This 1996 Sega training video is so ’90s
If you’ve ever wondered what Sega was like at the height of its game-making powers, wonder no more. A staff video from the Sega vaults—made in 1996, the same year that the Sony PlayStation would begin to take over the world—has been released by the production company behind it, Green Mill Filmworks. Not only is the video a fascinating behind-the scenes look at game development and game testing, it is also, without doubt, the most ’90s thing I’ve ever seen.
Even excluding the baggy clothes, questionable hair cuts, and horrifying denim, the desks of game testers interviewed—many of whom said they worked up to 90 hours a week squashing bugs—are littered with ’90s paraphernalia. My personal favourite, aside from the multiple appearances of the obligatory (for the ’90s at least) Jurassic Park merchandise, is the spinning holographic disk that appears 13 minutes in. I had one of those as a kid, and while I still don’t quite understand what the appeal was, they were all the rage at school, even over here in the UK.
Of course, there’s lots of Sega tech on show too, with testers having access to the Mega Drive (Genesis to our US friends), 32X, Sega CD, Game Gear, Saturn, and even the short-lived Sega Pico, a laptop-like educational system for kids that was powered by Genesis hardware. Each tester was also issued with development cartridges—which you can see being loaded up with memory chips by hand around 18 minutes in—before having to sit and play the game relentlessly, using a VHS recorder (yes really) to record gameplay and identify when and how bugs appeared.
“It’s like anything else, any company that produces a product needs to have a squad that makes sure the product isn’t gonna fail, and all the nuts and bolts are gonna fall out,” says leads tester Joel Breton in the video. “For us, our products are extremely complicated, and they take hours and hours and hours of testing. It’s been called a thankless job. We are some of the hardest workers in the company. And I think we should be recognised more for what we do and how important it is.”
Making that all seem, well, exciting on video is a challenge. After all, it is just a bunch of people sat around playing a video game and filling out bits of paper. And so the video contains nearly every single flashy, MTV-like production technique of the ’90s, including dutch tilts, crash zooms, and—in an astonishingly hopeful attempt at excitement—a triple zoom cut of a guy pushing a button on a photocopier (4:20), followed by another of the paper coming out out the other side. Brilliant.
Then there’s the soundtrack, containing every hot ’90s rock act at the time, including Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam, as well as the constant (and company endorsed) smoke breaks that litter the video.
But arguably the best bit of the video is towards the end, when then-Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske is asked what he thinks the future of video games will be.
“Our view is that video games are going to become much broader in their appeal,” he says. “The game industry started out appealing to males who, probably in the early days in the early ’80s, were 10 to 16 years old. Well, now all those guys have grown up and now in their 30s.”
You’re probably thinking “wow, this guy was way ahead of the curve. He was thinking about how to make games more inclusive to casual players, to an older generation, to women!”
And then he says: “That’s why such a large proportion of our business now is adult males.”
You were this close, Tom. This close.
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