The top ten retro gaming secrets

1 Oct 2010

Davey Winder delves to his own extensive personal collection of vintage video games to reveal a few gaming surprises

If you thought modern games hardware had the monopoly on inventions such as motion controllers and 3D effects, think again.

Davey Winder has dug out his vintage gaming collection to reveal the surprising secrets of yesteryear's consoles.

1. The Wii didn't invent motion controls

The Nintendo Wii might have revolutionised and revitalised the video gaming industry when it was released in 2006, but it certainly didn't invent the 'swing it to win it' style of gaming for which it has become so famous.

Smartland SL6401 Golf club

The Wii Remote wireless controller which detects movement in three dimensions is brilliant, especially when playing Wii Sports. But Nintendo was beaten to the punch, or should I say the swing, by some 20 years (the exact date is lost in time, unless you know better) by the Smartland SL6401.

This electronic golf game has a screen in the head of a miniature golf club, and is played by swinging the club itself. It has a very basic accelerometer (you can feel and hear a weight moving inside the club as you swing it) and the game uses the movement of the club to plot the course and distance of your ball as you play.

2. 3D gaming isn't new

3D may well be the new black, what with 3D movies at the cinema and the Nintendo 3DS handheld on the horizon, but 3D gaming is old news.

TomyTronic 3D

The first game to simulate 3D was 3D Monster Maze for the Sinclair ZX81, a first-person perspective, maze-exploring title. However, skip forward to 1983 and the first dedicated home video 3D hardware appeared. The Tomytronic Thundering Turbo 3D handheld was a binocular-style device providing realistic 3D effects courtesy of the two LED panels lit by external light - as your car sped along you had to avoid the LED-generated obstacles coming at you.

3. Gamers had guns 38 years ago

The gun as a game controller didn't start with the Wii Remote/Nunchuk wrapped in a Wii Zapper in 2007, or even the infamous NES Zapper light gun that Nintendo introduced with huge success in 1984. Nope, you need to reach right back to the very first home video games console for the first gun accessory and shooting game you didn't need to visit an arcade to play with: the Magnavox Odyssey.

Magnavox Odyssey Shooting Gallery

Developed by video game hero and pioneer Ralph Baer, the Odyssey was launched in 1972 and sold more than 300,000 units (almost entirely in the USA) before it was discontinued in 1975. Slightly less successful, but nonetheless just as important in historical terms, was the 'Shooting Gallery' pack for the Odyssey which sold no more than 20,000 in total.

Along with a bunch of simple shooting games including a dinosaur safari and haunted house, the accessory pack came complete with what remains the most realistic 'gun' game controller ever produced. This full size, and weighty, pump action shotgun simply detected light - so a 'target' would light up on-screen and you would have to shoot it to score. Or you could shoot a light bulb instead for the same effect.

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