by Jesse L. Smith
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The magazine opened up with a black page containing well defined letters in a crisp white font saying, “Genesis Does”... followed by two white pages with bold black lettering, “…What Nintendon’t.” The ad heralded the beginning of the 16-bit era of video games, and the screenshots of the new games made Nintendo’s 8-bit competitor look pathetic. What previously could only be experienced with quarters at an arcade was now available in the living room, and it made Nintendo’s technology laughable. I couldn’t have been happier at the ‘stick it to Nintendo’ attitude of the ads, because up until that point Nintendo had monopolized the industry with an exclusive licensing agreement with software developers. Now Sega had a new system, AND the rights to other developers: thus beginning one of the fiercest company rivalries in history.
For a while the ‘Genesis’ dominated the market, until Nintendo unveiled its own 16-bit answer – the 'Super Nintendo'. Nintendo was extremely clever in designing and marketing the new system, which boasted capabilities that Sega’s system didn’t have – 'Mode 7' graphics and superior audio. The first commercials for the system showcased games like ‘Pilotwings’ that dazzled with scaling, zooming, and rotating sprites. The colors the system was capable of displaying made the Genesis look like a box of crayons, and the music made the Genesis audio sound like a cheap 70’s synthesizer. There was no need for Nintendo to mock the Genesis openly, as its ‘shock and awe’ marketing style silently implied that the competition wasn’t even worth noting. The flash and dazzle of the new kid on the block was undoubtedly captivating – but tucked behind it all was a processor only half the speed of the Genesis.
Why Nintendo chose to include a slower processor in their system, who knows – but it made for a spectacular clash of personalities in an ‘equal, but different’ videogame war. The Genesis was capable of producing faster games with more on-screen action like the arcades, and the Super Nintendo was capable of producing games with pretty visuals and sounds. There was no more appropriate a mascot for Sega’s system than ‘Sonic’ the hedgehog – whose raw speed and multiple layers of parallax scrolling still impress to this day. However, the Genesis entered into something of a ‘personality’ crisis in its later days, and attempted more to imitate the special effects of the Super Nintendo than focus on its own unique abilities. The colors and audio of the games began to suffer, as the ‘imitation-style’ games began looking like washed-out Super Nintendo games with crackly audio.
It really is tragic, because nearly 20 years later all those special effects that dazzled so much back then don’t mean much anymore. What really matters now is also what really mattered then – that the games are fun. Ironically, the best games on both systems years later are those that were designed to make full use of each system’s unique capabilities. The programmers for those games understood what each system could do best – and focused all of their energy on those aspects. What resulted were truly amazing games that could not be imitated on other systems, and are still popular today on systems that don’t have the same hardware limitations. If the Genesis was like a Boxer, the Super Nintendo was like a Ballerina…
Many of us are like the Genesis or Super Nintendo – both capable of producing amazing things but are caught up in an identity crisis. I remember seeing a picture in the 90’s of a developer at Sega of America with a Super Nintendo in his cubicle! Like that developer, sometimes we lose sight of our own abilities through competition with others. Like the Genesis, many of us are no longer walking in our own gifts and instead walking in the cheap ‘imitation’ gifts of others. As long as we do that, we just want to quit all together – because we feel like we have nothing worthwhile to offer. It takes a lot more energy to emulate others than to be ourselves – with worse results! The moral of the story is to simply invest all your energy into ‘being you’ – with all of its rawness, whether people like it or not. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian church saying, “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” -1 Cor. 12:17 When we are functioning as God intended, our natural glory shines brightest, and others are most blessed.
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