Earlier this year, we wrote about Sega Channel, the ahead-of-its-time video game service that allowed subscribers to download games to their Sega Mega Drive/Genesis via a cable subscription in the mid to late '90s.
The article covered everything from how the service actually worked to the challenges encountered in bringing it to a wider audience and the people behind it. It also included a few examples of fanart that various subscribers had drawn and sent to Sega Channel to be displayed on the service as part of its "Digital Spotlight". This was a feature accessible from the Info Pit section, listed on the main menu, and appears to have begun taking submissions in late '95.
It was always our intention to follow up that previous feature with a closer look at this more undocumented side of the service, so we kept in touch with the former vice president of programming Michael Shorrock and also got in contact with the Sega Channel programmer Patrice Sartor to find out a little more.
Along with others on the Sega Channel programming team, they were responsible for sourcing the video games that would appear on the service, testing them, stitching them together on a disc, and delivering that finished CD to Colorado to be uploaded to the satellite.
What's interesting about this art is that it shows that, while the Sega Channel was a strictly one-way system with no backend, the team was able to take advantage of the internet to provide some interaction with their subscribers. On Sega's website, for example, there was a number to call to subscribe to the channel, as well as an invitation for any subscribers to send in fanart to be displayed on the channel:
"Call the Sega Channel hook line at 1-800-696-SEGA (in US) to order Sega Channel. As a subscriber you'll be able to participate in Digital Spotlight, a place where we feature the great artistic talents of our subscribers on TV"!
Shorrock recalls how this started, "We began to get floods of real mail back in the day from our fans and somebody sent us a drawing from one of the games and we began to digitize that artwork. We had a whole section of subscriber art and that flourished, and we began to get just a tremendous amount of people sending us in their art, and every month we would highlight a different subscriber."
The artwork sent to Sega Channel usually depicted characters and scenarios from Sega Genesis/Mega Drive games included on the service, like Ecco the Dolphin, Vectorman 2, and Pitfall 2: Mayan Adventure, but also featured some portrayals of the Sega Channel team themselves.
On the website, you see, Sega had listed many members of its programming team under a bunch of superhero pseudonyms. This was included alongside a short description of each person's gaming preferences. Some of these pseudonyms included Rockman, Genghis Khan, King of Fighters, D-Mack, Kool K, Psychocat, The Raven, and King Iguana.
"I believe that we all came up with our own pseudonyms," Sartor tells Time Extension, when contacted via email. "At the time, I had a couple of cats, and had majored in Psychology, so I figured PsychoCat would be a fine moniker, heh."
Shorrock adds, "[We] had a bunch of other characters that became Sega Channel personalities. We had a lot of fun in the office."
As for what these characters looked like, that was pretty much up to subscribers, with Sega Channel encouraging fans to send in their own interpretations.
Sartor kept this art for years, even after leaving Sega Channel, but after a recent move to a smaller house, she passed the collection of fan illustrations onto Shorrock who now keeps them safely stashed away. Thanks to the efforts of both Shorrock and Sartor, you can view some examples of this art below, including some submissions from one of the more prolific artists named Dreamgirl (who produced her own Sega Channel fan comic featuring the Sega Channel team):