We Think it Started With: The Nintendo DS (2004)
The main draw of the original Nintendo DS, and what set it apart from all contemporary gaming consoles (handheld or otherwise), was its unprecedented degree of interactivity: Gamers were now able to interact more directly with the game using the system's revolutionary touchscreen technology and Nintendo's stylus.
Or, you know, an empty Bic pen.
Some called it a gimmick, but by now it's obvious that these guys were on to something (see: every phone since 2007). This is the kind of forward thinking that would eventually lead Nintendo to the Wii. Wait, did we say "forward"? We meant the opposite.
Actually Been Around Since: The Vectrex (1982)
The Vectrex was an unusual gaming console, in the sense that it was actually a huge monitor that happened to come with a gaming console attached to it.
Its "No TV recquired!" slogan seems a lot less impressive when you consider that it was a TV.
But despite its bulky size and simplistic black and white line graphics, the Vectrex had one huge advantage over every other console of its time (and the ones after that ... and the ones after that): It was the first one ever to feature touch-sensitive gaming, thanks to the Light Pen.
In 1982. When most telephones did not yet have buttons.
The initial lineup of games for the Light Pen was pretty limited: There was a drawing game, an animation game and a music game that would allow you to write and play notes on the screen -- basically, the same type of gimmicky stuff that accounts for half of Nintendo's current game library. They were also working on a slightly more exciting demo called Mail Plane:
These games were all about showing off the potential for what the Light Pen could do, before presumably moving on to more serious stuff. Unfortunately, the Vectrex was a victim of the video game crash of 1983, so they never got to apply this technology to, say, adventure games or even platformers. Most gamers probably never ever heard of it.
Via Video Game Console Library
Causing them to miss out on all this.
So the most innovative feature of the Nintendo DS wasn't actually that original, but at least it pointed the company in the direction of something that really was: The Wii's motion controls. Except ...
We Think It Started With: The Nintendo Wii (2006)
A product so ground-breaking that we barely made fun of the name. After the first year or so.
The recent wave of motion-control systems -- beginning with the Nintendo Wii -- has made it possible for gamers all over the world to be a little more active while looking a lot more foolish.
Every time you're playing Wii, know that your ancestors are looking at you and thinking, Idiot.
The more recent Xbox Kinect is so advanced that it doesn't even need a controller to detect your movements. That's the future right there, folks.
Actually Been Around Since: The Pantomation (1977)
Actually, this particular method of losing your dignity in front of camera has apparently been around since the late 70s. The Pantomation was video equipment originally developed to read musical scores, but then its creators realized it could also be used to track body movement. By using a low-resolution analog camera and a minicomputer, the Pantomation could create computer graphics that reacted to human movement in various ways.
Like making it look like you're lifting a weight made of rainbows.
This is basically the same principle used by the Nintendo Wii or even the PlayStation Move -- only, you know, 30 years before. In other words, a few years after freaking color television became the norm, and someone invented a goddamn seventh-generation console. People were playing with this thing before they even knew what Space Invaders was.
The Pantomation did need a controller, sort of: It worked by detecting the movements of a brightly colored object, like a tennis ball or post-chipotle radioactive poop. The system could be programmed to instantly translate the object's trajectory in various ways, from drawing images on the screen to making music.
Rarely has a man pretending to wank produced such beautiful sounds.
The Pantomation was too expensive to be commercially released (at the time, not everybody had their own television studio at home), but since it was publicly funded, anyone was free to come and play around with the technology as long as they brought their own tape, comfortable clothes and no sense of ridicule whatsoever. Judging by the following video, the Pantomation managed to attract an alarmingly large amount of unemployed mimes.
Tragically, this proved to be indicative of the system's undignified fate. The video game industry was way too young to even consider adopting this technology back then ... so by the 80s the Pantomation was reduced to being used in laser light shows and pantomime performances.
If there's a lower form of art, we haven't thrown garbage at it on the way to work.