Volleyball (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Though there isn't even a passing resemblance and they're obviously Male, I still like to refer to these six volleyball players (from left to right) as: Ayane, Christie, Helena, Hitomi, Kasumi and Lei Fang.Though there isn't even a passing resemblance and they're obviously Male, I still like to refer to these six volleyball players (from left to right) as: Ayane, Christie, Helena, Hitomi, Kasumi and Lei Fang.

Fast-forward to the present day (2010, to those of you reading this in some 25th century museum/blog-vault), videogame volleyball will evolve/has evolved/evolved into poly-polygonal, progressively scanned-tily clad women bouncing around on exotic beaches and buying each other cute gifts. Back here in 1972/73, where I am, Volleyball for Odyssey is the primordial soup of videogame volleyball. Don't forget, those little figures on the overlay are static; frozen eternally in those positions. The only movement on the screen occurs with the PlayerSpots and the BallSpot, just like in the previous 20-or-so Odyssey games.

What is exciting is that this game utilizes a new numbered cartridge! Seeing a shiny new number "7" on the cart used to play the game does add a little excitement to its initial playing. To recap, for anyone who may not know, cards for Odyssey don't have programs on them. They act as switches to simply toggle the display of, and modify the behaviors of, the "spots" which Odyssey broadcasts to your TV. The hardware variation used by this lucky number "7" cartridge creates a half-height version of the CenterLineSpot (only seen previously in Table Tennis) and stations it at the bottom of the screen as a volleyball "net".

There is a slight difference between this and the other "wiggle the ball past your opponent" games. Instead of wiggling it past your opponent and sending it off the far side of the screen, you instead send it careening as quickly as possible over the net and off the bottom of the screen on your opponent's side of the net--without hitting the net. If the Ball does hit the net, the Ball disappears, leading to no arguments about whether or not it actually hit the net. Such console-refereed situations are welcomed and should be encouraged of game designers from now on. In the future, it would be also nice for the machine to keep score. If the other player manages to intercept the BallSpot with their PlayerSpot, then they have vertical control of the ball with their English after they deflect it. As the ball flies back to the other side of the net they attempt to send it off the bottom of the screen without hitting the net.

The game goes to 15 points (just like real volleyball!) but we couldn't get past the initial "who gets to serve" volley. I want to say that it was really our mood that day and not the game which made us not have fun. However, even if that's true, tough luck for the game...

The Score: Ultraman: 9, The Odyssey: 12

Hey, by the way. back here in the future... I recently got to watch the Ultraman Origin movie from 1967 (in the original Japanese, with NO subtitles. Yeah...I'm hardcore.). I think it was actually the first three Ultraman episodes stitched together into a movie. ... Look, I know that Ultraman and spinoffs have been running for 40 years or so in Japan, so I mean it no disrespect--BUT oh. my. god. This was not an easy show to re-watch. I'm sorry to say, that for the most part, it seems that neither Odyssey NOR Ultraman would make the top 10 list of things to do in 1972/1973...at least not in the hindsight of an adult in his protracted adolescence. I do, however, stand by my choice of Ultraman as a worthy comparison against the Odyssey. Both were the starting points of lasting forms of entertainment. (Odyssey being the birth of home videogames and Ultraman, being the birth of the long-lived Ultraman franchise.)

Next entry we put 1972 to rest with Handball.