The Evolution of Gaming: A Brief History
Gaming has been around for decades and has changed with evolving technology. As systems got more complex, games got more in-depth and sensitive to player capabilities. Today’s gamers use the best technology to compete at the highest levels. Let’s look at just how far gaming has come over the years with a history of video games and video game consoles.
The Conception of Gaming (1948-1970)
As early as the 1950s, computer scientists began designing simple games as simulations (way before Atari Pong). Some of the earliest games included Nimrod (1951), Strachey’s Draughts Program (1951), Tic-Tac-Toe (1951), and Tennis for Two (1958).
When higher performing computers came out, like the IBM 1560, games like Moon Landing, 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, and Spacewar! became more popular. However, these games were typically only available at top institutions, like MIT. Gaming didn’t get a lot of mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 80s.
The Birth of the Video Game Industry (1971-1978)
The history of gaming really started when Ralph Baer came up with an idea for an entertainment device that could be hooked up to a television monitor. Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box” was a video game console that could play table tennis.
Baer led a team at Sanders Associates to build the first commercial home console, the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. Players used plastic overlays on their TV screens to show visual elements that supported the rules of the game. They used controllers to move a dot and kept their own scores.
In 1972, Pong was released by Atari and was available as one of the earliest arcade video games. The ‘ball-and-paddle” industry stagnated, but spawned the origin of games and early hits, including:
• Gran Trak 10 (1974)
• Tank (1974)
• Wheels (1975)
• Gun Fight (1975)
• Sea Wolf (1976)
The first generation of home consoles (1975-1977) and mainframe computer games (1971-1979), included Atari VCS (1977) and Odyssey2 (1978). This was the start of the history of game consoles, and they operated on BASIC & C programming languages.
The Golden Age of Gaming (1978-1982)
In the late 70s and early 80s, there was an explosion of coin-operated amusement that sparked a major evolution of video games. Kids swarmed arcades for the games they couldn’t afford in their own homes. During the Golden Age of Gaming that focused on coin-operated video games, the US gaming industry jumped from $308MM (1978) to $968MM (1979), then to $2.8B (1980).
Video games in Japan began increasing in popularity, leading Taito designer Tomohiro Nishikado to design Space Invaders in 1978. This sparked the creation of Lunar Lander (1979) from Atari (a reboot of the Moonlander game). It was highly popular before being quickly overshadowed by Asteroids later in 1979. Space Invaders paved the way for Galaga (1981) and Tempest (1981) too.
The new wave of arcade games during this time also focused on alternative characters and mechanics, starting with Pac Man (1980). Character games gained traction and popularity, with the rise of Ms. Pac Man (1982), Donkey Kong (1981), and Q*bert (1982).
The rise of arcade gaming sparked the second generation of home consoles (1976-1982), which enabled game data storage on ROM-based cartridges. Popular home consoles included the Intellivision (1979) and popular console games, like River Raid (1982) and Pitfall! (1982). Early computer games were being developed in the late 1970s, allowing them to rapidly evolve in the 1980s for a big bang in computer gaming.
The Emergence of Gaming Computers and Early Online Gaming in the 1980s
Home computers began to gain steam in the late 70s and much more mainstream in the 80s. The second batch of gaming computers emerged after the popularity of the Apple II and Commodore PET.
PCs like the Commodore VIC-20, Sinclair ZX 81, and NEC PC-800 helped catalyze the popularity of personal home computers and PC gaming market. Early on, computer games ranged from text adventures to gambling games like blackjack.
In 1979, Microvision was released as the first handheld system using interchangeable cartridges, which led to the release of Nintendo’s Game & Watch line of handheld electronic games.
A huge recession hit the US video game industry from 1982 to
1985. With so many games and consoles available, the market became oversaturated and attention had shifted to personal computers. The video game crash of 1983 led to the popularity of the Japanese gaming industry for companies, like Nintendo and Sega.
The Third Generation of Gaming Consoles (1983-1995)
With the US gaming industry rearing from shock and bankruptcy, development of 8-bit video games brought about the worldwide popularity of the third-generation Nintendo Entertainment System.
Originally, Nintendo’s Family Computer (Famicom) and Sega’s SG-100 hit the market and gained popularity with the Japanese gaming crowd. To make the Famicom marketable in the US, Nintendo decided to rebrand and redesign the Famicom as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This brought about huge sales and influence for Nintendo in the US gaming industry.
This third generation of consoles included the gamepad or joypad, over the traditional joysticks, paddles, and keypads. Popular 8-bit games such as The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, Phantasy Star, and Final Fantasy.
The Fourth Generation of Gaming Consoles (1987-2004)
A wave of 16-bit generation video game consoles brought about better graphics for the fourth generation gaming units. The TurboGrafx-16 PC engine was the first commercially available 16-bit game system. Nintendo responded by launching the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1990.
With consoles transitioning to CD-based games, Nintendo experimented with optical drive media formats in a joint venture with Sony, who developed the concept into the PlayStation. Sonic the Hedgehog released in 1991 for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, which rivaled Nintendo’s Mario franchise and started the console war.
By 1989, there was an emergence of handheld consoles, with Nintendo’s Game Boy being the most popular option. The three main competitors for Nintendo were Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear, and NEC Turbo Express.
