The games industry has provided us with some pretty amazing stuff over the years. From gaming-on-the-go convenience of the Gameboy to the frankly all-out witchcraft of the Wii controller, gaming has conspired to inspire and amaze the public with newer and fancier technology that has pushed the boundaries of what we perceive as viable or even possible.
As part of this, gaming peripherals have been rife; from basic controllers with an extra turbo button, to full on controller systems for flight or driving games; niches have been identified and filled expertly.
However, in this series we don’t care about those worthy and helpful products; no. Not for us the Wii mote or the NES gun, no sir. What Gaming Fail celebrates (or is that commiserates?) is the gloriously terrible peripherals and systems; those fabulous follies that make you wonder what the designer was thinking.
Previous entries have ranged from the painful, like the Atari Mindlink, to the downright dangerous, like the Wii Car Adapter. However, few have tried to transcend the genre and give you something non-gaming back.
That was until today’s subject: The Nintendo Knitting Machine.
I shit you not, this is an actual thing…
The device was originally demoed to the chairman of Toys r’ Us by Howard Phillips, an employee at Nintendo during the 1980s; a demo he rather unsurprisingly described as ‘Likely one of my least genuinely enthusiastic’.
The basic premise was that the device would plug into the NES console via the controller (exactly how is unclear) and then various patterns could be loaded up via NES cartridges, in the same way games were loaded up. The device would then, given an adequate supply of wool, knit the required garment for the, presumably, delighted owner.
Philips also released a copy of a proposed promotional leaflet, which I’ve included in this article. In it, Nintendo proudly declare ‘The Nintendo Knitting Machine is just one more example of the innovative thinking that keeps Nintendo on the cutting edge of video technology’, which, admittedly, is hard to argue with. The distinction between ‘innovative’ and ‘bat-shit insane’ is in the eye of the beholder though, I suppose.
Sadly, the Nintendo Knitting Machine never entered the public domain, let alone commercial production. We only know of its existence because Phillips decided to release word of it to the world so many years later. And let’s face it, who of us could have sat on such a gem and not let it slip?
Oh Nintendo, you maverick geniuses. Only you could come up with something to fundamentally balmy, a work of such genius and such insanity.
It may be out of left field and, fundamentally, a bad idea, but the Nintendo Knitting Machine, underlines precisely why Nintendo is so beloved by the gaming world. They’re the crazy scientist of the video game world, tinkering away in their lab coming up with new projects all the time. Yes, they might come up with things like the Wii Car Power and the Knitting Machine, but once in a while they create the Wii and revolutionise the industry.
When you get down to it, follies like the Nintendo Knitting Machine might make us laugh, but they’re a sign of everything that’s right about the video games industry; people coming up with new, untried ideas and running with them. While they might not work, they give creativity room to thrive and that’s what greatness is built on.
So I salute you Nintendo, for giving us the fantastically flawed concept of the Nintendo Knitting machine.
Also, take a moment to imagine being the Toys R’ Us chairman and being pitched a knitting machine for the biggest kids’ computer in your store… In the 1980s…. Mind: blown…
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Paul Izod is a lifelong gamer. Since he was old enough to tap at his Dad's PC's keyboard he's been a gamer. Dedicated and often opinionated, you can be sure he'll always have something interesting to say about the subject at hand. Find him on Twitter at @PaulIzod or @FaultyPixelUK or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org