Monday, 19 October 2009

A History Of Computer Games; Continued (The 1980's)

By the beginning of the 80’s the video game industry was in full swing. On the back of the PC revolution the games industry had begun to shift from arcades and into the home. Atari was established leader in the home gaming market with the launch of their VCS 2600 console in 1977 and Taito had released Space invaders in 1978 into arcades.

So as we move into the 80’s we begin to see the rapid growth of technology with the introduction of more powerful home computer systems and video game consoles, as well as this we start to see the introduction of many technically innovative, genre-defining and some iconic games which we can still access on some of the latest video game consoles today.

As the 1980’s begin we already start to see competition and rivalry between platforms as the Atari VCS 2600 and the Intellivision are released within just a couple of years of each other, and aesthetically they were both quintessential 80’s. (I don’t want to cause any flame wars but, according to my research, the Intellivision games had significantly better graphics!).

As we move on a couple of years we begin to see the introduction of some of the most iconic games in gaming history, Pac-Man in 1980, Donkey kong 81, Galaxian, Galaga, Frogger and Mario Bros in 1983 to name just a few. We also the introduction of ‘game ports’ as Pac-Man is ported to the Atari VCS 2600 from the arcades in 1982. Unfortunately the ports quality was widely criticized, which, is frighteningly similar to the criticism a lot of modern day ports between the Xbox 360 and PS3 receive for example, possibly this shows how different hardware’s are hard to work with at the same time? Also, having manufactured 12 million cartridges of Pac-Man with the expectation that the game would increase sales of the 2600, Atari incurred large financial losses from unsold game cartridges (one of the catalysts leading to the North American Video game crash of 1983.

Fortunately, nothing could now stop the rapid growth of the games industry after we had already seen the introduction of companies such as Nintendo and Konami, even with the sad loss of Atari. Although, it was again home computers that gave the video games industry a good kick up the arse as it began to grow in popularity, especially in Europe where the Commodore 64 ad the ZX Spectrum would far outclass any competition.

Away from Europe, Japan began to develop their own entries for the home video games industry with Sega releasing the SG-1000 and Nintendo the Famicom of Family Computer, a console which would turn the global game industry’s fortunes around.

As we move into the second half of the decade I believe we really begin to see the new era of gaming as well as many familiarities to how we experience and interact with games today. In 1985 Nintendo’s Famicom was remodelled and, as it is and always has been widely known, renamed the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) for its world wide release and it was accompanied by one of the greatest games of the decade in not of all time. Super Mario Bros.

Over the next years the success of the NES saw the home video game console market explode and out of this came some of the best and most memorable games ever including Metal Gear in 87, The Legend Of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Also by 1987 the Sega Master System had been released and was a great competitor to the NES, again similar to today with the PS3 and Xbox3fixme!

I feel that this period of the decade was extremely important and highly influential on the future of gaming, technology begun to advance rapidly and with the introduction of the NES we were finally introduced to the Game Pad. Joysticks, paddles and Keypads become redundant and game pads with the familiar D Pad become standard.

As we reach the final year of the decade Nintendo release the first ever portable console, the original Gameboy (my first console!) and the world stepped into 16-bit technology as Sega release the Megadrive in Japan and the SNES is waiting just around the corner. Due to this radical advancement in technology available for home use, the rivalry became too strong for video arcades and they sadly begun to close, but, time moves on for anything and everything unfortunately and the world was about to become stuck to their couches....................forever?! dum dum dummmm!

But, to me, it is clear why so many people consider the 80’s to be the golden age of gaming history.

I didn’t join the home console market till later on, as, for a while I was obsessed withhandhelds after owning the Gameboy. I stuck with Gameboy owning the colour, advance, advance SP and a special edition advance SP. I also owned, somewhere in-between a Sega Game Gear, which, although it was meant to be, wasn’t really a ‘portable’ games console as the battery would last for all of four seconds so you had to sit near a socket with it plugged in anyway, it was a ‘handheld’ though at least. I then owned a NES, and, for a good few years was also kept busy with new PC’s as the internet (dial-up) was discovered in the early 90’s and somewhere around then I adopted the Playstation family (Playstation One 95) with which I have stuck with since. More detail to follow.............................. if anyone is remotely interested! or?

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