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The World's First True Shooting Game

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While Nintendo was a pioneer of video game light guns, first for its elaborate shooting parlours and then its Zapper for the NES, it didn't create the first home version of the technology.


That honour goes to the aptly-named Shooting Gallery, a hardware/software combo for the Magnavox Odyssey, the world's first home video game console.

Like the Magnavox Odyssey itself, Shooting Gallery was invented by video game pioneer Ralph Baer, who as we know, had quite a thing for guns. He first built a prototype of the technology in 1968, before Shooting Gallery's commercial release in 1972.


SG consisted of three main components: a large, faux-woodgrain shotgun (it was called a "rifle", but relied on pump-action operation) along with two game cartridges, given the snappy names "Game Cartridge 9" and "Game Cartridge 10".


Being the early 1970's, the unit's operation was quite primitive even by Nintendo's early standards. To play one of the four games bundled on the two cartridges, users had to place a paper overlay on top of their TV screen, into which small holes were cut (or shapes left lighter in shade) for light to pass through.


Shooting was then (for all but one of the games) a two-player affair: one person controlled the "target", moving a small light source around the various "holes" using the Magnavox's controller, while the other player used the rifle to try and shoot it. There were no "graphics", no alternating challenges (you had to manually write your score down) or health bars. Just shooting at dots of light through a piece of paper.

The four games included at least varied their theme and setting, if not their "gameplay", subjects ranging from shooting at dinosaurs to fighting the Red Baron to taking on a gang of outlaws.


Because of a number of reasons - the peripheral was large and expensive ($25!), the technology fussy with regards to room lighting and there was an incorrect rumour that a certain type of TV required to play the game - Shooting Gallery only sold around 20,000 units, a far fewer number than the Magnavox Odyssey itself (making it a more collectible item these days).


Still, it goes down in history as the first commercial application of light gun technology for a home video console, more than a decade before the Zapper. And you should always appreciate things coming in a fake woodgrain finish.

FUN FACT: You can read the original Shooting Gallery manual online here.

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