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Video-Game Retrospective

April 26, 2009

Before you start – listen to the music i’ve placed as a link in the next line. Please open the links in a new window or tab as WordPress doesn’t allow scripts to open links in new tabs.

Click link to play audio Start Game – Level 1

Not long ago when I was talking with my brother and cousin one lazy afternoon, I found myself stating ‘I think we are the generation that saw the maximum change in video games.’ Though I find myself preferring PC games these days, long back I never had a PC. I got to play (or mostly see others ‘show me’) games occasionally when I visited some relatives. Since a PC was “a COMPUTERRRR…!!!’ those days, it was usually an uncle or aunt that showed me those – too expensive a thing to be handled by kids. I found those amazing but rarely played. But before many of my friends, I bought a TV – video game. That was the best thing that happened at that time … some 12 years back I think. India was already a decade or two lagging with respect to consoles. I started pretty early for a TV video game after which it almost became a rage.

When I thought what could have started all this, I made a few interesting observations. When we were content with playing under the sun and sometimes killed time playing board games, there was this handheld water game.

First handheld

I think this could have very well been the precusor of all video games. Press of a button resulted in a visual change. You press the button, the water pushed the rings randomly and they had to be set into some stick that served to hold the rings. Then came the other handhelds – called ‘The brick game’ by most people here in Chennai, it had Tetris and Arkanoid.
Then came the TV video-game – the joystick concept largely inspired by these handhelds and the TV serving to be the screen. The only difference was now you saw things on your TV and things were bigger.
Music played a huge part in video games. Since visually everything was cartoonish and yet to become 3D, music was the main thing. Take Super Mario Bros. for instance (which I have placed at the ‘Start’). You had Galaxian and Contra – the best game of that time with brilliant music and gameplay. I would still call it the best shooter. Then we had the ‘Laser Gun’ accessory. You were now able to shoot things onscreen using the gun instead of your joystick. This probably led to the motion-sensing games like the ones in Wii.

The PC gaming was growing slowly here. DOOM, Wolfenstein were becoming popular, I still hadn’t bought my PC. For that matter, I never had a PC that had a MHz processor. The first game i played in ‘my’ PC was Test Drive and NHL 2000, only demos which i installed from some freeware CD.

From TV to PC

I started playing PC games seriously, simultaneously experiencing lot of improvements in the visual, gameplay and sound aspects. With the hardware becoming cheaper, I also kept buying newer desktops primarily(or rather only to) to play the new titles. The dots that represented cars (say in ‘Road Fighter’), became cardboard boxes in Test Drive’s and Need For Speed’s earlier titles. They became solid cars that rode well till they had taken up some amount of damage. The environment looked more real and became more interactive. All these days I had been only playing seriously when someone(someone old and no way into games) passed by when i was playing a game and casually said…”Whether the cars look real or they look like dots, its still the road that moves on your screen and not the car “. “Holy…!!” It never occurred to me…why would I care. But I had to accept…it was a very good observation.

The athletes onscreen started looking and moving like their real-life counterparts. We could see their sweat dripping down from their clean shaven heads, we could listen to them yelling, see their jerseys move about when they moved fast. LeBron dunked like LeBron, Iverson crossed-over like Iverson and what not??

But today there is nothing much to innovate. I should rather say the ideas have reached a saturation. We will see a greater difference only if something new happens. The problem is, if something new happens, other gaming manufacturers tend to follow that. They don’t innovate. So I would say that its :
Click link to play audio Game Over
Remember which game has this ‘Game Over’ music? I hated to listen to it because it meant what it was meant to mean : ‘Game Over‘.

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