tirsdag 15. november 2011

A history of computer games: 1980s - 1990s

The arcade games had their golden age from 1978 with the release of Space Invaders. Classic games everyone know such as Pac-Man and Asteroids came to be in this period, and the arcade games were more accessible than ever. You could even find arcade machines in places such as shopping malls, restaurants and stores.

In the early history of home computer gaming, you could buy computer codes for games in magazines and books, which you then had to type into the machine to ”create” the game yourself. I can imagine this coding process must have been half the fun, though games were also distributed ready-programmed on floppy disks and such early storage devices. 

This led to a sort of indie industry. You had hobbyists writing and selling games in local shops this way, which is pretty cool.Computer games at this time could be developed by small groups of people with relatively small costs. This let developers have the free rains to develop quite strange, unique games without a publishing company breathing down their neck. Though you also had quite a lot of copy cats and plagiarising in this period. 

Because these early games were quite cheap to produce, you got a lot of these unsatisfying, low-quality games and you had all these different consoles, which eventually saturated the market. You also had the home computers which could play games just as well as any console, and all of this led to the 1983 video game crash.

The video game console industry was revived in 1985, much thanks to Nintendo and their successful NES, and most of the unsuccessful consoles were rooted out of the market. The NES dominated American and Japanese markets until the early 1990s, but you also had the Sega, which found its market in Europe. 

The golden age of arcade video games came to an end during the middles of the eighties, but not before having brought with it quite the list of innovative games. The different video game genres also started surfacing, such as adventure games, role-playing games, beat ’em ups,  platformers and so on. 

You also started seeing the handhelds, the first being the Microvision. It worked much like a gameboy, using interchangeable cartridges for games. Though initially successful, the crash put a bit of a damper on their development and the Microvision was discontinued in 1983. Its design was also quite clunky. 

Nintendo became the big success-company when it came to the handhelds. Their Game & Watch-line was the earliest success-product from Nintendo. My nan had a few of these which my mum inherited from her when she died. If I remember this right, my mum told me nan wouldn’t let her play with these when she was young, which witnesses that in their earliest form, games were meant to be grown-up toys. 
Donkey Kong on the Game & Watch. It looks quite a bit like a DS, don't it?

Regardless, this was not the mindset my mum had, and I grew up with these things lying around the house, though they were quite outdated by then. The Game and Watch-consoles contained only one game each so you had to buy a different machine for each game, and in the meantime Nintendo had released their first Game Boy in 1989.

Nintendo's NES was discontinued in 1995, a year after Sony released their Playstation 1 and Sega their Sega Saturn. By that time, Nintendo had already been selling the Super Nintendo for quite a while, and released the Nintendo 64 in 1996. The Nintendo consoles were very successful, in part because of games like Super Mario. 

The Sony Playstation was successful as well. With more mature games like Tekken, they catered to a different group of customers altogether and found their own niche. 

The Sega Saturn became the little brother inbetween, and never took off like the Sony’s and Nintendo’s machines. Sega released the the Dreamcast in 1999. The machine was the first of the sixth gen consoles. Mysteriously, the machine simply fizzled out, leaving a cult following and a market open for Nintendo’s Gamecube, Sony’s Playstation 2, and a new player, Microsoft and their Xbox. 

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