The NES Knitting Machine
In the late 80’s Nintendo president Minoru Arakawa released an accessory for the Famicom (Japan’s version of the NES) that was actually a programmable knitting machine. This became a hit in Japan but attempts to persuade US retailers to invest in such a device found little interest. Perhaps they should have called it the Knitendo?
The Action GameMaster
In the modern era, gamers are spoiled by the ability of computers to emulate any number of early gaming consoles. If you’re the kind of gamer that insists on playing with the real hardware however, your also catered to with third party developers creating things like the Retron-5 which can play a cross section of video game systems on one console. Surprisingly in 1994 an ambitious team of designers at Active Enterprises attempted to make a handheld console which would play NES, Genesis, the SNES and even CD-ROM games. Users would have to buy separate hardware pieces to make each variety of game work. They also created games exclusively for the console, added a TV tuner, a color TV screen and a charger for your car for gaming on the go. The company had announced the system at trade shows but was met with much scoffing from their peers due to the $500 dollar suggested price tag, and the overall design of the console. Active ended up out of business before the Action Gamemaster could be mass produced.
Aladdin Deck Enhancer
With Nintendo dominating the video game world and doing their best to keep third party developers from making bootleg NES games. The Aladdin Deck Enhancer was designed to aid these unlicensed developers in producing games by containing the technology to bypass the NES Lockout Chip which would block unofficial games from running. The Enhancer also contained a copy of the NES Graphics Chip and memory control chip. With these components taken care of, developers only had to worry about producing the parts specific for each game. With those costs saved, games could be manufactured cheaper and the games could then undercut the price point of official NES titles.
While a good idea on paper, the Enhancer would ultimately prove to be a failure due to not being released until 1992. By this point the Super NES was on the market and gamers weren’t pining for NES games as a premium hobby. Few of the Enhancers ever sold and the company Camerica went belly up in the face of this fiscal failure.
The VR Stuntmaster
Despite promising a 3D Virtual Reality display, anyone who bought the VR Stuntmaster quickly learned that what you got instead was one low resolution grainy LCD screen in the middle of a pair of goggles. The head-tracking device was merely a stick that clipped to your shoulder that was used to detect whether you were looking left or right. Since this was made to work for multiple systems, it was never officially backed by the big gaming companies, few games worked particularly well since the programmers didn’t design games with this peripheral in mind. It was yet another bomb.
The NES Hands Free Controller
In an act of empathy and ingenuity Nintendo designed a controller that was specially made for those who were paralyzed or suffered from some other sort of debilitating physical condition. The mechanism was strapped to the person, who could then control the D-pad with their tongue and the A/B buttons by either sucking or blowing through a pipe. This never was placed in stores, but was made available by mail order. I imagine any sort of button mashing game was infinitely frustrating to play given the means of operation.
The Mega Controller
Bandi released this controller in 1987. It was a standard turbo controller, but it made this list thanks to the controller containing a LCD screen which you could play a puzzle game on. I was tickled by that little addition.
The Game Handler
The Game Handler was a controller designed to allow you to play the NES with only one hand. It had turbo buttons, a slow motion button and apparently had the ability to allow for some wacky extra game play features such as making Mario run backwards.
The Steel Battalion Gamepad
This monstrosity was designed to be used with Capcom’s “mech” simulator Steel Battalion. It contained two joysticks, FORTY buttons, three foot pedals, a dial, a gear shift and a console that was almost the size of a desk. Critics praised the game itself, but this gamepad was costly and the company later admitted they were lucky to have broken even on the device.
The Vectrex 3-D Imager
In 1982 the Vectrex was trying to usurp Atari as the premier home gaming console. One of the things they designed to try and win a bigger spot in the market share was this 3-D imager. The Imager used two spinning color wheels that were placed in front of the eye pieces, which were to correlate with data from the game and give the user a three dimensional feel. The device cost 80 dollars, which was nearly half of what a Vectrex console was going for. On top of that only three games were ever produced to be used with the Imager before the video game crash of 1983 sunk the Vectrex completely.
Colecovision’s Super Action Controller
The Colecovision console was panned for having poor controllers upon it’s release. This led to the development of the Super Action Controller, a massive device that had a big arcade control stick, a “speed control” wheel, a 12 button keypad and four large trigger buttons. The controller allowed you to run more than one character in some compatible games. Ultimately it was a failure, both due to the unwieldy size, a poor price point and coming about near the time of the ’83 video game crash.
Coleco Telstar Arcade
For some reason I absolutely love the design of this late 70’s home console. This cartridge-based console was the last of many expansions and redesigns for the Telstar home arcade. It featured a light gun revolver, a steering wheel and shift as well as control wheels for Pong like games. The success of the Atari 2600 helped nearly bankrupt Coleco by 1980.
The Wii Dildo
Oh Japan, you so crazy! This accessory was designed to be added onto your Wiimote and be utilized as a sex toy. I don’t think I want to know what video games were thought to be erotic enough to use this with. I would suggest that playing Mario Party becomes a lot more awkward when you let it slip out that the controller in your guest’s hand was on your genitals last night. What’s next? A Bullet Bill Butt Plug perhaps?
See Part 2 Here: Videogame Wackiness Part 2