Friday, May 14, 2010

In my oh-so-gay opinion: The five most iconic system designs of all time

I know this may shock some of the younger visitors to this blog (assuming there are any), but game companies haven't always been as interested as they seem to be today in designing systems that are aesthetically pleasing. Just look at ye olde Nintendo Entertainment System, which, by most accounts, was big, boxy and, well, butt ugly.

I wouldn't use any of those adjectives--well, with the exception of "boxy"--to describe the following systems, which I consider to be the cream of the crop when it comes to eye-pleasing design.

Dreamcast--OK, so Sega's fourth console is a bit boxy. It's not big, though, and it's certainly not butt ugly. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the Dreamcast is slightly sexy--in a sort of utilitarian way. That dainty little swirl on the lid is awfully appealing, too.

GameBoy--You know, now that I'm thinking about it, the GameBoy and the Dreamcast are pretty similar aesthetically--which, I guess, is why both of them made it on to this little list. If I was forced at gunpoint to choose between them, though, I'd probably point to the GameBoy thanks to its softer, rounder features. Still, it's a bit like choosing between a Da Vinci and a Picasso, isn't it?

PC Engine--A ha! Now we're getting somewhere. Goodbye, gray boxes--hello, white boxes! To be fair, aside from the fact that this system is square in shape it's hardly what I would call "boxy." I also wouldn't call it boring, what with its bumps and curves and ridges. Plus, it sports--front and center and in fire engine red--what is, in my opinion, the coolest console logo ever created.

PSone--Honestly, I thought the original PlayStation design was a total dud. It kind of reminds me of the what I see when I look at the NES sans rose-colored glasses. The PSone, though, is a cutie patootie, as Rosie O'Donnell used to say, especially when its accompanied by one of Sony's flip-top LCD monitors.

Super Famicom--I guess it's clear by now that I prefer simple, sleek system designs to those that are more, er, "adventurous"--like the Mega Drive or the SuperGrafx. Still, it's hard to deny that the Super Famicom is one sexy piece of equipment. That said, this is one system that benefits a lot from being seen alongside its controllers, which add a punch of color and, more importantly, a subtle sense of drama.

See also: 'Raise your hand if you have a video game fetish'


Viewtiful_Justin said...

Interesting thoughts. I can't say I agree, but I'm a sucker for clean lines and design that sets something apart from its competitors (read: Wii, Gamecube).

I don't know that I've ever ACTUALLY seen a photo of a Super Famicom...weird.

IvaNEC said...

I totally agree with your PCE comments, and as unimpressed as I was with the Gameboy's library, I've always felt the system itself was well designed.

I think the various Duo units represent my favorite console design because they're so sleek. I like the Genesis as well, but I agree that the SuperGrafx was too adventurous for its own good.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Don't get me wrong, Justin -- I like the GameCube and the Wii (and the DS and the PStwo). These are just my five favorites in terms of design. Also, if I had written this on a different day I might have replaced the Dreamcast and/or the Super Famicom with one of the four systems I just mentioned.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there IvaNEC! Oh, yeah, I like the design of the Duo, too -- though not really the original black (and squared-off) one. I prefer the curvier Duo-R. Also, I should note that I would have added the PC Engine LT to this list if anyone other than PCE nerds (like you and me) knew about it.

Bryan Ochalla said...

In case anyone should click on these comments in the future -- I feel the need to say that if I were to write this post *today*, I might add the Atari 2600 to the list, too. I know, it featured the same kind of wood paneling that was seen on your mom's old station wagon, but there's something kind of sexy about the whole package, IMO.

BTW, there are two great articles about that long-lost system: and