Video gaming has a long history, one that is intertwined with the technological developments of the last few decades. There is some debate over exactly which video game was the the first, but recorded examples go back as far as the 1950s.
Early titles were simple, often consisting of basic shapes and patterns displayed on a screen, and were designed to run on either high-end supercomputers used in academia or dedicated arcade machines that were created specifically for this purpose.
As technology has advanced, so has the video gaming industry, eventually shaping what we know and love today.
Early Development – Better Graphics, Bigger Games
The development of home consoles in the 1970s, such as the Atari 2600, made video games more accessible to the general public and kickstarted the modern gaming industry. The emergence of personal computers in the 1980s further expanded the market and led to the development of more sophisticated games.
Titles from this era still look very primitive, though. For example, Pac-Man may have been a massive hit among players, but it was still a 2D maze constructed from single-color lines with some colored blobs chasing after a yellow circle.
The 1990s saw a significant leap in technology, with the introduction of 3D graphics and the development of online gaming (though this would remain a niche area for a while).
This led to the creation of several new genres of game, the most notable of these being the first-person shooter. These 3D titles allowed players to fully immerse themselves in the game’s world for the first time, instead of watching on from the sidelines.
This development also made games bigger, allowing players to explore what began to feel like living breathing worlds. For example, the original Grand Theft Auto packed in three complete cities with traffic and pedestrians that appeared to be going about their own business as you moved around.
Online Gaming Brings Players Closer Together
In the past, playing video games with anyone required you to be physically together in the same room. While this was a great way to socialize with friends or even meet new people in an arcade, it wasn’t the most convenient.
Unless you had several computers or consoles in the same room, multiplayer gaming would involve using a split-screen mode or taking it in turns, neither of which offer the best experience.
On top of that, if you enjoyed playing a niche genre of games, you may not have any friends that were interested in playing it with you.
But the internet has changed this. Of course, online games date back quite far as the first is widely considered to be Adventure, which was a text-based game developed in the 1970s. In the 1980s, companies began to develop more sophisticated titles that could be played over the internet, such as Island of Kesmai and Meridian 59. However, it was in the 2000s that online gaming really began to take off in the mainstream.
Now, millions of people log in each day to compete with their pals and complete strangers in everything from Words With Friends to World of Warcraft.
But it isn’t just about online multiplayer games. The internet has also made it easier for players to access and purchase games and has opened up new opportunities for game developers and publishers to monetize their products through microtransactions along with other means.
Streaming and Esports
In more recent years, internet speeds and latency have improved further, opening up even more opportunities for the gaming industry to evolve. One of the biggest advancements has been streaming.
Streaming refers to the act of broadcasting live video content, such as gameplay or other video game-related content, over the internet. This is typically done through platforms like Twitch, YouTube, or Mixer, which allow users to watch streams in real-time or view recordings at a later time.
One of the major ways in which streaming has changed video games is by providing a new platform for players to share their gameplay with others on, and to build a community around their favorite games.
Some companies are even including streaming in the games themselves. For example, PokerStars has developed its Home Games platform which allows players to create their own private poker club where they and their friends can compete while using streaming technology to video chat. This enhances the poker experience as it brings psychological elements like bluffing and reading an opponent’s body language to the forefront of the online game.
Google, Microsoft, Sony, and Nvidia have all created platforms that stream entire games to a user’s device, rather than having the local machine do all of the number crunching. While still in its infancy, this technology has the chance to completely change the way we play games forever.
Streaming has also made esports possible. These are competitive video game tournaments that work in a similar fashion to traditional sports but they use the digital environment of a game instead of a physical pitch, court, or track.
Mobile gaming has come a long way since the first mobile games were released in the late 1990s. The earliest mobile games were simple, monochrome affairs that were often bundled with mobile phones as a way to pass the time. These games were typically played on small, low-resolution screens and were limited by the hardware of the time.
But as the technology advanced and smartphones and tablets enjoyed more widespread adoption, mobile gaming began to evolve. These devices had larger, higher-resolution screens and more powerful processors, which allowed for more sophisticated and visually impressive games.
In the early 2010s, the rise of the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store made it easier for developers to distribute their content and for players to discover and download new games.
Early pioneers of the format included Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, and Candy Crush. They were revolutionary for their time as they took advantage of the touchscreens installed on smartphones from 2007 onwards.
Today, even those games look relatively primitive. Today’s titles now span a wide range of genres, from casual games that can be played in short bursts to more complex and immersive releases that rival console and PC games in terms of their size and quality.
Thanks to evolutions in technology, mobile gaming is a massive industry, with billions of people around the world playing titles on their smartphones and tablets. It’s also because of this tech that we’ve seen the development of new business models, like the free-to-play format which involves giving away a game for free and using in-app purchases to generate revenue.
In all areas, technology is the reason why gaming has evolved over the last half a century. Some of these areas continue to progress forwards, such as in the overall march of hardware capacity, allowing developers to create ever-more realistic releases.
So, while it is impossible to predict the future, we can be certain that, whatever happens, it will be thanks to technology.