It was October of 2005 in Canada, at the tail end of the original Xbox and Playstation 2’s retail lives. A month before the Xbox 360 was to be released—shipping with flashy titles like the World War II shooter Call of Duty 2—the only home video game console ever to be designed and distributed in Canada, the Game Wave, went to market.
Four years later, in 2009, it was gone.
Canada made a Christian video game console. pic.twitter.com/Mk64IDoHoV
— VICE Canada (@vicecanada) December 21, 2017
I came across the Game Wave when I recently visited the home of Syd Bolton, who runs the PC Museum in Brantford, Ontario. Bolton might be best known for his collection of old computers, but he’s really all about video games. Inside his house, he has rooms upon rooms stacked with games. He’s a collector in the truest sense, as some of the things he’s stockpiled aren’t even really valuable: Every original Xbox game ever made, every Wii game ever made, and so on. They’re not classics, but he has them all, and that’s what matters.
Near the end of my visit, Bolton looked at me with a sly grin and said, “Hey, want to see something cool?” Wondering what that could possibly mean to a guy like Bolton, I said yes. What he pulled out was the Game Wave—a glorified silver DVD player that shipped with four remote controls, all snugly nestled inside a soft case emblazoned with the slogan, “Unity Through Play.” Bolton told me that he owns five of these things.
Game Wave was a family-friendly machine, and it was lauded by Christians for its focus on trivia games and competition in good fun. While not explicitly Christian, the Game Wave certainly courted that audience. One of the system’s few games was a Mario Party-esque title featuring characters from the popular Christian media franchise VeggieTales. According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, ZAPiT Games, the Canadian makers of the Game Wave console, partnered with Big Idea (which owns VeggieTales) in 2008 to sponsor a tour called “The God Made You Special, Live! Tour.”
Bolton and I played a trivia game that was, in all honesty, kind of fun. It wasn’t anything special in terms of its focus—mostly questions about history and famous people, etc.—but it did feature some impressive CGI interstitials and historical videos to accompany the questions. Learning and playing!
It’s unclear why the Game Wave never made it, although one can probably speculate that it was simply outclassed by every other video game console on the market. It was essentially a DVD player, after all. There’s also the small detail that one of ZAPiT’s former executives, Toronto-area businessman Hari Venkatacharya, was arrested in 2013 and convicted in 2016 for arranging phony company loans in exchange for hefty fees.
All in all, it’s just one more piece of doomed Canadian tech for us to fawn and puzzle over years after it died.