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Now You’re Playing With Power

Halfway through William Gibson’s 2003 novel, Pattern Recognition, a character says this:

“The people who designed all the early Nintendo games drew them on long rolls of paper. There was no better way to do it, and you could unroll the whole thing and see exactly how it would move.”

Here’s an extremely simplified diagram of my thought process upon reading that bit of dialogue:

Holy crap –> Popten post –> Top Ten Nintendo Prototype Sketches –> LOLZ!!!!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an archive of Kerouac-like scrolls depicting Contra and Excitebike levels. I couldn’t even verify the truth of the statement (not that William Gibson has an obligation to tell the truth about anything within the context of his fiction). If one of our more game-obsessed writers has any insight into this phenomenon, please fill me in.

In the meantime, I’ll regale you with the spooky and barely-relevant tale of a forgotten game system I discovered while searching for the Lost Nintendo Scrolls.

After the jump, behold: The VECTREX.

The Vectrex debuted in November 1982 and cost $199. Adjusting for inflation, that’s roughly $650,000 in 2009 dollars. Sure, it was a little pricey, but check it out:

That’s right: it’s the ONLY video game system with its OWN VIDEO SCREEN. Eat it, Colecovision.

The Vectrex also boasted an awesome glitch: the built-in game that came with the system, Minestorm, crashed when you got to level 13. You had to write to the company to get a copy of Minestorm II, which was really just a debugged copy of Minestorm.

The Vectrex went off the market in 1984, but apparently homebrew programmers are still creating games. According to Wikipedia, an unprecedented eight(!) new games debuted in 2006, including Vector 21 and 3D Lord of the Robots.

If any of you lone-wolf Vectrex game designers are reading this, send me your prototype scrolls. Maybe if we archive more carefully, science-fiction writers of the future won’t have to lie about something so cool.

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