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Sega Activator – Gaming peripheral ahead of its time

Think of the 90s. If you’re an avid Retrogeist follower, that shouldn’t be too hard for you. Now think of your parents, watching you sitting all day playing video games. “Enough with the this Nintendo thing!” they are saying “Why don’t you move around for a bit. Back in our days we used to go out and move around…” You stop listening at that point. Your video console isn’t a Nintendo. It’s a Sega Genesis. Why do grown ups call every gaming system “Nintendo”?

But since your parents loved you, and cared for your physical health, you eventually get a present. We got you a new gizmo, they are saying. Top notch gaming experience, they are adding. Where do they come up with these phrases, you’re thinking. You stop listening at that point. Again. Because when you unwrap your gift you look at something awesome.

Behold – you just got a Sega Activator.

Sega Activator ad, 1993

In 1993, ages before the robust Wii Fit, the squeezy Ring Fit, and the famous Kinect, combining virtual games with the physical world was almost unheard of. Sure, you had the NES Zapper, aka The Light Gun, but that was pretty much it. Now look at the Sega Activator. It looks like something out of a sci fi movie, and like in this sort of movie, it enables you to control whatever is happing on screen. Basically, the Activator was simply made of a ring of infrared sensors you placed on the floor in front of the TV. Standing inside it and moving your arms and legs would block the sensors and thus influencing whatever was happening in the game. Some popular games, such as fighting titles Mortal Kombat 3 and Street Fighter II: SCE quickly got configured for it, and the future looked promising.

However, while a great concept on paper, the Sega Activator was ahead of its time. Its accuracy was horrid, making it a nightmare to accurately control anything in game, and the $80 price tag ($144 in today’s value) was just too high.

Poor 1993 you. Guess you’ll have to wait another decade or two for a proper real / game life interaction. Sorry, Sega Activator.

The Home Show, 1993. A live demonstration of the Activator.