Modern video games are almost entirely played on black, plastic boxes. The Xbox One, PS4, and even the Switch sans colourful Joy-Con are non-discrete electronics designed to be as visually unobtrusive as possible. Form can be as important as function, though, and I like a little bit of colour and whimsy in the objects I choose to surround myself with. Maybe that’s why I’ve fallen so hard for this Steampunk Sega Master System.
Sega started making gaming consoles long before the Genesis, including the Master System I and II which directly followed it. While they had some great games, including Streets of Rage and Phantasy Star, the consoles themselves were not that cool looking, which I say even as someone who looks at most retro electronics with nostalgia-infused, rose coloured glasses. Maybe that’s why artist Franklin Vanseizenberg decided to take the guts of a Sega Master System and stick it in a steampunk inspired body of his own creation.
Encased in wood with a small CRT monitor and a bunch of knobs, switches, and transistors, the customised console looks like someone travelled back in time to the late 1800s and tried to find a way to play video games on a phonograph. The game cartridges load into the top like on a normal Master System, while the sound comes out a small speaker surrounded by a copper funnel. It looks totally bonkers, but I deeply respect Vanseizneberg’s commitment to setting a new bar for special edition versions of game consoles.
While there was obviously some soldering involved in taking apart the console and rewiring it directly into an old-style monitor and small speaker, most of the work, which Vanseizneberg documented on his Facebook page, revolved around wood and metal working to create a body that would sufficiently convey the artist’s enthusiasm for Steampunk. Half the fun with revisiting old games is the context in which we re-discover them—boxes up in the attic, a basement closet, a one-off arcade cabinet in a pizza shop—and what’s cool about Vanseizneberg’s Tesla Master System is the way it feels like something out of an alternate, sci-fi past.