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Eric’s Biggest Tech Regret: The Sega Activator

by Eric Frederiksen | November 28, 2014November 28, 2014 12:00 pm PDT

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I traded my Nintendo and all my games in for a Sega Genesis sometime around late 1992 or early 1993. Do I regret selling off all those NES games? Yeah, sometimes. But I got a Sega Genesis, and that system played a key role in my development as a gamer. I definitely don’t regret getting one.

The Genesis was Sega’s golden goose, but just about every other bird Sega had on hand ended up being a dud. As much as I enjoyed my Genesis (and later, my Dreamcast, and even my Saturn), Sega ended up putting a lot of disappointment on the shelves alongside its big money maker.

The one I fell for ended up being one of the worst gaming peripherals of all time. I just want to state for the record that at the time, I was 11. I didn’t yet understand that TV was just lies. All lies.

I had a Sega Activator.

In case you don’t remember it, or you’ve successfully wiped its existence from your brain, the Activator was a ring of infrared sensors. It was based on something called the Light Harp, invented by Assaf Gurner, who demonstrated it with Sega at CES in 1993.

You’d stand inside the ring and, using your arms, legs, head, or a bunch of foam pool noodles, you would interrupt the sensors, causing something to happen on the screen. The whole idea was that you’d kick your foot out to do a kick, throw your arm out to do a punch.

If you were eleven-years-old, you went in thinking you were going to look like this as you played awesome games like Eternal ChampionsĀ andĀ Street Fighter II Championship Edition:

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Instead, though, you ended up a prophetic vision of a game that wouldn’t come out for another 20 years:

Octodad - Watch Out For the Vase

The Activator was, in essence, the cave drawing equivalent of the Kinect. It was supposed to interpret your motions to make games feel more immersive. It was a terrible idea, executed terribly.

How did it make it out of testing? This was a time when Sega of America could do no wrong. They were an also-also ran that managed to take a bite out of the biggest guy in the market, Nintendo. Much of Sega’s power was in great advertising, and the idea was an easy one to advertise. How did they never get sued for it? Well, it’s hard to start a class action lawsuit when no one bought your crappy peripheral. Except me, apparently.

I didn’t pay for it, but I regret ever asking my parents for one, I regret owning one, I regret such a terrible device having ever sat on my shelf at home.

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Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...

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