Beyond Pong: The Cathode MK1 Multi-Screen Console

Pong across 10 old TVs

While the pixelated simplicity of Atari’s Pong sparked the beginnings of interactive entertainment decades ago, a prototypeconsole created by one ingenious student developer aims to reimagine multi-player gaming in an altogether different form.

Dubbed the Cathode MK1, this DIY multi-screen system was envisioned right in Toronto by a fourth-year undergraduate wrapping up their studies in sculpture. Constructed from a web of connected CRT televisions and specially coded hardware, the concept draws explicit inspiration from the industrial designs defining consumer electronics in the 1980s. Yet in orchestrating multiple displays to operate in tandem, the simulator also affords an opportunity to build games unbounded by the single-screen limitations of the past.

Several retro-inspired titles have already been tailored for the Cathode MK1’s unique architectural canvas, from Radial Invaders to a new take on the aforementioned granddaddy of video games, Pong itself. By compelling developers to think beyond traditional one-screen confines to leverage interlaced real estate creatively, these early games hint at the creative friction invited by the platform.

Public debuts of the device in action have offered glimpses into that potential, garnering engaged crowds and securing the endorsement of no less than the Game Developers Conference’s 2019 Alt.Ctrl showcase. Add a duo of student accolades later that year at Canada’s Level Up awards, recognizing both Technical Innovation and Artistic Achievement, and momentum is clearly building around this analog-inspired reboot.

Cathode MK1

Pioneering Play: Exploring Cutting-Edge Alternatives in Gaming Consoles

Indie and Custom-Built Consoles:

The indie gaming scene has seen a variety of custom-built consoles, often created by individual enthusiasts or small teams. These consoles may feature unique design elements or cater to specific types of games, much like the Cathode MK1.

Virtual Reality (VR) Systems:

While not directly comparable, VR systems represent a significant departure from traditional single-screen gaming by offering immersive, multi-dimensional experiences. They change the way players interact with the game world, much like how multi-screen setups aim to offer a new perspective.

Modular Consoles:

Some consoles have experimented with modularity, allowing users to add components or change configurations. This concept, while technologically different, shares the DIY spirit of the Cathode MK1.

Retro Console Revivals:

There have been several projects and products aimed at reviving or emulating retro gaming experiences, some even using modern technology to enhance or reimagine old-school games.

Experimental Game Exhibits:

In the realm of digital art and experimental gaming, there have been numerous one-off exhibits and installations that use unique hardware setups, including multi-screen displays, to create novel gaming experiences.

That Night – Atmospheric Puzzle Adventure Game

Yet the retro gaming hardware represents just one facet of this student’s interdisciplinary skillset; That Night, an evocative puzzle adventure mobile game, is yet another noteworthy feather in their cap. Trading twitch arcade action for slow-burning atmospheric unease, it dares players to uncover the secrets of a deserted house marked by a mysterious, tragic past.

In bridging physical build and digital realm, novelty design and nostalgic nod, this pair of personal projects showcase the immense creative range afforded by bridging of contrasts – paying homage to gaming origins while pioneering compelling new directions as well.

That Night game