Last summer, OCAD University student Ryan Mason spent much of his school holiday huddled in front of a television digitizing his parents’ old home movies. He purchased a new VCR and capture card just for the occasion, but the process took longer than he anticipated: he had to actually watch through each tape, from beginning to end, in order to make digital versions. It was a process awash in memories, and for the rest of the summer the 28-year-old design student couldn’t stop thinking about VHS tapes.

When he returned to school in September and started brainstorming his thesis project, those thoughts on defunct technology turned into a plan: he was going to design a VHS-based video game console that could have existed in the early 1980s, if it weren’t for that pesky video game crash in 1983. Last week at OCAD University’s annual student showcase in downtown Toronto, Mason showed off a fleshed out version of his idea that allowed participants to play one of three different games across 10 old-school tube TVs simultaneously, the image bouncing from set to set. It was like a piece of game history from an alternate timeline.

He even dreamed up an elaborate backstory for the company and hardware (the fictional console is called the Cathode MK.1) and envisioned a form of digital distribution that could’ve been revolutionary at the time. Instead of going out and buying new games on tape, he imagined players would be able to record game data from a special TV channel onto a cassette and then play it on their console. Mason describes this design process as “going back in and bringing some of that…

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