ARTYSSEY: Collaborative Art-Making for the Magnavox Odyssey

One of the assignments I’ve been working on for Media Constellations is creating a project that uses the Magnavox Odyssey for something cool. One of the cool things about the Odyssey is that it entirely runs on configurations of hardware–there is no software, no memory. This also means that the only things that are displayed on the screen at any one time are rectangles representing the players, and sometimes rectangles representing a ball and a middle line (as used in the Tennis game).

In thinking about what I wanted to make, I definitely wanted it to be an interactive experience, but not necessarily a game–if only because I’ve been working on a lot of straight-up game projects recently. So I decided to make something that worked more like a ruleset for collaborative artmaking. At first I was inspired by the pattern of the lights controlled by the player moving across the screen, and those sort of images made as a composite time lapse stitching together the movement of lights into one light drawing. So what if I was taking a time lapse of someone moving the character indicator across the screen and afterwards compiled that into an art piece? But I realized that it’d be much easier to recreate this effect by just having someone in front of the screen, drawing out the path of the light (on some clear-ish vellum). This also leads the person drawing the block the screen, which I hope results in some more interesting artwork and collaboration.

I also wanted one of the players to be able to manipulate the device in real-time, leading to some interesting graphical effects but also leading to things like allowing them to remove one or both of the player lights. I’m still not quite sure how graphical glitches that happen during the process might be incorporated into the final drawing yet–for instance, the player light changing width or height. Right now I’ve just said that’s up to the discretion of the person drawing.

Anyway, here’s the full ruleset if anyone wants to try it out. The design is modeled off of the original Odyssey manual.

The PDF version is available here.

One of the other cool things built into the Odyssey is that it can handle collisions–for instance, between players, or between the players and the ball. Maybe this can be incorporated somewhere in the future?

Made with by Devi Acharya. Fork me on Github. Based on the Athena theme.