For many of us, access to video games is as easy as heading down to the local shop and buying a game. In the 1980s and '90s, gamers in North America, Europe and Japan could simply head down to their local store to pick up a Nintendo Entertainment System or a Sega Mega Drive.
In Brazil, that wasn't quite the case though. As our new documentary series Red Bull Parallels explores, getting ahold of official games was never quite as easy or as cost effective. However, through piracy, copycat hardware and engineering ingenuity, Brazil has experienced access to video game culture in a different way over the last few decades.
In Red Bull Parallels, we head to the South American country to check out what makes the video game scene tick, and how it all got started, right from the 1970s until today. From arcade copycats with almost identical pinball machines, to quality Nintendo clones like the Phantom System that even got the big N's attention, our three-part series gives a look into how piracy, hacks and emulation have given rise to – and inspired – a whole generation of gamers and video game makers in Brazil.
From interviews with Taito Corp's first Brazilian employee, who talks about copying pinball machines, to discussing the significance of Blanka's first appearance in Street Fighter II, a chat with the creators of famed Counter-Strike map, CS_Rio, and the importance of the Mônica series of video games (which simply replaced the characters of the Sega Master System game Wonder Boy with that of Brazilian comic book character, Mônica), there's lots to explore in our three-part series, which you can watch below.
Episode 1 – Arcades and Improvising
Starting with pinball machines from arcade giants Taito, the games industry in Brazil had its beginnings in dusty shops in downtown São Paulo, adapting machines straight from America for a Brazilian audience, which in turn lead to cloned consoles made only in Brazil.
Episode 2: Home Consoles and National Games
Many major game companies weren't in Brazil. Nintendo wasn't, and had no intention of releasing the NES, so plenty of Brazilian entrepreneurs began to make their own consoles that could play the same games – leading to Brazilian-made games, too.
Episode 3: Piracy and Modifications
During the 2000s, consoles would adapt CDs and DVDs instead of cartridges, making piracy easier, and modifications rampant – from injecting Brazilian players into Winning Eleven (Pro Evo Soccer), or making maps for games like Counter-Strike. These modded games were incredibly popular, enticing companies like Microsoft and Sony to officially launch in the country, and would also lead the way for Brazilian game developers to make their own mark on the industry.