True History of Game Consoles: Part 1

ControlHave you ever...Hurled a Playstation 2 controller in frustration? Kicked your Super Nintendo across the room after losing to a particularly cheap boss? Become so utterly enraged at a Dreamcast game that you snapped the disc into shards and began gingerly slicing at your arms with them while rocking back and forth and weeping softly?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably love to play video games! Well, except the third one. I don’t know what that one would signify. But I think my point was that if you love video games enough to destroy stuff, you'll probably enjoy this article.


Part I - The Ancient Ones
Part II - Runnin' in the 90s
Part III - Modern Day Catastrophists


The Ancient Ones (1972 – 1989)

Ancient

Magnavox Odyssey

Pong If you’re some kind of gigantic dork, you probably go around telling everyone the detailed history of the first game console you ever owned, the Odyssey, which was released sometime in the 70s. I just wanted to let you know that you can stop doing this, because nobody cares about the Magnavox Odyssey anymore.

It existed and you could play pong on it. Big deal. Can we please move on with our lives now? I don’t remember the Odyssey myself because I'm not a hundred and twelve years old and wasn’t actually even alive when this thing came out. So yeah, that’s probably all the history you’re going to get about this particular system.


Fairchild Video Entertainment System

 The Fairchild VES was the first truly revolutionary game console. No, not because it was the first console to be named after Mr. Roger’s character Lady Elaine Fairchild, it was because it introduced cartridges into the video game landscape.

FairchildThis was great, because now users had the ability to blow in (or on) the cartridge itself when they felt a game wasn’t working properly. This was hailed as a major advance in gaming technology at the time because people just love to blow into orifices. So, the Fairchild VES began literally flying off store shelves.

I seem to remember my family having a very old cartridge-based pong machine when I was very young. It was probably a Fairchild. But the only thing I remember about it was that my dad couldn’t usually figure out how to hook it up. Also I think I broke it trying to cram 8-track tapes into it.

I also believe it claimed to have had 3 other games along with pong on a single cartridge. It turned out all this meant was that it did things like add a thicker line down the center of the screen and call it Soccer, or to add one paddle to each side and call it football. Even as a small child I was not impressed.


Atari

AtariWhen the Atari 2600 arrived on the console scene, people everywhere began to shout in their outdoor voices. Not because they really loved the console, but because they all happened to bang their elbows on the corner of their desks at the same time while watching the commercial. But really, a lot of Americans loved the 2600 because it had space invaders.

“Here is a game that sucks a lot less than pong!” they would hiss through clenched teeth while vigorously rubbing their elbows.

Atari released a couple of newer consoles with model numbers ending in 00 as well, and they began making so much money that the Japanese president of Atari was said to have had purchased a late model American Wife who subsequently malfunctioned, growing to great size and rampaging through the streets of Tokyo, destroying 5 city blocks before she was defeated by a spinning shell attack by the great turtle god Gamera: Friend of Children.

One of the reasons for Atari’s success was that they had cornered the market on racially-charged and pornographic games. Here are some examples of the games our innocent children (parents?) were corrupted by:

  • Keystone Kapers - You play as a violent, hard-drinking Irish cop who beats up entrepreneurs who are just trying to make a buck.Gamera

  • Donkey Kong - A monkey captures a white woman and throws barrels at a vague Italian Stereotype as he tries to rescue her. (It is possible that this was intended as an allegory for interracial marriage)

  • Pac-Man - This was the first game to include interactive hardcore sexual acts with recently deceased barnyard animals, household appliances, and unborn infants. It has subsequently been banned in 36 countries, including Japan (which is no small feat, let me assure you).

  • Custer’s Revenge - One of the only wholesome games on the Atari systems, this game allows players to control a valiant southern general as he attempts to reunite with his long lost love, a beautiful American Indian girl.


Nintendo Entertainment System

NES When the NES came out in the 80s, consumers played one game of Super Mario Brothers, and then immediately hurled their old Atari systems through windows all across the country for some reason. This senseless act can be excused though, because upon launch, a number of great games were already available. Great games like: Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Gyromite, and Stack-Up! These quality games were destined to become timeless classics in the hearts of children across the globe.

By the end of its lifespan, the NES library would grow to include hundreds and hundreds of titles. I will now proceed to hand out awards to some of the best games on the system.

Mountain Trash Award

Duck Hunt

Trash

This game would've been a smash hit with bloodthirsty mountain-dwelling comsumers. But unfortunately, the NES was far too expensive for most mountain men, shooting pixilated ducks did not appear to sufficiently sate their savage hillbilly bloodlust, and many of the mountain men were still hazy on the concept of a “movin’ picture box”. 

So, the NES was unable to tap this market. It would remain untapped until the release of the Deer Hunter games, a number of years later.

Game Whose Name Most Closely Resembles Prescription Drug Brand Name Award

 Zanac

Ask your doctor about Zanac today! Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, synesthesia, fatigue, diphtheria, drymouth, headache, depression, sedation, an inflated sense of self-worth, crankiness, and shingles (whatever that is).

Agonizing to Play With a Gamepad Award

Maniac Mansion

Chewyball Why was this game even released on a console? It requires a mouse. Dragging the crosshair eeeverr so slowly down to the bottom of the screen to select an action and then dragging it laboriously across objects in the main screen is bad enough when you have to do it once, but that’s all this game is. I will now record an attempt to play a game of maniac mansion with timestamps to show how long each action takes.

6 seconds: Let’s see here, let me just scroll down and click USE down at the bottom here.
15 seconds: Now I’ll drag up and across the whole screen and click on the lever.
5 Seconds: What? It didn’t do anything! Oh, maybe I have to PULL the lever instead.
15 Seconds: Let me just drag the cursor all the way down to the bottom again and select PULL.
15 Seconds: OK, now I’ll just scroll up here and click the lever.
2 Seconds: DAMMIT! I accidentally clicked too far to the left, now I have to do it all over again! Screw it.
1 Second: (Throws game into fireplace)

Japanese Time-Wasters Award (Tie) 

Dragon Warrior & Final Fantasy

These were the first home games to stretch out an already thin storyline with random battles, forced “leveling-up”, and un-skippable story sequences. These games (especially Dragon Warrior) were extremely successful in Japan, where apparently everyone takes methamphetamine so they can stand sitting around performing the same repetitive actions over and over in games for hundreds of hours and then go out six months later and buy what is ostensibly the exact same game with slightly improved graphics.Stupid Japan.

Game Which Would Have Undoubtedly Included an Appearance by Former Home Improvement Star Richard “Al” Karn Were It Only Released in 2006 Instead Award 

Family Feud

Karn
"I don't think so Tim."


That’s it for Part 1 of The True History of Game Consoles. In part 2, the Sega Genesis is released for some reason; the Super Nintendo rears its drab, chunky, head; and full motion video somehow manages to make games even more ridiculous. Also, included in this section is a secret code word which, if found, could unlock a safe containing a box within which might lie the keys which could open the locks on the car of your dreams! (*See contest rules for details)

*Contest may not actually exist