Gaming – Then And Now
In June this year, the iconic platform video game, Sonic completed 25 years in the gaming industry. Since it’s introduction in 1991, the video game industry has undergone many changes. Long gone are the days of arcade gaming. Even handheld gaming consoles have died a painful death. Today, mobile phone gaming rules the roost.
Here is a look at the rich and varied history of video games, its present popularity, and what the future of video gaming looks like.
The early days – The birth and evolution of games
The first video games were developed as early as in the 1950’s. Although video games achieved mainstream acceptance only in the 1970’s and 1980’s when the initial video arcade games and gaming consoles made their appearance. These early video games were essentially instructional, research or demonstration programs. But, since the hardware required for running these was too expensive or difficult to set up, they only served limited and specific purposes. Later, some games were diversified into simple video game versions of actual board or puzzle games such as Tic Tac Toe, Chess, and Checkers. Then came the revolutionary Spacewar, which achieved widespread publicity and influenced the development of other games.
- In the 1970’s, coin-operated arcade games were introduced, which were primarily shooting or driving games, such as Sega’s Periscope or Chicago Coin’s Speedway. Pong further helped to popularize arcade gaming.
- 1978 to 1982, these years were called as the “Golden age of arcade video games” which was triggered by the entrance into the market of video games developed in Japan. Another development of this period was the home gaming console: the first home gaming console was the Magnavox Odyssey.
- 1983 saw the release of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) video game consoles which are considered as one of the best video game consoles ever.
- The 1980’s also saw the growth of personal computer games. The IBM PC is often quoted as one of the key turning points in the development of video games.
- 8-bit and subsequently 16-bit video game consoles took over in the 1990’s. There was a lot of innovation and experimentation going on in this period in the industry. Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive/Genesis) competed with Nintendo’s Mario. Sonic was so popular that it became a mascot for Sega and spawned cartoons and comic-book adaptations. Nintendo’s Game Boy, along with its competitors Atari’s Lynx and the Sega Game Gear, helped revive handheld game consoles.
- The 1990’s also witnessed the introduction of different and big-budget games. Where earlier games were mostly limited to the genres of the puzzle, shooting or driving games, Mortal Kombat and Doom gave video games a decidedly violent turn. Virtua Fighter 3 was a standout game of this era as it had real-time 3D-graphics.
- Sony introduced the PlayStation in December of 1994. PC gaming also followed suite with games such as Alone in the Dark, an initial horror video game, and first-person shooters like Wolfenstein 3D and later on Half-Life.
- In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the focus of video games shifted due to the introduction of bigger storage devices like CD and the advent of mobile phone gaming. More complex games required more computing power and more storage. CDs and better PCs solved this problem, with Counter Strike and Unreal Tournament, both of which had attained cult status.
- In 2001, Microsoft launched the Xbox, and Halo drove the popularity of the Xbox. The year also saw the release of Grand Theft Auto III, which boasted of an open-world environment and a non-linear gameplay. On the other hand, affordable broadband Internet-aided the rise of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI.
- Mobile phones started exhibiting their dominance in the video game sphere with dedicated gaming phones like the Nokia N-Gage and other devices which featured color screens and sufficient processing power to run better games. Smartphones and handheld devices sprouted games like the immensely popular Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga, Temple Run and the likes.
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The present day scenario
Home video game consoles reached a different level with Nintendo’s Wii and its successor the Wii U, which combined video games with fitness. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were announced in 2013. But video games stepped away from traditional shadows into newer regions with the growing popularity of web browser games and mobile phone gaming.
Facebook’s FarmVille combined video games and social media. Games today rely on heavy graphics, even venturing into 3D graphics. These are expansive games with a lot of world building, open-world environments, and well-crafted backstories for its characters.
Games have continued to prove to be an efficient tool in research, with many simulation games helping scientific developments in fields like biotechnology and space exploration. But mobile phone gaming has surpassed all other video game platforms today in terms of popularity.
Take the example of the recently launched Pokemon Go, which has merged the concept of Social Media and video games. Today, the players need not shut themselves up in a dark room or be stationed on the couch the entire time, but they need to step out to play. Today’s games are more interactive and have changed the entire world into a gaming arena.
What the future holds
The average gamer today is in the age group of 25-40, having played video games for most of his childhood. As these gamers have become parents themselves, they have become proponents of gaming in contrast to the anti-gaming parents of the earlier generation. This openness towards gaming will influence the video game industry in the future.
Even the Barack Obama administration in the USA recognized the significance of video games in learning by launching a program to integrate video games into the school. Crowdfunding has allowed small names to emerge as big players in the gaming industry. Much like 3D-gaming was revolutionary in its day, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are becoming common with games like Pokemon Go giving gamers more feedback and interaction.
With all this, the future holds unlimited possibilities for the application of video games in education, research, and entertainment. And even if they change their physical shapes and technologies, video games will continue to hold their own in the near future as interactive entertainment systems.
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