Best-selling titles released for portable gaming included: Tetris, Pokémon Red, Green and Blue, Super Mario Land, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, among others.
Gaming in the 1990s
The 1990s paved the way for further innovations in video gaming, including the transition of graphics from raster to 3D. This gave rise to popular genres, like FPS, real-time strategy and MMO games. Arcade game popularity declined because of the video game industry shift towards more mainstream in-home entertainment options.
During this time, increasingly violent video games, such as Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, and Doom, caused concerns about mainstream gaming. People were afraid the violent games would make kids callous and more prone to real-life violence after watching it played out in front of them so frequently.
PC gaming continued to rise in popularity with these enhancements in 3D graphics. Notable genres, such as FPS, RTS and MMO games included:
• Quake (gave rise to e-sports and FPS games)
• Resident Evil (the birth of survival horror)
• SimCity (simulation games)
• Gun Fight (1975)
• Dune II (real-time strategy)
Fifth Generation Consoles (1993-2006)
Some of the most popular fifth-generation video game consoles included the Sega Saturn, the Sony PlayStation, and the Nintendo 64. These had wildly popular games, like Super Mario 64, PaRappa the Rapper, Dance Dance Revolution, GoldenEye 007, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Final Fantasy VII.
The start of Mobile Phone Gaming
At this time in gaming, cellphones became highly accessible. Devices, such as the Nokia 6110, provided time-killer and arcade-like games as an option. Back then, Snake was a big hit and the game was installed on about an estimated 400 million devices.
Gaming in the 2000s
Further innovations in the 2000s led to a more robust gaming industry. Gaming became a highly competitive market for developers, hardware companies, and portable game system creators. It became popular for users to make game modification or “mods,” spawning famous games like Counter Strike (Half Life mod) as early as 1999.
Sixth Generation Consoles (1998-2013)
The sixth generation of consoles started with the launch of the Sega Dreamcast in 1998, followed by the huge release of the PlayStation 2 in 2000. Nintendo followed a year later with the introduction of the GameCube in 2001.
Before the end of 2001, Microsoft rereleased the Xbox, leveraging internal development. This gave rise to Halo: Combat Evolved, which became the driving point to Xbox’s success. In 2001, Grand Theft Auto III was also released, which popularized open-world games.
During this time, Nintendo still dominated the handheld market, releasing Game Boy Advance in 2001.
The Rise of Online gaming
The increase of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) led to significant title releases for PCs, including RuneScape, World of Warcraft, EverQuest, and Ultima Online. Microsoft launched its own online gaming service called Xbox Live, which was a huge success with games like Halo 2. Gamers could join into much larger group quests and battles, increasing the community aspect of gaming.
Mainstream Popularity for Mobile Games
As mobile devices became more common and complex, mobile gaming increased as well. Wide varieties of mobile games were launched on mobile phones, ranging from puzzle games, to strategy multi-player games and vintage arcade-inspired games too. The debut of app stores by Apple and Google increasingly rivaled the console market with successful titles like Angry Bird, Candy Crush, and Words with Friends.
Seventh Generation Consoles (2005-2013)
The seventh generation opened with handheld consoles like the PSP (PlayStation Portable) and the Nintendo DS. The PSP attracted seasoned games, while the DS captured casual gamers, with releases like Nintendogs and Brain Age.
In console gaming, the Xbox 360 launched in November 2005, while the PS3 launched in 2006. Both companies added online gaming and sales platforms along with their consoles, mainly Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. These increased the add-ons and online gaming features of the new generation of consoles for even broader gaming possibilities.
Nintendo also gained dominance of the home video game market with their launch of the Nintendo Wii that offered Wii sports and Mario Kart Wii. The Wii had lower technical specifications, but its movement-based controls increased the engagement of non-traditional gamers. The lower price point made it a favourable console among many households for family gaming.
The Eighth Generation of Consoles (2012-Present)
The eighth generation of consoles started with the release of the Nintendo 3DS and the PS Vita in 2011. The Wii U was released in 2011 and billed as the Wii’s successor.
The launch of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2013 led to the consoles currently dominating the home video game industry. Console exclusives, such as Uncharted 4, God of War, Spider-Man, Gears of War 5, and Forza Horizon 4, drove success for both the PS4 and Xbox One consoles, driving the console war throughout the generation.
The final eighth-generation console was a hybrid platform called the Nintendo Switch, which incorporated Wii-style motion controls and portability. Top games for the Switch include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Smash Bros, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Mario Kart 8.
A New Generation of Consoles and PC Gaming (2020)
The next generation of gaming is upon us with the launching of the PS5, PS5 Digital Edition, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S.
Innovations in cloud service gaming, such as Google Stadia and Amazon Luna, offer a console gaming experience through cloud-based solutions. The latest innovations in graphical processing, like Nvidia GEFORCE RTX 380 and proprietary solid-state drives (SSDs), enhance gameplay on next-gen consoles and PCs with faster storage options and superior image processing.
The gaming industry is radically evolving to further gaming experiences all across the world.
Gamers should be ready for the next generation of consoles and graphical processing by having the highest specs possible in gaming monitors. The right monitor will be able to keep up with the intense visual demands of the newest consoles and provide the most immersive experience for gamers.
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