached to the Switch by default makes the effort as hassle-free as can be. The total amount of time spent doing this is one minute or less.

With Switch in hand and body back in bed, we go to town.

At the laundromat

One of the inconveniences of my apartment life is the lack of my own washer and dryer in building, plus the shared washers and dryers on-location being utter shit. Thus, doing laundry means driving out to a (thankfully very close) public laundromat.

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My girlfriend and me’s work schedules also do not overlap nicely, so doing laundry is also a solitary experience at least half of the time. For all of those reasons, it’s been especially nice having a full-on game system to occupy the hour of wait time.

Once the bags of dirty clothes are packed and the detergent and dryer sheets are procured, I pack the tablet (JoyCons attached to the sides as always), JoyCon wrist straps, pro controller, games, and a pair of foldable headphones into my deluxe Switch case. I then load the car with everything and drive over to the laundromat.

The time in between loading the clothes into the washer, transferring them into the dryer, and packing everything away to drive back home is free for dedicating towards game time. As there are both tables and bench-like sitting areas in the laundromat, I can play the Switch in tabletop mode with the pro controller if I sit at the former, or in handheld mode if I sit at the latter. Having that flexibility is quite nice.

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Once I am fully situated, I go to town.

A side note, by the way, about tabletop mode with the pro controller. First, it does not seem to be discussed nearly enough, but yes, that absolutely can be done, and it is excellent. One of the biggest perks is that it means “tabletop mode” does not always have to be done with the kickstand out.

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Let me explain. If the table where I am sitting is low enough, what I would often do instead is simply lie the tablet with the JoyCons attached flat on its back and lean over it with controller in hand. The JoyCons provide just enough of an angle to not force my back to bend too much.

That was pretty much my chosen tabletop mode of operation before getting my deluxe case, because the ultra-steep angle of the kickstand is otherwise far too impractical on low surfaces. And there are nothing but low tables at the laundromat.

Weirdly, getting the deluxe case is what finally makes the kickstand genuinely useful. As it is large and sturdy, it’s a good surface to use the kickstand with, and it adds enough elevation to most tables to provide an acceptable angle of view.

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Which ties into...

Arms at the laundromat

This is a special case of the previous scenario, based on something I did during my last go-round at the laundromat.

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Once the bags of dirty clothes are packed and the detergent and dryer sheets are procured, I pack the tablet (JoyCons attached to the sides as always), JoyCon wrist straps, pro controller, games, and a pair of foldable headphones into my deluxe Switch case. I then load the car with everything and drive over to the laundromat.

The time in between loading the clothes into the washer, transferring them into the dryer, and packing everything away to drive back home is free for dedicating towards game time. I happen to be in the mood for playing some Arms.

I seat myself at a table, pull the Switch and wrist straps out of the case, detach the JoyCons from the Switch, and attach the wrist straps to them. I then close the deluxe case, place the case on the table, pop out the Switch’s kickstand, and place the Switch atop the case for extra elevation.

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This setup allows me to play Arms on-the-go with motion controls while sitting down. It is actually a crap-ton of fun to play this way. I can fit in a Grand Prix during the wait time.

Once I am fully situated, I go to town wailing on a bunch of virtual combatants’ faces.

At work

The prior two use cases related to the laundromat? They work just as well at my desk job. I’ve done some Mario Kart, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Arms during the periods of the workday consisting of waiting for shit to finish up.

Bringing the whole dang setup—dock included—to someone else’s home

The picture above says it all when it comes to how much space the Nintendo Switch takes up. In a single plastic bag is literally my entire Switch setup. The dock, the USB-C adapter, the HDMI cable, the JoyCon grip, the wrist straps, the pro controller, the Switch itself with JoyCons attached (wrapped in the yellow bag), all of my games—everything fits, and it’s the weight of one or two bags of groceries.

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This is not purely for show, either. Before getting a proper carrying case, whenever I wanted to do anything mobile with the console, e.g. laundry or work, my main means of carrying everything was basically in this very manner.

How does that work for full-on travel, however? A few weeks before the Switch’s release, I pondered,

[T]he Switch is practically the equivalent of a Wii U gamepad with an (optional) dock which it slots into, meaning that the dock won’t take up much extra space. It ought to take up just a fraction of backpack space when all packed together.

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Anyone doing any sort of traveling could reap the same benefits [of bringing the Switch dock]. Actually, going even farther, why even relegate ourselves to just hotels? What if someone was staying with distant family or friends? What if they wanted something to game on?

Now having a Switch of my own, and having actually done the staying with distant family/friends thing, I think that was all totally on the mark.

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Everything absolutely was a snug fit in a backpack, which was good because I didn’t have my carrying case at the time. All of that also happens to fit in the deluxe Switch case as well, no extra bags necessary.

What really seals the deal, however, is that both breaking down the dock and setting it back up are genuinely easy and quick operations. The only weird part about it is working with the cable bay door on the back, but I got used to that rather easily. Moving the dock does not feel like a massive chore, and that does lots to encourage traveling around with it.

Which means that I was able to bring the Switch across state lines to my girlfriend’s brother’s place, set it up on his TV, and do rounds of three-player Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. His girlfriend also got to try out The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

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She got her own Nintendo Switch shortly afterward, galvanized by the experience. Not bad for a game system on-the-go.

Competitive single-screen multiplayer sessions at a video game convention

Do your thing, Justin From The Past:

Things that I did not see [at TooManyGames 2017], and thus may be bunk predictions? The kickstand; with the sole exception of me, because everyone else played in handheld mode. By extension, there was also no same-screen multiplayer. Handheld is shaping up to be the prime way to play the Switch at a convention.

Which is a shame, because tabletop multiplayer has some real potential. It took using the deluxe case as additional elevation to make it happen, but for a couple of times, my girlfriend and I were able to set up shop at a table, take a JoyCon each, and put in some competitive rounds of Puyo Puyo Tetris.

If you were to take the Arms photo above and imagine Puyo Puyo Tetris playing on it instead, that’s about 90% of how it worked.


Considering the plethora of ways in which the Nintendo Switch has been used, something sticks out to me. The Switch’s alleged flexibility could have been merely a marketing pipe dream. As in, all of that could technically be there, yet also be so awkward and inconvenient to use that it would have worthless in practice.

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That is not the case here, at least based on my personal experiences. All of those scenarios listed above? It hardly ever feels like I have to actively force myself to use them. Some of those modes of play do warrant resourcefulness to make them happen at times, but the effort involved never approaches convoluted or tedious extremes.

All of which comes down to this: The Nintendo Switch is the genuine article.


I now yield the floor to you. Disregarding Nintendo’s marketing and expectations, how have you for-real actually been playing the Switch? As mobile as me? Mostly staying in the dock? Additionally, has the experience of playing it lived up to your hopes and expectations?