VHS Rewind: “What Video Game?” – Telegames Videotape Showcases A Variety Of Video Games & Platforms, Including The Unreleased Konix (1990)
Hello everybody and happy Labor Day! For those of you that are looking for something lazy to do on this extended holiday weekend (except for me, night shift hospital staff here), I have a treat for you. Back in 1990, Telegames UK released for sale a very unique videocassette which they called “What Video Game?” This tape was available for sale directly from Telegames during the era, and it is a treasure trove of video games from the late 1970s all the way to the early 1990s. This videotape is what we are focusing on today, on this latest edition of “VHS Rewind”!
It’s been quite a while since we last did one of our VHS Rewind features here on RGN, so let me give you a quick explanation of what it’s all about, for those new to RGN as a whole. In a nutshell, VHS Rewind is a way of sharing interesting and strange videos that originated from the retro video game era. These can be anything from television programs that dealt with video games, in store kiosk videos that you no doubt have watched (and begged your parents to take note of), or they could be paid advertisements that aired on local or national television stations that dealt with our favorite past time. In addition, they can also be videocassettes that could be purchased for home watching as well, which is where this edition goes to.
But before we show you the video itself, you need to know a little bit more about the situation. After all, where else in 1990 could you buy a video that talks about games that are available for the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, ColecoVision, Intellivision, NES, TurbGrafx 16, Sega Master System, Genesis, Game Boy and Lynx, all on a single tape? Well that’s exactly what Telegames was all about back in the day. For many years, Telegames has support a variety of video game platforms, and in some early cases, even had their hand in the console marketplace. They also worked on creating their own console called the Telegames Personal Arcade, that was compatible with both the ColecoVision as well as Sega SG-1000 cartridges.
As the years went on, Telegames would go on to release titles for a variety of video game consoles, which is where this videotape comes into play. But on an interesting note, while some of the games were released as a Telegames title, most of the games that were featured on this tape had absolutely nothing to do with Telegames at all! (My initial thoughts when I saw this tape was that it was going to be some kind of catalog of their available titles, but that ended up not being the case.) It actually a very neat collection of videos that show off some of each consoles popular titles, at least for systems that Telegames was still associated with at the time. The beginning of the tape also discusses the differences between PAL, NTSC, SECAM and SCART formats, to make sure you get the proper version of the console that works for you.
On a side note, you can tell that this video was produced very inexpensively. Whenever the video shows off action from the games themselves, you can tell that it used a kinescope method to record the footage. (Kinescope is the process of aiming a video camera directly at a television set as a way of recording footage through the air.) You can tell that this method was used based on the blurry video in some spots, as well as those famous RF interference lines that occur when you aim a camera at a CRT display. You can also see this process thanks to the many times that the game footage is either cut off by the camera, or physically uneven on the screen. (This is most noticeable on portable console footage.) Very inexpensively produced!
One interesting spot of this videotape however comes to us in the form of Telegames showing off titles for a console that was never even released: The Konix Multisystem! Konix was a British company known for making peripherals for video game systems. The Konix Multisystem was developed in 1988 as an advanced peripheral design intended to build on the success of the company’s range of joysticks. The design resembled a dashboard-like controller, and could be configured with a steering wheel, a flight yoke and motorcycle handles. It promised advanced features such as force feedback, which was unheard of in home gaming at the time.
The system was slated to have an 8086 processor (similar to an IBM PC), with a color palette of 4096 available colors (similar to a Commodore Amiga), and to keep game costs down, use 3.5″ floppy disks as the medium instead of ROM cartridges. (Seeing a pattern here?) Another innovative feature was the capability to link two of the consoles together to allow head-to-head two player gaming, a concept that while would be a feature on the original Game Boy the following year, wouldn’t hit home consoles for a short while afterwards. It was also slated to have a 32-bit processor, which would have been a first for the video game industry. But despite the features, a variety of issues, which included mergers, rights transfers, memory issues (mostly with the loading of floppy disks) and using chipsets that were too powerful for programmers to take advantage of), the console was eventually scrapped in 1990.
Going back to Telegames, they are still around and going strong today throughout the United Kingdom, however their love for the retro community had unfortunately taken a major nose dive quite some time ago. Back in 2004, Telegames announced that they would from that point on only focus on supporting modern consoles of the era, and orphan all retro games. (Business decisions, you know.) While this held true in the US, over in the UK, Telegames is still going strong with retro video game support! Today, they also create and publish games for systems such as the Nintendo DS series as well as iOS devices.
So for those that are looking for something retro to watch on this lazy Labor Day, or maybe you are just looking for something to have run in the background while your party guests arrive, this may be something of interest to those that love retro gaming! The entire video plays back with a running time of just slightly under 2 hours, so you will have plenty of time to look over some of your favorite systems of yesteryear. (Or even take a look at it if you are interested in some unreleased goodness!) But however you choose to celebrate today, be careful, stay safe, and have a great time!