View-Master Interactive Vision (found VHS-based games; 1988)

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VMIV tapes box and console.png

The VMIV console, box, and VHS games.

Status: Found

The View-Master Interactive Vision was a children's VHS-based game console released in 1988. The console was produced by View-Master Ideal Group, Inc. The company is most well-known for its View-Master film-slide viewer toys. In a message that was printed on all of the View-Master Interactive Vision boxes, View-Master Ideal Group Inc. president Arnold Thaler explained the philosophy behind the product. He viewed the system as a "two-way learning and entertainment television system," as the characters on screen would often address the user directly, and their interactions would change depending on the user's choices. He was particularly fond of the console's ability to remember the choices that had been made, allowing for a recap or final score to be provided to the user.[1]

In the end, only seven tapes were released for the system. Four tapes were taken from Sesame Street. They used a mixture of newly recorded footage, which often explained how to use the console, as well as Sesame Street stock footage that was used as a backdrop for games. Two tapes were taken from Jim Henson's Muppets, and they used entirely original scenarios built around giving the player the View-Master Interactive Vision controller to control the outcome of the story. The last tape, Disney Cartoon Arcade used footage from classic Disney cartoons as a sort of framing device for simple arcade games.

Basic Operation

The console used special VHS tapes to supply full-motion video for the games. These were chosen so that the console could be attached to the family VCR, which was a common household item at the time. The video and audio from the VHS tapes were passed through the console en route to the television. The system used gen-lock technology to generate moving graphics on top of the full-motion video, merge the video streams together and output the video to the television. In addition to the full-motion video, the tapes contain hidden data in the overscan of the video frame, which the console is able to interpret.[2]

If a tape is played directly from a VCR to a television without the console, the user will see a barcode moving up the right-hand side of the screen. This contains the information that the console needs to generate the moving graphics and switch to an alternate audio track. The left side of the video frame contains a moving audio waveform. Essentially, the designers wanted to have a separate audio track to allow the characters to respond differently depending on the user's actions. However, many VCRs at the time were only capable of mono audio output, so it was not as simple as switching the console to only output the left or right audio channel from the tape. Instead, they hid the second audio track inside the video stream, and the console is able to pull the data out and swap between outputting the regular audio and the hidden audio based on the programming data.

VHS is a linear format, and the console had no ability to control the tape transport. This alternate audio track allowed them to have the user's actions seem to control the outcome. Often, the characters' lip-syncing would be carefully timed so that it looked natural with either audio track. Other times, a split-screen would be used in which the FMV showed both outcomes. However, one of the outcomes would be covered up by graphics depending on which track was being played. In the ending of Disney's Cartoon Arcade, failing the final game resulted in a full-screen FMV sequence being completely covered up by graphics and muted, as it was only shown as a reward for success.

Capture and Preservation

As of late 2023, the VHS tapes have been captured in several different ways, and are about as well preserved as a VHS tape possibly could be. This is no longer lost media. Working together, Garrett Gilchrist (tygerbug) has posted video/audio restorations to Archive, Zachary Christensen (zcinfinity) has posted gameplay footage to Youtube, and Andrew York (titan91) and Tony Anderson have posted RF captures to Archive, which can be decoded using vhs-decode, a fork of the Domesday Decoder project. Gameplay is not emulated but the audio and binary data is readable, and it would be a stretch to consider this Lost Media. The optical audio and binary data can be read from these VHS captures in some form.

The View-Master console hardware has been dumped and analyzed by Sean Riddle, in an attempt to eventually bring it to MAME.

On Feb 8 2024, Garrett Gilchrist posted the first of his restored edits to Archive, Disney's Cartoon Arcade, which was presented in its original edit and in a version with higher quality footage inserted of the Disney cartoon clips. Restored edits of the other six tapes were posted on Feb 20 2024.

Given the complexity of the tapes, there is a large amount of data that must be captured in order to fully preserve a tape. First, the tape should be captured directly from a VCR to preserve the original hidden audio waveform and programming barcode. While the console does not currently have an emulator, the raw footage will be useful for future emulator development, as the emulator will need to be able to interpret the hidden data. For this same reason, the hidden data should be captured at the highest quality possible. However, the output of the console with the rendered graphics should also be captured in good quality so that the graphics themselves are available for reference. This will require multiple capture sources for some scenes, as user choice will sometimes result in entirely different graphics being rendered. Finally, all of the audio from both the regular and alternate track should be captured, which will also require multiple captures.

It is possible to decode the onscreen audio from an interlaced capture of the VHS, using AEO-Light, but this provides low quality results compared to the console's own output. The restorations by Garrett Gilchrist use a mixture of both methods.

The console's instruction manual explains how to hook up the console to the VCR and television. The console is connected between the VCR and television. It can accept RCA input (or RF input), and RF output. [3]

Preservation Status

Title Status of Raw Video and Main Audio Status of Rendered Graphics and Alt Audio Notes on Missing Material
Sesame Street: Let's Learn to Play Together Found Found Greeblies sequence glitches for two seconds during the Titan91 capture. See also: ZCInfinity Youtube versions of these.
Sesame Street: Magic on Sesame Street Found Found
Sesame Street: Let's Play School Found Found Bakery scene and lobster story glitch briefly in Titan91 RF capture, affecting data. Fixed in tygerbug version.
Sesame Street: Oscar's Letter Party Found Found
Muppet Madness Found Found See also: ZCInfinity Youtube versions of these.
Muppet Studios Presents: You're the Director Found Found
Disney's Cartoon Arcade Found Found Restored version by tygerbug.


An unboxing and review video for the View-Master Interactive Vision (Courtesy of Retro Game Living Room).

Discussion of obscure VHS-based game consoles, including the View-Master Interactive Vision (Courtesy of OddityArchive).