Nintendo’s “Inhumane” Virtual Boy Testing Process Likened To ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Earlier today, we reported on a new video from Did You Know Gaming that shines a light on the Virtual Boy F-Zero spin-off Zero Racers, which was once believed to be little more than a series of screenshots but appears to be have been totally finished.

The source is former Nintendo of America associate producer Jim Wornell, who, in the same interview, discusses the rather extreme testing process for the Virtual Boy console itself:

When they were testing people out for Virtual Boy, they had us go through this… did you ever see the movie Clockwork Orange? The scene where the person’s pinned down in the chair, and they’ve got their eyelids open? That was kind of like what Virtual Boy testing was like. They would dilate our pupils, they would have us sit with our heads in this vice type thing, and they would shine light in our pupils. They would have these plastic rods, they would have them just barely touching our eyes — and they would say ‘okay no matter what, don’t blink for a minute.’

They put us under just the most bizarre tests, just to make sure I guess to make sure the thing was safe to use. They would blow air into our eyes, they would have us play a Virtual Boy test kit for 10-15 minutes, then we’d have to rest. Then they’d dilate our eyes again. 2 or 3 rounds of these just bizarre, inhumane torture tests just to make sure this thing wouldn’t kill me, or blind me, or whatever.

But umm… yeah, it was interesting.

In case you’re not aware, A Clockwork Orange is a 1962 book by Anthony Burgess, which was famously adapted into a film by the legendary Stanley Kubrick in 1971. Set in dystopian near-future Britain, the book and film focus on the unruly character Alex and the government’s attempt to cure his wanton levels of violence with an experimental aversion therapy called “The Ludovico Technique”. During one scene, Alex’s eyelids are forced open and he is made to watch scenes of war and conflict, eventually becoming nauseated by the footage and “cured” of his aggressive nature.

While Nintendo’s methods do sound rather extreme, it was perhaps right for being cautious about the Virtual Boy. The system is famous for causing headaches after prolonged use, and when Reflection Technology – the company that created the visual tech that makes the system possible – met with Sega before eventually selling it to Nintendo, there were issues.

Former Sega president Tom Kalinske explains:

A big issue was kids got sick, threw up, or fell over when using this. We couldn’t take that chance.

Still, at least the Virtual Boy has one high-profile fan.

You can read more about the amazing history of the Virtual Boy here.



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