Welcome back to Gaming FOUO. Occassionally I have a topic on my list of “Shit To Write” that just stays on the list unused because I never find a way to use it, while others just fall into my lap. This article is what happens when those two coincide. Both stories are about deceit used to produce a desired response from the public, and both are despicable examples of why you should always do research before making any decision.
The retrogaming world has been innudated lately with a deluge of bovine excrement coming from Retro Video Game Systems, Inc. or Retro VGS – as the company itself prefers to be known as – started off life as a group of hardware developers with an ambitious goal of creating a new, cartridge based video game system. Taking the very odd decision to make a cartridge console in 2015 that is based upon the Atari Jaguar shell, Retro VGS stated that they planned to make the console with built in emulation cores for classic consoles. This means you could run ROMs or homebrew games for systems such as SNES, NES, and Genesis right on the same console. The team made a big deal of the system being cartridge based as well as having no internet connection whatsoever. This of course meant that there could never be any sort of patches for any games released for the console, but on the other hand meant no season passes ever so we’ll call it even.
The system originally was announced to use both 9 Pin – like the Atari Jaguar and the Sega Genesis controllers – and USB for controller input, shipping with a repainted third party WiiU wired Pro Controller. They even stated plans to have both high definition and standard definition signals through a variety of outputs from HDMI all the way back to good ol’ composite. While I can’t state for sure the reasoning behind such an idea, I’m led to believe it involved copious usage of drugs and/or severe brain damage. They announced their project and put it up for public support on popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo with a goal of $1.95 million. They ended up raising about $85,000 before shutting down the campaign.
Things got quiet on Retro VGS front for a short time until the company reemerged, with a brand new licensing agreement from classic console manufacturer Coleco. Plans were to brand the system as the Coleco Chameleon, and the company stated they’d be doing a Kickstarter soon. This is where things started going off the rails. The problem with moving from Indiegogo to Kickstarter with physical merchandise is the burden of proof: Indiegogo does not require a working prototype, but Kickstarter does. Thus, the Coleco Chameleon lived up to its name as it started to become damned near everything but a game console that masqueraded itself as a game console.
The first “prototype” of the Coleco Chameleon was showcased at the very important Toy Fair New York. This is a huge industry event where hundreds of new toys and games are showcased for the buying public. In an attempt to gain more awareness of the upcoming Kickstarter, the Coleco Chamelon was on show and playable, albeit only SNES games. The system itself was locked in a display case, yet covered with numerous bits of electrical tape all over the unit. Interestingly, the system was being played with a standard SNES controller though that was never announced as a function of the system. People were somewhat interested by the system, but the claims of the developers and the weirdness associated with how the console was being shown were just too much. If only they had used duct tape instead of electrical tape nobody would have thought twice about it.
Unfortunately for the Chameleon they drew the attention of Atari Age. If you are unfamiliar with this site, Atari Age is one of the foremost forums for retrogaming on the internet and is my pick as the place to go to learn about collecting. Within hours of the Toy Fair pictures hitting the net, Atari Age users were dismantling the narrative established by Retro VGS bit by bit. The theory quickly formed that what was in fact being shown was the guts of a SNES-101, commonly known as a SNES Mini, shoved into the Retro VGS shell along with a flash cartridge shoehorned into a Jaguar cartridge shell. An outrageous claim like that likely would have died a quick death if not for the fact that they proved the theory. A forum user who happened to own both the SNES-101 and an Atari Jaguar took the consoles apart and then reformed them as per the forums’ claim. They looked identical to the Chameleon being shown at Toy Fair New York. It was an incredibly damning claim, but it would not be the last time the Retro VGS company tried to lie about their prototype.
Retro VGS soon posted images and a video of the Chameleon playing a few SNES games along with a custom front end on their facebook page, but once again Atari Age went James Randi on them. The shell was now a somewhat clear body showing off a circuit board on the inside, with the idea to show they weren’t faking. Oops. Atari Age forum posters identified the circuit board by the chip layout and proved it was in fact a HD DVR capture card that was likely holding pre made footage. Within a very short time of AA once again pissing all over Retro VGS’s parade like R. Kelly with overactive bladder, the offending images were pulled from the Facebook page. Two strikes against Retro VGS, but the worst came literally as I wrote this article.
As of the writing of this piece – March 2, 2016 – Coleco themselves have said “enough’s enough.” They have now announced that they are demanding Retro VGS produce the prototypes for their inspection, and that of independent engineers. If the allegations against Retro VGS prove to be true, Coleco has stated they will immediately pull all support and licensing agreements from the product. I have yet to hear an announcement from Retro VGS but I will update this article as needed if the
lying sons of bitches Retro VGS developers comment upon the demand.
While the actions of Retro VGS are certainly deplorable and vile, at least it was only something that might cost a person money. What would happen if a campaign of intentional deceit was put forth in the interest of convincing the populace of the United States to go to war against the entire communist bloc during the Cold War? The terrifying thing? That almost happened.
In 1962 Fidel Castro had seized power in Cuba after a bloody civil war and declared himself a communist. President Kennedy was a hardline anti-communist and immediately declared Cuba to be an enemy of America. He dropped an embargo that is still in place upon the island nation, and secretly worked on a way to rid Cuba of communist rule. The so called Cuban Project was given the absolutely brilliant title of Operation Mongoose and set to work. While I could discuss the Bay of Pigs fiasco, I’ll just say that direct operations did not work. While Mongoose was mostly put to bed following the harrowing Cuban Missile Crisis that very nearly led to nuclear war, one proposal that was signed off by the Joint Chiefs of Staff was so deplorable that President Kennedy not only vetoed it, but declared no part would ever be used. It was called Operation Northwoods.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff worked together to draft Operation Northwoods – from here on Northwoods – and sent it to the president with the approving signature of Chairman Lyman Lemnitizer. I mentioned that Kennedy soundly rejected it, but in my opinion he should have had all the Joint Chiefs resign for creating such a horrible plan. The basic plan was a “false flag” operation in which heinous acts such as bombings and terror attacks would be perpetrated by friendly forces disguised as enemies for the populace to become agitated at. The classic example of this from American history was the Boston Tea Party where the Patriots dressed up as Native Americans to attempt to fool the British. Too bad all of those guys were honkies so it didn’t quite work. However, the Boston Tea Party had not one single casualty. Northwoods would be different.
