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Gaming: Now and then

Game Consoles

by Jonathan Kevin Castillo

Contrary to popular belief, Pong, wasn’t the first video game in history. There are actually countless debates on what the first video game is. The oldest recorded “video game” was a missile simulator in 1948 with a Cathode ray tube Amusement Device. There came others, limited, less visual, and admittedly, less appealing, but innovating video games, like Chess, a version of Tic-Tac-Toe, Spacewar!, Pilot ACE, and a few others before we reached Pong.

The HIPPIE ’70s
Game consoles such as the Atari and the Commodore 64 – the console rivals at that time – gained steady popularity. It’s important to note that the Magnavox Odyssey is the first commercial game console, made available in 1973. The Atari home console came three years later.

Let’s not forget arcade gaming, which was probably the favorite after school hangouts – a ’70s version of computer shops today. But because of home consoles, arcade games in other countries are either dying or have diminished for good. We in the Philippines are fortunate for still having arcade games like Quantum and Time Zone.

The ’80s RETRO
Video games and home consoles were considered a fad in the ’80s. There were people who believed that it will fade eventually and then people would move on to the next big thing. That almost came true when video game popularity were starting to decline. But what almost put the entire industry into the ground was no thanks to the most horrible game ever made (a fact, not an opinion), “E.T.” The game was so bad, people lost hope in video games completely.

Around that time, there was a Japanese company that was hoping to expand their business. They adapted the concept of home consoles and in 1983 they released the Family Computer, Famicom, or better known in the countries outside Asia, the Nintendo Entertainment System. Small wonder why Nintendo is gaming industry giant. Nintendo literally salvaged gaming. It reached America in 1985 with the launch title, Super Mario Bros.

Most of the ’90s kids know how it all turned out. From there the decades went by and we got bigger and better consoles. It was also a time when PC devices were getting more and more popular as gaming modules.

It was also at this time when Nintendo brought more awesomeness into gaming by developing a portable gaming device called “Game & Watch”. Each device featured a different game with minimalist design and controls. They were pretty cool until the Game Boy showed up in 1989, and brought a whole new level into gaming. Kids got really busy during family roadtrips. To the kids today who owns a 3DS/2DS, remember the name, Game Boy. Pokémon wouldn’t be possible without it.

There were other handhelds that competed with the Game Boy, the Sega Game Gear and the Atari Lynx. Both had colored LCDs, but the Lynx boasts as being the first. There is another called TurboExpress, which at that time, was considered to have superior hardware compared to the other competition. But for some reason, Game Boy still outsold them all. Back then with the original Game Boy, players traded a lot of Pokémon (Red, Blue, and Yellow), people connected the handhelds with a cable connector, and more often than not, with running low batteries (yes, original Game Boys painfully had four AA batteries), kids would be screaming, hoping the trade and saving would be done before the battery dies out on them, or risk losing their file.

The ’90s – PRESENT
Fast-forward a bit, the early ’90s was when Nintendo contacted Sony to develop a new cartridge based game console (this was after the Super Nintendo). Sometime within the development stages, Nintendo backed out on their partnership with Sony after finding some loopholes in their contract. The people of Sony started scratching heads, thinking, “Now what are we going to do with this junk?”

Sony thought of pushing on with plans with this new console with modifications of their own. And in 1994 the Sony Playstation came out. Does anyone see the irony here?

Several years later, we got the Sony Playstation 2, which made the PSX look like a pinball machine. This was also the era where newer, cooler, and innovative games and consoles started coming out. The Dreamcast, Sega Saturn, Xbox and a few other consoles were there but never actually saw the light of day. PC gaming grew highly promiment with games like Counter Strike and with online capabilities like Blizzard’s BattleNet. Gaming just continued to evolve.

Back then if two people wanted to play, one of them would go to the other’s house and then play. Or have sleepovers and stay up all night playing Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Now, with the newer devices that are Wi-Fi ready, people can just text “Get online”.

Also, not too long ago, there were memory cards to save game data, but recent devices have internal memory stored, which is really awesome.

Playing games do not involve sitting on the couch anymore, especially with the late Wii motion controller, the PS3’s Move, and Xbox’s Kinect, people move around more with dance games and sports games to keep them in shape. Also, this writer thinks the Kinect 2.0 is really cool but really creepy at the same time. It literally watches and listens to you all the time that it is on.

Gaming is quite popular today that e-sports became a thing. Blizzard holds competition for StarCraft with large prize money.

Then and Now…

Games back then and now haven’t really changed. More and more stuff are just added to make them cooler and experience-wise better. Letting players play as their favorite super heroes, sharper detail in graphics, actual Hollywood celebrities showing up (Beyond Two Souls has Ellen Paige), and with all of these games having better and better graphics, sometimes it falls down on which game has a fantastic storyline. Yes, earlier this year a PS3 exclusive game, The Last of Us, was released and it was considered the “Citizen Kane” of gaming. How we would like to interpret this, is that video games is no longer just a game where you can blow stuff up high in the mighty skies. Gaming has evolved as medium for storytelling. Games like The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite have reached into new heights in terms of story (that isn’t to say the graphics and game play weren’t jaw-dropping gorgeous, because they really were). Of course, first and foremost, games are about playing, which is why we got stuff like God of War and Call of Duty, and we got games with more story than ever like Xenosaga, Heavy Rain, and Beyond Two Souls.

This “fad” claim of gaming way back in the ’80s was an obvious misfire. Gaming is a subculture for many – gaming conventions happen all the time in other countries where people from all over the world meet up and get geeky with one another, plus it serves as inspiration for businesses like indie game developers, which actually generate jobs. But we have to admit, it has a threat of itchy diehard addiction. Although game experts claim that this addiction is better than all other vices out there, the thing is, a lot are actually missing out on life; the real life.

This reviewer thinks that gaming today is fun, cozy, and convenient, thanks to all these online features that allow chats and everything; but with friends coming over back then, to gather up and have someone actually share that second or third or fourth controller with, the feeling was priceless.