Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Secret History of the Electronic Gaming Industry

Good evening, mongrels. I'll get to the point, as I'm disappointed in the lot of you: Today, I saw a bin full of discounted Vektrek Yes! portable systems next to shelves full of Funbase 5K consoles. I swear, Akira Ohura would be rolling in his grave. Then again...if the stories about him are true, he'd probably be excited to see so many cheap electronics.

Oh, you say you've never heard of Akira Ohura, famed inventor and macro-businessman? The man who revolutionized the electronic gaming industry (and, yes, the electronic pornography industry)? Little wonder. Allow me to hold a refresher course for all the troglodytes in the audience.

In the late 70's, Butté Futuristics patented an electronic viewing apparatus with one kind of input and the most basic visual output. Of course, to hold on to the patent, they had to produce and sell the device; to this end, they created and marketed the ElectroView, the first real video game system. They sold well at first, due to the quality of the one game they made with it, Puddle Jumper. Butté proceeded to make a million more of the things. They couldn't duplicate the success of Puddle Jumper, however. Furthermore, the Funbase 5 (which was capable of five simultaneous input) was released soon after, so it wasn't long before Butté was stuck with hundreds of thousands of systems nobody wanted.

Nobody except Akira Ohura, that is.

For pennies a system, Ohura bought the lot of ElectroViews (and it was literally a lot; Butté was about to lay cement over the mass of systems and call it even with a parking deck). It is alleged that, as he looked over the mass of electronics, he first spoke those famous words: “Lateral thinking refreshes withered technology.” He then began hacking and taping the systems together four at a time, increasing the processing power by a quadruple factor. For about a dollar's worth of materials, he created not only the first multi-player video game system, but the only four-player, four-screen console: The Vektor Trekker (Vekutura Teruka in Japan).

His particular (and peculiar) type of insanity branched out to the games he went on to program; you may remember Pretty Kitty Party Games, the mini-game filled story of a schizophrenic animé cat and her bizarre personalities. There were several other hits―Puzzle Pup, Big Game Hunter, Puddle Jumper: The Lost Lagoon, and (my personal favorite), pixel(h)ate, where you play as a memory deallocator in the RAM of the system itself; it could be played alongside the other games in the Vektor Trekker and you would face off against anything dropping from the memory of the other games. It is rumored this game was actually an early form of beta-testing; Ohura had the systems send him information about bugs from other games based on the enemies players fought in pixel(h)ate.

The unsettling revelation that Ohura may have been spying on gamers from afar does put the charges of criminal voyeurism he faced later in his life into context. He didn't live long enough to be convicted, however. He died in a car crash testing out an old Gran Nippon sedan he was re-purposing into a so-called “Sex Cab.”

So keep that history in mind the next time you're thinking of buying that over-priced piece of plastic and depleted uranium, the Funbase 5K. Why not buy a nice, portable VekTrek Yes!? You know what it's made of? An old Funbase X controller hacked and taped together with the old version of an iBomb touchscreen. Not to mention a little lateral thinking.

I have to say...I like dat.

Don't let them deallocate your memory,

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