Earliest electronic games[edit | edit source]
Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device[edit | edit source]
The earliest known computer gaming system is the cathode-ray tube amusement device, a device which enabled its user to use its CRT system to project an electron beam on targets positioned on the screen. The game was designed by Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann, who patented it in 1947, although it was never built or sold.
Early strategy games[edit | edit source]
A later analog computer game, Bertie the Brain, was released by Josef Kates on August 25, 1950. Bertie the Brain was a tic-tac-toe simulator, in which the user played against the computer a tic-tac-toe game, while John Makepeace Bennett and Raymond Stuart-Williams’s Nimrod computer, manufactured by Ferranti and based on Edward Condon’s “Nimatron” machine, was a huge analog computer released on May 5, 1951 designed to play Nim against the user. Instead, in the same year, Dietrich Prinz wrote the first computer chess simulator on a Ferranti Mark I machine, followed by Christopher Strachy’s 1952 draughts simulator for the same computer. This games were mainly experiments to demonstrate the potential power of computing machines and to develop AI, more than entertainment software.
The cathode ray tube amusement device’s schematics from its patent.
A rendering of the Nimrod.
Meanwhile, A S Douglas developed and realized the tic-tac-toe software OXO (or “Naughts and Crosses“), it was a computer-versus-user game based on screen vision running on the electronic delay storage automatic calculator (EDSAC, a stored-program computer housed in the University of Cambridge’s Mathematical Laboratory), in other words, the user (after receiving a special authorization to use the EDSAC) could, for one of the first times, see the game on the computer’s screen. Six years later, in 1958, the first known entertainment computer game, the tennis simulator Tennis for Two, or “Computer Tennis” (designed by Los Alamos nuclear scientist William Higinbotham and built by Robert Dvorak at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, where it was shown every year). Tennis for Two, which could be played by two players using two early controllers (each with a button to hit the ball and a knob to change the angle of the trajectory), ran on an analog computer with an oscilloscope as screen and had the following gameplay: a horizontal line represented the tennis court as seen by its side, a vertical dash in the center represented the net and, once the first player started the game, the ball (a dot of light) could be used to play. The ball could hit the net, land inside or outside the yard and, when it was on one’s side, he or she could use the button to virtually hit it again, but the game did not have any points nor an “end”: users simply had to play.
Strachy’s draughts software, one of the first screen-based visual games.
The EDSAC, the computer which ran OXO, which shares the draughts simulator’s record.
A Tennis for Two game on a DuMont Lab Type 304-A oscilloscope. Tennis for Two is mainly considered History’s first video game.
A modern replica of one of Tennis for Two‘s two controllers.
A Tennis for Two replica in action for the game’s twenty-fifth anniversary.
Spacewar! and mainframe games[edit | edit source]
In the first years of the 1950s most mainframe computers were unsuitable for gaming, being relatively weak in memory and speed, but, in the early decade, an MIT Lincoln Laboratory research team, with Jay Forrester as head, developed, to the US Navy’s gain, the perfectioned and more powerful Whirlwind I. Inspired by their work, researchers Ken Olsen and Wes Clark built the prototype machine TX-0 (Transistorized Experimental computer zero, nicknamed “tixo”), based on early transistor technology.
Clark and Harlan Anderson soon founded the Digital Equipment Corporation, or “DEC”, and tixo was updated to be publicly sold under the new name “PDP-1” (Programmed Data Processor-1, one of the most notable computers in the hacker culture). In 1962, on the MIT’s own PDP-1, used by later MIT students and professors, Steve Russell created Spacewar!, the first widespread video game. Spacewar! was another two-players game, in which’s two-dimensional world each user controlled a spacecraft with a rear thruster (with limited fuel), yaw variation capabilities and a frontal weapon, orbiting a gravity source against a starfield background; the craft were destroyed (but soon regenerated) if the were shot by the other’s weapon or they collided (with the other’s ship or with the gravity source), generating explosion effects, but could also use the gravity to their advantage, jump into hyperspace to reappear at a random point of the battlefield (but increasing the probability to explode during re-entry) and use the warp screen effect (“exiting” the screen to reappear on the opposite side) to travel between two opposite points of the screen in brief time (thus avoiding the gravity source).
