Five Innovations That Changed Video Games
One can't argue that the gaming industry has produced its fair share of innovative products. Video games have changed a lot since the days of pong - the technological advances on this list are among the chief innovations that have propelled us from Pac Man to Crysis, and beyond.
Let's face it, a multiplayer game where you've got no one to play against just isn't all that fun.That's where AI comes in. Oddly enough, though it wasn't developed for a video game, one of the first artificial intelligence programs written WAS designed for a board game. In 1951, one Chris Strachey developed a checkers program for the Ferranti Mark I computer. (Britannica). Strachey took one of the first steps in the field of AI, and he did it for the purpose of entertainment.
Artificial Intelligence has technically been around since the inception of the gaming industry. Since it's been around so long, why is it such an integral innovation?
Almost every video game uses AI in some fashion, as the field of computer intelligence has developed, so too has the scope of gaming AI. Nowadays, the two are pretty much evolving in tandem. We've already gotten to the point where a computer-controlled player can be trained to act and react in much the same way as a human. And from here, it can only go upwards. Pretty soon, we might even see ourselves having full conversations with a video game character. AI is perhaps one of THE largest innovations in video games, because ultimately, it's the innovation that made video games possible.
We seem to have something of an obsession with making things portable. Nowadays, you can pretty much take your life with you anywhere. I mean, we've got computers that ft in a pencil and televisions that fit in our pocket. We've got cell phones that can surf the internet and watch movies and take pictures and act as a day timer and.....you get the idea.
With our habit of miniaturizing technology, it seemed only natural that we'd eventually turn our focus to video games. Portable games, though, they've been around longer than you'd think. Back in the 70s, video a arcades were becoming more and more popular. Eventually, gaming companies began to think about an expansion of the experience. Contrary to popular belief, it was Mattel who created the first portable console, and not Nintendo. (Engadget). Nowadays, we tend to view Mattel's portable devices as toys rather than consoles.
Anyway, let's get back to the topic at hand. We miniaturized gaming consoles and made them easily transportable. How does that affect the industry?
People could now game any time, anywhere. All they needed to do was press the 'on' switch, and boom, entertainment. No more having to haul around televisions and consoles if you wanted to play a game against a friend. Admittedly, there's been a bit of lag as far as the technology behind portable gaming devices is concerned- only now are they finally starting to catch up with their larger, bulkier bretheren.
Still, one can't deny that there's something unique about being able to game any time, anywhere. Because of this innovation, gaming devices are as common a sight as mp3 players, cell phones, and books on the bus- a lot of cell phones now even DOUBLE as gaming devices.
There's something else, too. One more way this innovation has affected gaming. One of the highest-grossing, most popular games of all time is a portable title. I am, of course, referring to the beloved Pokemon series, arguably one of the most culturally influential games ever developed.
The internet was one of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of mankind. Instantaneous global communication. Instant access to data from all around the world. An entire subculture has developed around this new medium, and it's become so ingrained in our day to day lives that, were it to spontaneously disappear one day, anarchy would ensue.
But that's a topic for another day.
The advent of online gaming meant multiplayer games received a lot more love than they used to-in a lot of cases, online multiplayer was a 'must have' element- one that could make or break a new release. Sure, being able to sit in your living room and chill with your friends without any of you actually having to leave the house was great, but online gaming lead to another phenomenon:
The MMORPG. For the uninitiated, MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. They are simultaneously among the most popular and most controversial entertainment medium today. They've evolved beyond simply being video games. They've become something more, something greater. They're a seperate entity, an entirely different experience. World of Warcraft- the unquestioned champion of the field- now has over eight million subscribers. Eight million people, all connected to one another through an online world, an online society. Even a few decades ago, it seemed impossible, but...there it is.
The Third Dimension
You can only do so much with two dimensions. Platformers, top-down views, et-cetera. Eventually, you're going to exhaust what you can do.
Three dimensional games are nothing new- as early as the 1980s we had games like Rad Racer. But the technology never really caught on- early three-dimensional platforms didn't look all that pretty, and often it became difficult to tell what was what.
Most games- with the exception of portable titles- are rendered in three dimensions. As graphics software moves forward, they're starting to look better and better. The jump to the third dimension has changed something fundamental about the experience. It's changed something basic about how the games look and feel. Indeed, the last innovation on the list wouldn't even be possible without this one.
Motion control was something that was largely limited to technical fields- motion capture for movies and games, for example. People tried rudimentary motion control before- the Nintendo Power Glove being one example- but it never really caught on.
Then came the Nintendo Wii.
Suddenly, one of the most fundamental elements of video games had been flipped on its head. Nintendo, by introducing motion capture technology, completely overturned the way we interact with video games. Microsoft and Sony would eventually follow suit (with the Xbox Kinect and Sony Move), but Nintendo was the pioneer of this new technology. Suddenly, video games, formerly accessible only to a select few, became public domain. Everyone could play a game on th Wii, even Grandma.
To be fair, a lot of Nintendo's games for the wii have ended up being little more than gimmicks, but by engineering this technology, Nintendo has opened the door for an entirely new era of gaming.
True virtual reality might be closer than we think.