The Evolution of Gaming
Looking back now, it’s amazing to think that gaming has evolved from an obscure hobby that required cumbersome machines to a mainstream form of entertainment. The technology as well as the culture of gaming have changed dramatically. In this post, we will trace the history of gaming and talk about where it came from, where it is, and where it will go in the coming years.
There are many older gamers who still recall Pong as the first game they ever played. Pong looks primitive now, but it was revolutionary. Two people could compete using a display and the world’s first gaming controllers in a simulation that approximated tennis. Pong would inspire decades of innovation to place ever more powerful tech in the hands of the public.
The next generation of video games would start the industry down a path that still defines it today: the split between computer games and console games. Tech-savvy young men spent time at work coding computer games for themselves and their friends, which often took on shades of the pen and paper role-playing games they enjoyed. Console developers competed to include ever-improving graphics and game mechanics across a wide variety of genres.
Then, suddenly, the American gaming industry collapsed. Poor management and a lack of appeal in the products meant that much development came to a halt. It was not until Japanese game developers, led by Nintendo and their first home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. Nintendo would face off against several competitors in the following years. First Sega emerged, and the faceoff between Sega’s Dreamcast and Nintendo’s Super NES produced some of the finest gaming in history. Sega was unable to stay in the fight, but Sony entered gaming with their Playstation line, which competed with Nintendo’s Nintendo 64. This, the 64-bit era, was when console games became brasher, more violent, more engaging, deeper, and more popular. This is also the point when 3D graphics became commonplace. The following generation saw an American company enter the arena: Microsoft Corporation put its Xbox up against the Playstation 2 and Gamecube. This marked a leap forward in gaming technology, because HDTV was entering the market and all three major players stepped up the power of their consoles. Nintendo lost its dominant position during this generation, but countered by quitting the technological arms race in favor of motion control in its next console, the Wii. The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 pushed the envelope and fully embraced two major developments in gaming: online multiplayer and HD graphics. The following generation saw greater power in the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and marketing mistakes doomed the Wii U to obscurity.
At the same time, PC gaming flourished as hundreds of developers and publishers vied to create original and well-made titles across dozens of genres. Today, major developers have concentrated on virtual reality, the cutting edge of graphics, and mobile platforms, the ultimate in mass-market appeal. Only time will tell which segment will prove more profitable and enduring.