Other notable mainframe games (mainly written in various FOCAL dialects) include Witold Podgórski’s 1962 Marienbad (an Odra 1003 Nim computer game inspired to the film Last Year at Marienbad), Doug Dyment’s 1968 text-based game Hamurabi (a PDP-8 game, rewritten in the popular programming language BASIC for the famous 1973 book BASIC Computer Games, in which the player impersonated Babylonian king Hammurabi and had to participate in ancient politics) and Ken Thompson’s 1969 Space Travel (a multi-platform non-combat spaceflight simulator, part of a genre that would have little-to-no further success until the late 1980s).
The TX-0 computer, which revolutionized the mainframe computer industry.
An ongoing session of Space Travel.
In 1971, the first arcade games (usually coin-operated video game-based machines) were presented: they were the Computer Space by Syzygy Engineering (“Syzygy” was the name of the partnership between Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, originally born, inspired by Spacewar!, to found a computer games-equipped restaurant, later destined to become Atari, Inc.), though manufactured by Nutting Associates, and the PDP-11-based coin-operated Spacewar! clone Galaxy Game by Bill Pitts and Hugh Truck (a two-player arcade which enabled to play, though in with lower video and reaction quality, a multi-mode re-creation of the 1962 game, built and, for a long time, kept at Stanford University). Arcades were soon seen as a notable way to earn money easily, and, soon, other famous video game cabinets manufacturers were born: in 1972 Atari itself realized the table tennis simulator Pong by Allan Alcorn, one of the first best-selling games, as well as the inspiration for the first video game consoles; in 1973 Taito published its first game, Astro Race, a racing simulator; in 1976 Sega published Moto-Cross, the first game to provide haptic feedback (tactile output), better known as published under the Happy Days-themed label “Fonz“.
Two Galaxy Game cabinets at the Computer History Museum.
Atari’s notorious arcade game Pong running.
A Fonz-style Moto-Cross cabinet.
- History of Computers – Wikibook on the history of computers, which is a foundational technology for most video games.
Spacewar! running on a PDP-1.
Ralph Baer with his “Brown Box” prototype. This device was a forerunner to the first commercial game console, the Magnavox Odyssey.
During the 1960’s Video Games were a rather small market, and were more often than not used as a novelty attraction or the hobby project of an academic than a serious product category.
The PLATO Educational computer terminal system is launched after being developed from 1959 through 1960, later giving rise to a number of early multiplayer games in the 1970’s once adoption picked up.
In 1962 the mainframe game Marienbad is developed in Poland as a Nim adaptation.
Dr. Nim is a dedicated mechanical digital computer game that used marbles instead of a screen launched at some point during the 1960’s.
For more information about some early mainframe games, please read the chapter on [History of video games/Early games|Early games].
Computer Technology Improves[edit | edit source]
Many key gaming technologies saw their introduction during the 1960’s.
Reed-Solomon Code is invented in 1960, allowing for more reliable telecommunication and optical media, which would later be used by gaming systems. It is also used by more obscure game media, such as Nintendo E-Reader cards.
Project Xanadu begins in 1960 and becomes a significant early attempt at implementing hypertext, as well as an early prominent example of vaporware.
An early computer animation is rendered in Sweden 1960 and broadcast in 1961.
In October 1962 the first red LED is invented. This paves the way for cheap indicator lights in consoles, as well as the red LED arrays that made the Virtual Boy display possible.
In 1963 the Dutch company Phillips brings the compact cassette to market. Cassette tapes would later be used as a medium for computer games. By the 1980’s the cassette proved popular among computer gamers in the Netherlands, as game software was distributed on radio broadcasts, where they could easily be recorded in standard players then loaded into computers.
