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Yeah, Vinyl. As in, the plastic Frisbees that music used to come on. Obviously modern disc drives are not big enough to contain such things, and you'd absolutely smash one right to buggery and back if you tried to squeeze it in a cartridge slot. But, for a while at least, it was entirely possible to store games on one. How? Why, by way of the most contrived game-loading process ever known to man, of course!
Above: IT COULDN'T BE MORE SIMPLE!
The conceit was this: Back in the heyday of the Spectrum home computer, certain recording artists would put out a single or an album on vinyl, and then include an extra track containing the screeching, squarking data noise usually contained on a game cassette. The heroically dedicated gamer would then hook their vinyl player up to a tape recorder, copy all of said cacophonic ear-butchery to a blank tape, and then load the resulting item into their Spectrum. Hopefully, after all that effort, you’d get a game.
Above: Well we say "a game". You'd actually get this
Only a few artists used the system, probably due to the noteable factor of it being a right old ball-ache. The number of worthwhile resulting games was even smaller, the highlight probably being a surreal adventure game by the Thomson Twins or Chris ‘Frank Sidebottom’ Sievy’s satirical band-management sim. Lowlight? Probably ‘The Shaky Game’ from ‘80s Welsh Rockabilly evangelist Shakin’ Stevens. If the slightly disturbing (hopefully) song-referencing intro text didn’t disturb the living hell out of you, then its victory screen’s habit of making you think your computer was about to self-detonate certainly would. Weirdly enough, it had ran a 24-hour time limit counter during gameplay too. Which ran in real time. In reality, you wouldn’t have lasted 24 seconds. Still, at least the title was fitting.
Greatest advantage as a format
The multimedia thinking behind it was at least progressive.
Greatest disadvantage as a format
It was basically the same as unreliable horror of cassette loading, but harder. And if you let an album run to the end without remembering that the data track existed, your ears would bleed until your dying day. Which would probably be the next day.
See, here’s what happens when someone misunderstands a bit of technical terminology. Yes, the word “video” technically refers simply to the process of transmitting electronically captured images in order to create a moving scene, so technically a video game can be any game which uses scenes of moving imagery… But context, people, context. By the late ‘80s, video games meant one thing. Pixels, software, controllers, and real-time interaction with an on-screen world.
Above: VHS tape can unleash even greater horrors than this...
Some people however, didn’t get that. They thought that kids just wanted to press buttons while cool-looking things happened on a TV. They didn’t seem to understand that those low-res, pixelly visuals were the pay-off for having actual, programmed game worlds running on the technology available at the time. They seemed to think that if they could just give us MOAR GRAFFIKS then we’d be perfectly happy to give up the voodoo growth-‘shrooms and magical sound showers. So they created a different type of video games. Games that were built around video tapes. And lo, were they ever one unholy crock of shit.
Above: Like this for example
It was a lot like replacing a dirty, chunky, roaring, nitrous-boosted muscle car with a sleeker, prettier F1 shell housing the motor of a hair drier and a couple of moulding peanuts. VHS game systems like the Action Max and Mattel’s cancelled Nemo might have presented games that looked like TV shows (crap, garish ones containing more cheese than Paris, admittedly), but in terms of things to do, there was just nothing going on. Play a video, fire a light gun, hear some bloops from the console connected to your VCR, experience absolutely no feedback whatso-f*cking-ever from the game. That was it, Oh yeah, and rewind and start all over if you want another game. Fortunately though, that last point is moot, because you wouldn’t. You'd just just play Duck Hunt instead, because unlike the execs who created the Action Max, you knew that light gun games with actual gameplay already frigging existed.
Greatest advantage as a storage medium
Erm, you could impress aged relatives who didn’t have a clue what a real game was. Oh, and some of the Nemo’s aborted games were eventually re-purposed as FMV games for the Mega-CD. Yay, Mega-CD, right? Yeah? Anybody? Oh whatever...
Greatest disadvantage as a storage medium
The more observant aged relatives would wonder why your actions counted for precisely sod-all in the game. And the games were shit. Did we mention that the games were shit? Oh seriously, you would not believe how shit...
August 8th, 2011
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