Saturday, October 18, 2008

ASG's Video Jukebox aka The VJ (1994)

I present to you the VJ, another find from old GamePro backissues. The VJ is a perfect example of both mid-nineties electronic excess (virtual reality, Interfilm) and the struggle of the advertising industry to communicate with the ultra hip youth culture. A recipe for bad ideas and imminent failure.

The VJ's selling point was that you'd never have to go through the hassle of changing game cartridges ever again! Just rack and stack, JACK! Never again think to yourself, "Oh man, changing SNES games BITES! It would be RAD if I didn't have to do that." In that day and age you were already tethered to the console by a chord, chances are you didn't have to go far to swap cartridges. Thing is though - the VJ didn't actually save you the trouble of getting up and switching games. You still had to walk up to it and press the switcher, there wasn't a remote. And as far as keeping things nice and tidy, the VJ might put all your games in one place - but it didn't conserve space. These bad boys were 30" wide, a foot deep, 6" tall - freaking huge! Yeah, you could shell out 300 bucks ($49.99 apiece) to get 36 games hooked up on 6 networked VJs, but you'd end up with a new piece of living room furniture, or a whole set if you service your other supported consoles.

While the above ad of the guy with games shoved into his head is pretty tubular, check this VJ ad out. The text really speaks to what a rebellious and wise crackin' youth in a jean jacket I am:

I love the VJ, it's so bad. What was odd about all the youth slang and lingo of the early to mid-nineties is that I never heard anyone use it in reality. If any of my friends or I did communicate with these rude dude inflections it was because we were interpreting what adults in advertising, television, and films had themselves interpreted 90s youth culture to be. Maybe I lived in the wrong town for it, but I'd swear that these too cool for skool kids with their funky funky fresh styles didn't actually exist... particularly not as white video gamer kids.

The VJ epitomizes much of the gaming scene of its time. Lots of third (and sometimes first) parties were looking to hook gamers into the next big thing and always bit off more than they could chew. They ended up with poorly conceived, expensive pieces of hardware nobody wanted. '94 and '95 were particularly brutal years, offering the VJ many likewise mediocre contemporaries such as the Aura Interactor - which claimed to be virtual reality, but was actually just a big vest with speakers that vibrated to simulate actually being in the game! Awesome!

All Systems Go (ASG) Technologies, who produced the VJ, went belly-up in their attempt to enter the gaming world (though they may actually still exist.) There's almost no information available online about them or the VJ. It's verified that the promised Atari Jaguar version didn't come out, and their gah-rose! game Hosenose and Booger never made it either. The Genesis and SNES VJs were slated to be released Christmas '94, but I'm curious whether they actually dropped or not. (If anyone has ever seen one or finds one, let us know!)

In my quest for Video Jukebox info I came across some other fun stuff- earlier concepts going by the name "Video Jukebox."

First up is an actual jukebox that played videos!

I've never seen one of these and I desperately want to. They store 40 music videos and 160 additional records. Tapes with new programming come every month and genre-specific collections can be ordered. A 25" monitor was built into the unit, but you could mod it out with a projector if you wanted.

From 1981 to 1986 HBO ran a half-hour long music video show called Video Jukebox. The show actually pre-dates MTV. No one is hosting any episodes, but check out these title animations. I can't help but suspect these are the products of some noteworthy studios, but I've got no info.

- Cap

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't remember this game system but man I do remember 1994 and the massive amount of competition between gaming companies and little specialty accessory makers. It was more fun in a time when you could open up a magazine and experience the overload of gaming gear you could never afford or have any practical use for.

That advert is awful but I have missed reading patronizing video game advertising for kids :)

I've never seen a video jukebox either but I have heard of them. We're fast coming up on 2015-- where are all the hovercars and holographic movie marquees??