Civil servant Rafael Alexandre Cardoso da Silva has a huge collection of old consoles such as Atari 2600, Intelligence I and II, Cholecovision This is VectrexRelics of the late 1970s and early 1980s. But the oldest is its age: Magnavox Odyssey, the first commercial video game in history, turns 50 in 2022.
“I ended up with the first Odyssey because of the interesting proposition of the console, which is mixing an electronic device with something like board games. I’ve always liked board games, so it was love at first sight,” he says.
A collector acquired the device in the mid-2000s. “At that time I paid about R$600, which was no longer cheap. Today, in addition to being hard to find, odyssey It can easily exceed 3 thousand rubles,” he says.
Released in September 1972, the Magnavox Odyssey was a rectangular device with a shoulder in the center in white, black and brown. It was connected to the TV via an antenna input and already came with two controllers – practically all games were for two or more players.
“In the beginning, video games were much more about group experiences than isolated entertainment like today’s consoles,” explains Cardoso.
Oh, and if you’re complaining about the price of video games these days (with good reason, let’s face it), then things were a lot worse. The Odyssey was released in the US for $99.95. Adjusted for inflation, today would be the equivalent of US$695 (over R$3,730).
One gaming device?
And what about games? Here everything starts in a peculiar way. On a black-and-white screen, the device could only display four elements: three squares and a vertical line.
They put together a game that can be considered a kind of odyssey in table tennis. Each player controlled one square, trying to hit the opponent’s “court” on the third square.
Will it be a replica of the legendary Pong? On the contrary: Odyssey came first. Atari was “inspired” by table tennis to launch its arcade in 1972, with great success. Several other companies also created “clones” that sued for patent infringement two years later.
But if the arsenal of the Odyssey only had these four elements, how was it possible to play more than one? The solution was interesting: on the front of the TV there were so-called “covers”, plastic covers that formed a kind of mask.
From there, everything depended on the creativity of the players, who had to follow the rules defined by the new “game”. An example of this was skiing, where you had to control your white square along a course drawn on a plastic sheet.
These overlays were combined with cartridges that changed the behavior of the elements displayed on the screen to suit the sentence. In the video below you can see examples of how they worked:
The successor left fans in Brazil
Speaking of Odyssey in Brazil, the video game that those who were kids in the early 1980s remember was not the same one released by Magnavox in the United States in 1972, but its successor.
Odyssey 2 was released in Europe in 1978 and arrived here in May 1983, by Phillips, who called it simply “Odyssey”.
It was an innovative console at the time allowing the use of cartridges. And it had a diverse library, a trend consolidated in later released devices.
Around Odyssey 2 spawned a legion of fans like Cardoso – who still make games for the device to this day. He came to maintain a connection with the Creator odysseyGerman engineer Ralph Baer (died 2014), game development in partnership. It never worked.
Another fan is publicist Ricardo Sacra (47), who remembers well when he first laid hands on the device.
“My dad has always loved video games and around 1982 he bought a Telejogo, which was pretty much a version of the first Odyssey. It was one of the highlights of my home. Sometime later, in 1983, my father returned home at night. With a huge box, he told me it was a gift for me, and as soon as I opened it, I saw that it was Odyssey 2,” he says.
The game that followed it was a racing game called Interlagos. “Then I was afraid: it was the same one who played in the picture in the Bozo show. I just had to wait a little longer to play because my father and mother wanted to try it earlier. A good few minutes,” he jokes.
The passion for Odyssey 2 has persisted so much that today Sakra has three units, including the one he won almost 40 years ago – and it’s still working. The publicist says he often uses it connected to a tube TV for “a more faithful experience.”
But just playing Odyssey 2 wasn’t enough. “In 2007, I was working with the Internet and had the idea to make a website about it. In 2017, on my first vacation, I ran a marathon to broadcast the Odyssey Experience.”
In addition to texts on the history of the device, the site also has an Odyssey Vault, which allows you to play online games released for the console, as well as more current products. There is also a shop that sells mugs, magazines, and mostly recent games, including the box and manual.
“Seven games have already been played, four in the cartridge and three in the Vault. And we have dozens of games. Brazil today is the main hub of the new Odyssey 2 games in the world,” concludes Sacra.