Welcome to the Alternate Future
It's what the future could have been like. In the history timeline in which we currently live looked like this in the early 1980s: Video game-playing at home was initially dominated by standalone gamesets with which you played games like Pong, followed by console games like the Atari 2600, Intellivision and ColecoVision. That all went away a couple of years later, coinciding with the release of the Atari game E.T. The console games all went away and were only revived by the popularity of the Nintendo Entertainment System.
But what if it hadn't ended up that way? We got a glimpse of that today, with the announcement of a new game console from -- wait for it -- Coleco.
Although better known for their Cabbage Patch Dolls, another early-'80s phenomenon, Coleco made a darn impressive video game system back in the day. Particularly impressive, for those of us who were there, was their version of Donkey Kong, the only home console version of the game that compared favorably to the stand-up arcade version.
That's right, Coleco's back with a new console after all these years. They call it the Chameleon, but it won't be available for sale this Christmas. You're going to have to wait. Their press release says it will "be demonstrated at Toy Fair New York 2016, Feb. 13-16."
What is its intention? That's hard to say from just a single press release. Let me give you some examples:
"COLECO Chameleon is a versatile video-game system that serves as a modern day take on the classic game console and will accurately play compilations of favorite games from the past. The COLECO Chameleon also has the ability play brand-new games in the 8-, 16- and 32-bit styles, a growing and popular genre in today’s gaming landscape."
So they're going to re-release an accurate version of Donkey Kong? I don't exactly see anyone standing in line for that.
"And, for the first time in nearly 20 years, the COLECO Chameleon will once again play brand new games on long-lasting, durable cartridges that can be played, traded, and collected for a lifetime. And all game cartridges will include high quality, plastic clamshell cases with illustrated instruction manuals and game developer liner notes."
Cartridges? They're bringing back cartridges? That's like bringing back ink ribbons for typewriters. Or bringing back typewriters.
I thought we were in the 21st Century because we didn't want to live in the 20th Century anymore.
In the press release, Retro Video Game Systems, Inc. President Mike Kennedy says, “It will take gamers and their families back to a simpler time where games were all about great gameplay and fun factor.”
I know I have often said to my family, "Where did all the great gameplay and fun factor go?"
Of course, the big difference between ColecoVision and the new Coleco Chameleon is the look of the controller. Gone is the odd calculator-looking keypad. They've replaced it with a modern, lookalike bat-wing controller. At least it's not a joystick with a single button.
So there it is, your Alternate Future. It's the future as it would have been had the home video game craze not completely disintegrated in the mid-1980s, only to be built back again by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. With a batwing controller.
-- André Hinds ("Evermore") is the audio producer of the ElectricSistaHood podcast and writes weekly about comic books