In 1968 Digi Grotesk is created, one of the first known digital typefaces. Typography would become a key component of visual design in any video game which used text.
Doug Englebart invents the mouse in 1964. Following years of development, on December 9th, 1968 Doug Englebart hosts the “Mother of All Demos” where he demonstrates a number of concepts, such as a computer mouse, digital maps, hyperlinks, real time collaboration in the same environment, and video chat. The concepts demonstrated by Doug Englebart in the Mother of All Demos would eventually be deployed in the gaming industry, either in games themselves or by video game developers.
The space race spawned a number space age technologies and a media frenzy. From these developments, the space race spurred several key developments in the gaming industry, either through direct technological development, or by inspiring space themed games.
Spacewar! for the PDP-1 computer was among the first digital video games, and featured two players fighting around a gravity pulling star. It’s open source nature also soon leads to some of the first video game mods.
In March of 1969 Bell Labs changed focus, spurring programmer Ken Thompson to port his video game Space Travel from the expensive to run GE-645 computer to a cheaper PDP-7 he had access to, eventually resulting in the creation of the Unix operating system. Unix derived and compatible operating systems would go on to power a number of gaming devices, such as the PlayStation 4.
During the space race NASA created demand for then emerging technologies spurring their development, like microchips. This helped to promote the miniaturization of consumer electronics.
On July 20th, 1969 humans lands on the Moon for the first time, with the historic moment televised across the globe. Among those captivated by the Apollo 11 moon landing is Hideo Kojima, who would later develop games inspired by space travel, such as Policenauts.
1960’s Gaming History Gallery[edit | edit source]
Screenshot of the 1969 game Space Travel.
The Apollo 11 put Humans on the Moon for the first time, inspiring a people across the planet.
The Manchestrer Atlas computer in January 1963. Most powerful computers of the 1960’s took up a whole room.
Wonderland Arcade located in Kansas City, Missouri in 1968. These businesses used mechanical games that predated arcade video games, but would quickly adopt electronic games in the decades to follow.
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Re-enactment of a typical 1970’s home gaming scene.
Women Developers[edit | edit source]
Despite facing workplace adversity, the 1970’s saw several women make prominent contributions in the video game industry, most notably at RCA and Atari. However these developers would often not see widespread recognition in their day. This trend would continue into the 1980’s.
Popular Genres[edit | edit source]
- Arcade style games, especially the Lunar Lander subgenre
- 2D Shooters, including Spacewar! clones in the first half of the decade, and later Space Invaders (1978) and similar games.
- Tabletop inspired roleplaying games.
- Text adventures (Interactive fiction)
- Edutainment games
The May 4th Massacre[edit | edit source]
The horrific events of the May 4th massacre by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University had drastic effects on America, and especially on those present. Several would go on to influence the game industry.
Several students present were moved to form the band DEVO. Band member Mark Mothersbaugh later goes on to work on games such as Crash Bandicoot. Another student, John De Lancie, was less then 20 yards from the shooting, and worked with Senator Young and Ted Kennedy to share his experience with the Senate. John De Lancie would later pursue a career as a prominent actor, which included voice acting for video games.
Game of Life[edit | edit source]
After development in the 1960’s, Conway’s Game of Life is published in Scientific American in 1970. Although initially a simple mathematical game, it will later be turned into various computer programs. The game is formed by a simple playfield of “cells”, each one surrounded by eight “neighbours” (the adjacent cells), and either “lives” or “dies” in the next turn based on them. The correct combination of “alive” and “dead” cells can create stable systems (“still lives”), mutating shapes, (“oscillators”), moving objects (“spaceships”) or generate an infinite stream of shapes through “guns”, thus allowing for a sort of “war” to be “fought”.
