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R.O.B. hails from an era where the distinction between toys and the new "video games" was fuzzy, and parents often had a difficult time understanding exactly what they were buying their children. Video game systems at that time were not quite toys and not quite technological electronics, and certainly not an experience associated with at-home use. The Video Game Crash of 1983 had just occured, and parents were reluctant to support such a "dangerous" hobby in their children.
To support the Nintendo Entertainment System's (NES) launch in this 1985 environment, the creator of so many nostalgic Nintendo systems and toys Gunpei Yokoi designed the world's first "interactive robot" to pack with the new console. R.O.B. was a friendly, humanoid robotic toy that could — by recognizing almost-invisible flashes from a TV — assist a human in playing videogames by spinning up tops, moving his arms in several dimensions, and indirectly pressing buttons on an NES controller. He was the first robot designed for the home, the grandparent of every Roomba!
Many parents were drawn to the physicality of R.O.B., which helped Nintendo sell millions of NES consoles in toy aisles (rather than the electronics section of reatilers) along the Nintendo *Zapper* and *Duck Hunt*. The robot gave a fresh, friendly, futuristic face to videogames. Ultimately, it would be Mario that defined the NES and Nintendo's future, though R.O.B. and his compatible games *Stack Up* and *Gyromite*, is an often forgotten key to Nintendo's early American, and global, success. R.O.B. is perhaps best known now for his appearance in the Super Smash Bros. video game series, where he continues to spin-up tops and fire laser blasts at the other famous representative of gaming history.
This brick-built, 4" model of R.O.B. is based on his appearance in the Super Smash Bros. series, though several accessories are included to recreate his 1985 functionaliy. The model is made from 172 pieces, and uses a variety of creative construction techniques to place slopes and tiles all over the model to recreate his retrofuturistic look. The build is in-scale with the NES Classic console, as well as my other video game character models.
At 35 years since his release, when video games and toys are again colliding with Nintendo's Labo and Amiibo lines, this is the perfect time to remember the original Robotic Operating Buddy and his contribution to reinvigorating the video game industry!