Computer games have changed significantly over the past 30 or so years, but have also retained some key continuities. From early arcade machines and experimental university programs, through to online console games, and smartphone apps and games, the development of the industry and its games has produced some of the most exceptional pop culture of the late 20th and early 21st century. Some of the best games range from the addictive quality of Pong and Tetris to the epic scale of World of Warcraft and LA Noire, as well as the multiplying series of games available for smartphones and tablets. This evolution is explored below:
Early computer games developed as part of computer experimentations in university programs, with postwar simulations and programs running tic tac toe and checkers able to test out the fun side of new technologies. Projects like 1961’s Spacewar! experimented with firing missiles. The first games to emerge from the labs were arcade machines in American college campuses, which were in turn adapted by new companies like Atari into commercial machines. Pong and Japanese game Space Invaders defined the early novelty of playing arcade games, which in turn extended to basic consoles and home computers by the start of the 1980s.
Video and cartridge based consoles and computers led the rise of early games in the home. Popular games like Pac-Man were adapted from arcade machines into simple games for small consoles. New developers like Electronic Arts, and games playing computers like the Apple II, the Commodore 64 and the Atari in 1985 allowed for a boom in games that was matched by the early success of cartridge based consoles like the Nintendo games system. The variety of game genres that emerged in the 1980s established the basis for many of today’s key titles, from top down puzzle solving in Legend of Zelda (1986) to platformers like Donkey Kong (1981) and Mario Bros (1983), as well as beat em ups (Kung Fu Faster 1981), and survival horror (Haunted House 1981).
The games industry reached new heights in the 1990s, with the late 1980s success of portable consoles like the Game Boy and the Game Gear expanding the reach of everyday gaming. Sony’s Playstation also made us of CD technology over cartridges, while PC gaming pushed for better graphics, and integration with a burgeoning Internet. The 3D graphics of games like Goldeneye and Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64 aligned with the popularity of third person shooters, epic fantasy games like Final Fantasy, and strategy games for PC users. Early Internet games also made of point and click, and Flash animation, while mobile phones began to introduce simple games like Snake by the end of the decade.
The key shift for computer games in the 2000s was arguably both the online multiplayer capability of consoles like the PS2 and the XBox, as well as the motion sensor innovations of the Nintendo Wiii, and the ambition of Internet linked games like World of Warcraft. Portable consoles like the Nintendo DS also provided everything from educational games to Cartoon Network games based on popular series. Moreover, gaming migrated to more sophisticated smartphones and tablets, as well as to social networking sites via strategy games like Farmville, and phone games like Angry Birds and Draw Something.
Author Bio: Liam Ohm is a technology and gaming enthusiast who, like any busy father, likes to keep his kids busy by letting them play online games for kids over at the Cartoon Network website.