I recently caught wind that GamePro Magazine (and website) were going to be shut down for good on December 5th. If you have no idea what GamePro is, you really missed out. To say that I am shocked or surprised by this news would be a lie. I had all but forgotten about GamePro years and years ago…hence why its inevitable doom is ever approaching. Its first issue was in 1989– that makes it 22 years old. If you like video games in even the slightest way, you probably ran across a GamePro mag at some point and time…I personally remember them being strewn about my house and my friends, until about, uhm, we hit the ripe ole’ age around 15 (plus or minus a few years for some) and discovered– well, other…things…to distract us. We’ll leave it at that.
Magazines come and go. Especially in this time when print is all but in its death throes. What came to mind at this dismal news that such an iconic magazine would be shut down was much more important.
What a wonder it is to think of how gaming technology has changed over the years. How had I gone from Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right B, A, Start to whining about my decreasing KDR in the latest CoD title? How had I gone from Duck Hunting on the old Sony console T.V. to pwning noobs in an MMORPG on my 23″ LED monitor at ridiculous FPS?
If any of that doesn’t make sense to you… well, I’ve clearly marked myself as a geek, but also, you probably don’t play video games. Here’s a much condensed and re-digested for your easiest and laziest consumption loosely time-line like history of video gaming.
The idea of video gaming dates back to the 1940′s, nearly 30 years before the first PC. And what was this patent granted for? A “cathode ray tube amusement device.” Wow. Sounds… exhilarating! And I thought XBOX was a unique idea. But not much changed in the world of “gaming” in it’s earliest gestation…most of everything cooked up was some variation of the “cathode” amusement device, with a slight departure with Tennis For Two, a predecessor of Pong.
We hit around 1961 with Spacewar! which was, believe it or not, traded on the…INTERNET. “Then-primitive” internet to be exact. This game sounds about as entertaining as playing Tic-Tac-Toe with a computer…which was ALSO occurring at this time. 1966 saw the advent of Chase! which is credited with being the first game to display on a standard television set…moving us MUCH closer to today’s standard. By 1969, the MIT geniuses who had gotten us this far had successfully created the first home video game console. As far as my research goes, this was only shown off to manufacturers. The guys were also granted several patents in the process.
The 70′s saw the advent of the “Arcade,” which I’m sure most of us are grateful for, and also the release of the “Magnavox Odyssey” (the console created by the aforementioned MIT geniuses)…which required plastic sheet overlays to be taped to the television…Yes. You read that correctly. Plastic. Sheet. Overlays. Now a days, people worry about refresh rate and 2 millisecond response times….
From there on out, it’s kind of a tidal wave. We get booms and busts, Atari’s and the golden age of Arcades, and we get massive development of the 8-Bit era…and the golden goose, Nintendo (1985; which is important to note). The 80′s also saw the rise of dial-up modem action and the beginning of companies like American Online and Prodigy. Things started to really change. You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned computer gaming yet. That’s because at this point in history (late 70′s to 80′s) most computer gaming had been restricted to massive mainframe computers. You would have to dial-up one of these bad boys ala “WarGames” (IMDB Link) of 1983 fame. Even then, most of your “computer games” were just port overs from those mainframe games (such as Space Invaders, Frogger, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong).
In almost all documentation based on the history of video games, when the 1990′s comes around there is almost always a line that starts the section that can be pretty much summed up as: “In the 1990′s, this shit went cray-cray.”* (The link is there so I don’t alienate any of my…more mature…readers…)
We get 3D graphics. Several genre appear out of no where. We get texture mapping. We get “shareware” (<– ahh the good ole’ days). We get games on CD-ROM. We get what would be really familiar to us these days. The 2000′s would see the rise of broadband internet and increases in GPU and CPU power (graphics and processing). Multi-core goodness would be around the bend. We would woefully move past crouching with OddJob and getting rage-quitted on by our friends and smack dab in the middle of noob-tubing and motion sensed gaming. It begs to question, are we in the golden age of gaming right now? Where do we go from here? Maybe 22 years from now I’ll come back and scoff at this, who knows. In the mean time, when you next run into an aging MIT genius, please, extend a hand, say thanks, and then show him how to play Angry Birds on your dual-core 4.3″ touch screen cellular telephone. He’d probably get a kick out of it.