Lost control: weird gaming accessories

Last week I shared a guide to provide inspiration for buying Christmas presents for the gamer in your life. The big day is now only a couple of weeks away and we all want to give our loved-ones thoughtful gifts they’ll treasure forever, and that will potentially be the subject of blog posts about festive gaming memories in years to come.

What we don’t want to do is to give them a present that will cause them to say a half-hearted ‘Wow!’ before it’s shoved into the back of a cupboard and sits there gathering dust. You’ve therefore got to feel sorry for the people who gave the items in the list below to their partners and children – and possibly even more sorry for the partners and children themselves. Here are the some of the weirdest and worst gaming accessories.

1984: Atari Mindlink

The promise: “An exciting and unusual new way to operate Atari home computers… the state of the art for the stage of your mind.”

I know what you’re thinking but no, this wasn’t a controller that allowed you to play video games using only the power of your mind. It was simply a wired headband that enabled the player to control their onscreen character using eyebrow twitches. During product testing however, volunteers reported massive headaches from furrowing their brows in exactly the right way – and that was when the device actually worked. This stopped the Mindlink from ever being officially released (so I probably shouldn’t have included it in this post but I thought it was funny).

1985: R.O.B.

The promise: “R.O.B, the extraordinary video robot (batteries not included). He helps you tackle even the toughest challenge.”

Following the video game crash in 1983, Nintendo wanted to rebuild faith in the industry and went about it with their Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.). Unfortunately though their attempts to give everyone their own Johnny 5 were unsuccessful. The little guy only worked consistently with certain CRT televisions due to receiving instructions via light flashes; he could only be used with two games; and he couldn’t do much apart from picking up blocks and flailing his arms. The fun kind of stopped there.

1989: Power Glove

The promise: “The Power Glove for your NES. Now you and the games are one.”

Another item from Nintendo now and one most readers are likely to have already heard of because ‘it’s so bad’. The Power Glove took a some setting up before use, with sensors that needed to be attached to your television and game-specific codes that had to be input using the buttons on the arm – and after all that it didn’t event work properly. It’s therefore no wonder the device had a short lifespan: it was discontinued about a year after release and not even The Wizard could save it.

1989: Roll & Rocker

The promise: “You become the directional control pad!”

Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to put a platform on top of a ball, get gamers to step on top of it and have them rock around the unit in order to move the D-pad for a NES? LJN Toys, that’s who – the same company that published titles for the console which were largely slated by critics. It seems like an injury and a lawsuit waiting to happen rather than a great way to control a video game; imagine playing Super Mario with the device and you’ll understand why nobody bought it.

1989: LaserScope

The promise: “Take yourself out of a tough situation… The amazing voice activated firing system for Nintendo.”

The Konami LaserScope was designed for use with Laser Invasion on the NES and consisted of a light-gun on a headset equipped with a microphone. It was supposed to allow gamers to look through its crosshairs and shout ‘Fire!’ to activate the trigger, but all it did was make the wearer look incredibly stupid. The technology was so bad that not only you could say anything in-game to shoot the gun but background noises would make it fire also, meaning that there was no way in hell you were ever going to be able to conserve your ammo.

1993: Sega Activator

The promise: “Some kids won’t see the advantage of Activator. Then it will hit them.”

The idea here was to make the player feel part of the game and have your character onscreen replicate your actions in real-life. The reality was however that you had to move in one of eight directions while standing in the middle of a plastic octagon on the floor. Here’s an example: if you wanted to do a special attack in Street Fighter you had to punch to the left and right simultaneously while also kicking backwards. An Activator player’s only hope was to flail their limbs wildly and hope for the best – before switching to a normal controller.

1994: Aura Interactor

The promise: “Enter the virtual reality world of the Interactor, where all the action jumps of the screen and into your gut.”

The Interactor isn’t actually as useless as some of the items on this list. It was a big plastic backpack you’d put on and then plug into the audio feed of your console, so sounds below a certain frequency would be converted into vibrations you could then feel while playing a video game. The problem was however with its configuration: having the power on maximum would vibrate far too much while turning the filter high took away the game’s music. And as the device heated up pretty quickly, you’d soon find yourself in a puddle of your own sweat. Eww.

1998: Game Boy Camera and Printer

The promise: “With the Game Boy Camera, you can turn pho-tography in to fun-tography!”

The Game Boy Camera was great if you loved taking grainy, heavily-pixelated, black-and-white photographs of family members and friends. The Printer then allowed you to print all those terrible pictures using six AA batteries, reams of thermal paper and money to throw away. The thing I hate most about these devices however was the Camera advert; whoever thought it was a good idea to use bullying, group hugs, pubescent leching and extreme goatees to market products got it so wrong.

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9 thoughts on “Lost control: weird gaming accessories

  1. Ooooooh, don’t you be talkin’ smack about the dear old Game Boy Camera! I never had one but I kind of still want one. I know it’s rubbish but it’s also utterly charming.

    The Mindlink actually wasn’t a terrible idea, just implemented and marketed badly. I wonder how much of the tech from that made it into today’s specialised controllers for people with disabilities? I’ve seen some that make use of a similar idea, though I think they use more eye tracking than actual face twitches, as I recall. Handled a bit better, this could have kickstarted the whole “accessible gaming” thing early 🙂


    • Ok ok, I admit it… I did actually want the Game Boy Camera as a kid but I never got one. I did however have this magnifying-glass-thing that kind of clipped and was absolutely useless. 😂

      I’ve had the opportunity to play a few eye-controlled games using eye-gaze software while volunteering for SpecialEffect, and it’s honestly amazing. It’s feels weird at first but after a few moments it’s so intuitive.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha! This list made me laugh so hard! I wanted the camera, but some of these I’ve never even heard of. That’s some dedicated searching, there!

    Did you come across anything modern that was less ridiculous but maybe equally as useless? Or has the gaming industry stepped it up as far as quality goes?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember the Game Boy Printer! I still have mine, actually. Ah… that takes me back, haha. I used mine to print out pictures of Pokemon from my Pokedex in the old school Red, Blue, and Yellow games 🙂


    • I love that ha ha! I really wanted the camera but didn’t get one… I think my parents ended up getting me a ‘proper’ camera for my birthday instead and it just wasn’t the same. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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