System Lords

System Lords
My Favorite Mistake

Susan Arendt | 8 Feb 2011 12:12
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Odds are pretty good that you've never heard of the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, let alone seen one in real life. No matter what yardstick you'd care to use, the 3DO was not a success. Launched in 1993 for the sky-high price of $699, the "Interactive Multiplayer" was meant to revolutionize your living room by letting you play games, listen to CDs, view photo CDs, and - maybe some day - let you watch movies all from one console, but neither technophiles nor gamers latched onto it. By the time the Sony PlayStation was launched in 1995, the 3DO was estimated to have sold a mere 300,000 units in the U.S.; by comparison, 100,000 PlayStations were sold in its first month of release. The 3DO was a failure, and I absolutely adored the damn thing.

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My original interest in the 3DO boiled down to a single game: The 11th Hour. I'd seen coverage of it in magazines and its mix of puzzles and spooky atmosphere made me salivate. It was already out for the PC, but that didn't help me any. Between college and work, my entire computer experience was Mac-based, and even if I could afford a PC (which I couldn't - even a basic PC capable of running games would set you back a few thousand dollars at the time), I wouldn't have known how to use the darn thing. Yes, this was all taking place at the dawn of time, back when having a home computer was a relative luxury that few could afford, long before PC prices had dropped enough for them to become household staples. I spent many hours at Stop and Save Software, Babbage's, and Electronics Boutique, staring longingly at the shelves of PC games, yearning for entrance to their digital playlands.

It wasn't as though I had no access to videogames at all, of course. The Genesis and Super Nintendo were the hot consoles of the day, and I owned both of them. There were loads of fantastic games for each of them, but their 16-bit offerings felt unsophisticated when compared with the photo-realism that PC games could provide. I even had a Sega CD, but playing full-motion video games like Corpse Killer, Ground Zero Texas, and Sewer Shark often felt like trying to watch HBO through a scrambled cable signal. PC games, on the other hand, were more visually stunning, more crisp, more - dare I say it - grownup.

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