Saturday, 13 November 2010

History of Computer games 1980s - 1990s

Like excited children with golden geese, the developers, publishers and console manufacturers of the early eighties couldn’t wait to try out their new toys. The only problem was, a goose made of gold doesn’t fly, it doesn’t swim, and bashing it over the head with the same old mallet will not force it to lay another golden egg. In fact, it’ll probably cause the gold to flake and tarnish. Which is exactly what happened.

Atari buried millions of unwanted
cartridges in a landfill after sales
 fell far below expectations.
Publishers were paying programmers poorly; some even disallowing credits. This caused programmers to splinter and develop their games independently. With no publishing rights for the games being created for their consoles, quality and quantity control was entirely lost. The market became saturated with disingenuous and iterative games, and in an attempt to compensate: redundant and unnecessary console upgrades. By 1984, swathes of interested parties had pulled out from the games industry or become bankrupt.

The video game recovery was largely due to Japanese manufacturers and developers, who were less affected by the crash than their North American rivals. Through the eighties Nintendo’s Entertainment System and Sega’s Master System vied for superiority with notable releases including Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and the Alex Kidd series.

Sega and Nintendo continued to hold strong positions through the nineties, releasing the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Mega Drive (Genesis) respectively. The popularity of home video game consoles continued to rise, while the popularity of arcades diminished. Many arcade developers began to develop games for home consoles or port their existing arcade game to these platforms.

The popularity of Personal Computers grew through the nineties and consequently, PC gaming became a more commercially viable activity, where previously the consumer base had been too small. An increasing market size coupled with low barriers to entry for PC developers afforded an extremely diverse selection of games.

The highly contraversial DOOM game for PC
Specialist video game retailers began to appear, stocking games for consoles and PC, offering a wider selection of games than was typically available in the toy stores.

One of the most significant changes for gaming in the nineties was the transition to 3D games - games which displayed objects using points plotted in three dimensions connected with triangular surfaces. Although Elite, released in 1984, is widely regarded as the first 3D game, 3D games did not gain much traction in the console market until the release of the more graphically capable Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation platforms.

While at first these games were relatively ugly compared to their 2D counterparts, they quite literally added a new dimension to the gameplay experience. Some developers chose create new Intellectual Properties for 3D, some stuck with making decreasingly popular 2D games and others re-imagined their 2D characters and environments in the third dimension… with mixed success.

As would be expected of a platform gaming superstar,
Mario cleared the jump to 3D in style
As the nineties were drawing to an end, internet connectivity was rapidly increasing and playing games over the internet was becoming increasingly popular. Improvements in the speed and reliability of internet services allowed real-time games to be played with gamers across the world. This phenomenon started in PC gaming, but the Sega Dreamcast pioneered in the console market with an inbuilt modem that gave a taste of what to expect from gaming in the 2000s.

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