Northwoods advocated the use of deception to make the American people believe that not only was Cuba an enemy of the nation, but were actively hostile and acting upon this hostility. They wanted to slowly build from a few terrorist actions to outright attacks that would allow the United States to go from simple defense actions of their own territory to protective actions on Cuban installations threatening America to outright war with Cuba.
The false flag would start with simple acts of harassment designed to irritate Americans in the Caribbean. These would escalate up to and include bombings and hijacking of American private sea vessels. As the public reacted to this campaign of violence from unknown sources there would be “evidence” that would implicate the Castro regime as the instigator. This would give the US government the backing it needed to start interdiction efforts to stop these “Cuban” terrorists. As a sound defensive strategy often requires offensive actions, there would be limited strikes on Cuban military installations that were “direct threats.” Soon the terrorist actions would get so overwhelming that the public would support a full war with Cuba aimed at removing Castro from power.
See the main flaw with this plan? Beyond the simple complete fabrication of casus belli was the fact that this would almost certainly provoke the arrival of World War III and quite possibly a nuclear holocaust. The USSR would certainly see this response as far too much for a few “terrorist” incidents which quite possibly leads to a full war with the entire Warsaw Pact. We’d have the full NATO VS Warsaw Pact royal rumble we’d been afraid of for years without the comfort of color commentary. While I certainly have a lot of dislike for John Kennedy, he acted like any rational human and told the Joint Chiefs that this plan would never be implemented. While conspiracy theorists may claim otherwise, all information related in anyway to Northwoods or the overarching plan – which I have been informed by my top military advisor Tony Brasel is called a “gagglefuck” – Mongoose has shown that not one single portion of anything Northwoods was ever put into use. We are all better for it, although we are also all better for having learned of the awesomeness of “gagglefuck.” Best not Google that one without safe search on.
I am quite certain more than a few of you sharp readers have seen the connection between the two. Both campaigns were designed to get the public to go along with a project they would otherwise have little interest in supporting. Both campaigns were based upon willful deception to achieve their aims with every effort being put forth to make any event connection with their respective campaigns to be cloaked in lies until the desired belief was the commonly accepted one. Most of all, both campaigns were developed by men who have no reason whatsoever to ever be allowed near their respective industry in anything resembling a position of authority ever again.
What Retro VGS has proven themselves to be so far is nothing less than snake oil salesmen. They have time and time again displayed a nauseating level of disdain for the retrogaming community such that they have no remorse about being con men pulling a hugely expensive hustle. Their disregard for both gamers and the truth itself is so deep seated that I firmly believe not one member of their board deserves to ever be given a job in anything within the gaming industry ever again. Gamers everywhere deserve far better than deception after deception designed to take away their money for a project that in all likelihood will never see the light of day. Retro VGS should be ashamed of the craven method in which they attempt to fund their project but they are obviously without shame. Pulling this trick not just once but twice in rapid succession with the only response being an attempt to cover up the damning pictures while slinging mud at any who dare dispute the word of Retro VGS is not just disgusting, but juvenile. All gamers should avoid this company like the Satanic offspring of a drunken Vegas fling between EA and Ubisoft so that not one dollar goes to these human shaped amalgams of bovine excrement.
The creators of Operation Northwoods were advocating a path not only against international law but also against the common decency of the American people. The US military has long prided itself upon serving not the government but the people and this proposal proved not all officers had absorbed such ethics. It was predicated upon willingly deceiving the very people that the military is sworn to protect. This represents not only a willingness to violate the oath they swore and the trust of the citizens but to sacrifice the lives of innocents just to start a war. While the idea itself was protected by the 1st Amendment, I hold no words back when I say that any military official who attempted to implement anything resembling Northwoods was a traitor to both their uniform and country, and should receive the punishment due: treason. If you’re wondering what that is then go do something Congress sure as hell doesn’t and read the Constitution. To use a quote from Firefly, it has “some pretty specific things to say” about treason. It usually involves a strong length of rope.
I could go on and on about the sickening betrayal of trust both campaigns represent. I want to comment first and foremost that in no way whatsoever am I close to suggesting that Retro VGS pulled something that is even in the same building of evil that Northwoods was. I am simply stating they are cut of the same cloth and that is the cloth of amoral focus upon a goal. It’s telling that the rhetorical stretch needed to connect the basis of both plans was not that far at all. I have hope that Retro VGS will regain their decency, admit their wrongdoings and beg forgiveness. There is still an interesting idea for a console underneath all the lies but it will never be worth a cent if it was created under false pretenses. Luckily, Atari Age will likely have their eyes upon everything else Retro VGS announces from now on, and we owe AA thanks for that.
I like to recommend some good science fiction in every FOUO article but I’m going a bit different this time. In the late 80’s legendary military thriller author Tom Clancy penned the ultimate description of a NATO/Warsaw Pact World War III that is firmly rooted in reality yet never goes nuclear. If you can get a copy of it read his fantastic door stopper of a novel Red Storm Rising. I urge you to read it. Clancy’s unique style of technothrillers has been imitated countless times but nobody could ever match up to the man himself. Until next time.