Giant-sized fun and games for 65-year-old Thor

Thor has quite the reputation when it comes to lustrum stunts: ten years ago, the Electrical Engineering student association played a game of Tetris on the façade of Luna. Similarly, this stunt – which celebrates the association’s thirteenth lustrum – is also all about gaming on an XL scale. The lustrum committee (or LuCo) has built a giant Nintendo controller designed to be operated by two to three people. “We’re going to play Mario and maybe Tetris, as an homage”, said LuCo member Britt Vermeulen.

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photo Bart van Overbeeke

It is chilly Monday morning in the Markthal at MetaForum, but the Thor members manage to keep warm just fine. They energetically jump up and down on the buttons of the huge Nintendo controller they have set up in front of the large screen over the stairs. A laptop connects the controller to the screen so that it can be used to play games during lunchtime.

The controller is based on that of the Super Nintendo from the early 1990s, so it is very retro. “We took one apart to see how it works”, says Britt. “Write this down: no game controllers were harmed during the making of this lustrum stunt”, dictates Thor board member Jilles Tils. But as reassuring as that sounds, the statement proves to be not entirely true: “Taking it apart is easier than putting it back together ...”

Six cordless drills

The controller of about five by two meters was built in the garden of Britt’s student house, underneath a party tent. The building team, consisting of Renate Debets, Britt, Jilles and Daniel Joaquim Ho (from left to right on the photo above), had already started working on their project during the summer. Despite careful planning, however, there was considerable time pressure towards the end. Fortunately, Thor members Thomas van der Werff, Bart Straten and Thijs Lacquet came to the rescue.

They set to work with six cordless drills at the same time, “and that still wasn’t enough”. They toiled from early in the morning until late at night, until Britt’s roommates showed up asking if they could sleep in the next morning, after their night out.

Sawdust

Despite the stress, pride prevails. Pride in, for example, the iron wire springs they developed all by themselves. Those springs form the connection between the button and the contact point. “We went from one to multiple wires, from tube-shaped to cone-shaped and from manual to automated winding – using the drill. Each step was an improvement”, explains Thomas.

Bending the thin plywood for the rounded buttons also called for resourcefulness, Britt adds. “We had to put it under a hot shower three times before we could bend it far enough.”

To the satisfaction of the Eindhoven students, their Nintendo controller is larger than the one made by Delft Electrical Engineering students in 2011, “the largest in the world even”. However, a Guinness Book of Records entry – which Thor did managed to snag with their Tetris stunt on Luna – is not in the cards this time. “It would’ve had to be made of plastic; ours is made of wood.” Renate remembers how much sawdust came from sawing that wood: “When I blew my nose, sawdust would come out.” Thomas adds that “sawdust in the eyes was the worst.”

Plumber

Monday at 12:30 pm, everything is connected just in time. A large group of Thor members has gathered for the show. There was no time to run tests on the big screen, so the builders are buzzing with excitement when Mario finally appears on screen after the opening speech. Unfortunately, the mustachioed plumber refuses to move from his spot, no matter how zealously the LuCo members jump on the buttons.

“The data from the controller do reach the laptop, but the problem is with the emulator: the app that allows you to play old console games like Mario on your laptop”, Britt explains. “We’re going to try a few things to fix it and make a fresh attempt later this week.” Update: Tuesday afternoon they managed to get everything working, and the XL gaming could begin. The controller will be in the Markthal till the end of the week.

Efteling

It should be noted that this stunt is not the only lustrum activity planned for Thor’s 65th anniversary. Far from it: there is a jam-packed program of activities that runs until December 23, when the closing gala will take place. “We’re also taking eighty people to the Efteling, for example. And tonight, the LuCo-stuko band is performing. The album Vol spanning (tegen de stroom in) is already up on Spotify.”

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