Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde (A history of computer games 1980s-1990s)

So kiddies, you may remember my post two weeks ago where I chatted about the early roots of Video Gaming. Well, this week, we take a turn for the modern (whether or not that’s a good thing, I’m not entirely sure), by taking a look at the latter part of last century, where games have gone from the clingy novel little infants, and grown into moody teenagers who bicker and fight at every given opportunity.

In the 70s, with the rise of the personal computer, also came the first home gaming console, in 1972 to be precise. The Odyssey was produced by Magnavox, and came with a total of twelve programmed games. Of course, the fact that they were all the same game, only differing by the plastic sheet you attached to the TV, meant nothing at all. Nope.

Next in line was 1976s Fairchild Video Entertainment system, the first programmable gaming console. It was later renamed Channel F, and used microchip technology to run its games.

Vintage Vectrex

Now, entering the eighties, came the rise of computer games as we know them - worlds on a screen that would be impossible in real life. In 1977, the first text based adventure game was created, named, oh so originally, as Adventure! and worked on a choice system. It’s from that model all other adventure, science fiction and generally spectacular fantasy games are created from. In the eighties, this genre became known as ‘Interactive Fiction’ (And of course, this part interests me, as it’s the birthplace of my favourite gaming genre - long live the Action/Adventure RPG!), and produced games such as ‘The Hobbit’, an adaptation based upon Tolkien’s books. This is also where the nineties computer based ‘point and click’ RPG’s came from.

It was also during the eighties that colour first appeared on screen, mostly within arcades, but, towards the end of the decade, it was rampant on home consoles as well, introduced by ‘Breakout’ Atari’s latest remake of Pong (created by two men who would become the founders of apple - but that’s another story, for another time). I was driven further by games like Galaga (that utilised 8-bit colour). Sound, also started to make an appearance - again, in the arcade, with Taito’s 1980 Stratovox.

Atari System

Now, Who remembers Donkey Kong? I know I do. Platforming game came about in 1981, with a little game called ‘Space Panic!’, where mutant, alien space-apple try to devour your hero as you climb up ladders and run across levels. Of course, this was also the year ‘Pac-Man’ was released. All hail the day! He subsequently gained a Mrs the following year.

By the end of the era, consoles were on their fifth generation, accessible to most, and quite affordable. Arcades had come, and gone, fading into the ether by the mid nineties, overtaken by their more personal comrades, the console, their demise confirmed by the release of the Neo-Geo by SNK - the only console to truly bring home the feel of arcade gaming, since the early home Pong systems. And games themselves had gone from simple, one paddle pixels on a screen, to several pixels, a depth of colour, and ever evolving game play and graphics, with a slew of top titles, each innovative and memorable.

In the mid nineties, the consoles we all know were born - 1995 heralded the PlayStation (And with it, Final Fantasy‘s VII-IX), the major selling console of the time, and Nintendo 64 in 1996 - All Zelda fans, cry for joy - Ocarina of time, oh how I love thee - and with them came fully 3D graphics.

Things were beginning to get rolling.

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