Galaxy Game[edit | edit source]
In September 1971 the arcade game Galaxy Game is installed at Tresidder Memorial Union of Stanford University. The game is a Spacewar! clone, designed with multiplayer-only capabilities in mind (it lacks the artificial intelligence for single-player gameplay). Although it ranks as the first known coin-operated video game (running on a modified PDP-11), it was never commercially released; despite this, it can be ran on the popular MAME emulator for modern computers.
Computer Space[edit | edit source]
In November 1971 the arcade game Computer Space is released by “Syzygy Engineering” (the progenitor of Atari, Inc.) to try to recreate the success of the Computer Quiz game of 1968. The gameplay is reminiscent of Spacewar!, but the game is not to be catalogued as a Spacewar! clone. Few units survive to this day, but the game itself is a popular culture icon among video game fans.
The Oregon Trail[edit | edit source]
In November of 1971 three student teachers (Bill Heinemann, Don Rawitsch, and Paul Dillenberger) make The Oregon Trail for a UNIVAC computer operated by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium and is connected to a number of schools in Minnesota by teletypewriter. The Oregon Trail was made despite challenges posed by limited computer access. The first version of The Oregon Trail had to be made with teletypewriters in mind, so shooting mechanics were based on accurately typing words quickly.
The Oregon Trail is one of the earliest edutainment games. As of 2020 the game’s modernized versions are often considered to be among the best Edutainment games made.
A successor game, Freedom!, attracted controversy.
Intel 4004[edit | edit source]
1971 saw the release of the Intel 4004, Intel’s first chip produced on a 10 micron process.
Atari & Pong[edit | edit source]
In 1972 Nolan Bushnell founds the company Atari, releasing the arcade hit Pong by fall 1972.
Gaming at BGSU[edit | edit source]
|“||You have just run out of fuel – pray for rescue.||”|
—Moon, “Computer can play golf, blackjack” Nancy Laughlin BG News (Oct 3, 1973)
The Bowling Green State University computer center offers about 250 computer games for students to play freely, including Moon an early game in the Lunar Lander genre.
Lemonade Stand[edit | edit source]
A programmer working for the educational institution Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium makes Lemonade Stand for their UNIVAC mainframe, which is connected to a number of schools via teletypewriter.Gameplay revolves around simulating a business, balancing prices and costs with demand influenced by external factors like weather.
Lemonade Stand is among the first games that attempts to simulate a business, as well as an early example of an edutainment game.
Oil Panic[edit | edit source]
The OPEC Oil embargo to the United States, Japan, and other nations creates great economic shock and a recession. Hanafuda cardmaker and toy manufacture Nintendo is nearly pushed to financial ruin by the economic effects of the embargo and begins desperately seeking alternate revenue sources, eventually leading them to make home video games.
Phong Shading[edit | edit source]
Phong Shading is invented in 1973, becoming a common 3D graphics shading technique which adds dynamic highlights to objects.
BASIC Computer Games[edit | edit source]
1973 sees the release of one of the most influent computing and video gaming books of History: BASIC Computer Games, initially a DEC book titled “101 BASIC Computer Games“. The book is a collection of BASIC source codes (usually converted from DEC’s FOCAL) for simple video games, collected and partially modified or created by David H. Ahl. The book initially written in the DEC dialect of the language for use on PDP computers, but Ahl later left DEC to found the magazine Creative Computing, purchased the rights to the book, changed its title and ported the games to the now more standard Microsoft BASIC, with instruction on how to port them to platforms running personalized dialects.
Dungeons & Dragons[edit | edit source]
In 1974 the original “White Box” edition of the World-famous Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game is released with it and its derivatives influencing a number of programmers, and through them highly influenced the creation of both Western computer RPGs and Japanese RPG genres.
Video Games on Planes[edit | edit source]
In 1975 Braniff Airlines offers Pong during flights, becoming the first, airline to offer a video game as an in flight entertainment option.
First Digital Camera[edit | edit source]
On December 12th, 1975 the first digital photograph is taken by Kodak employee Steven Sasson of subject Joy Marshall. The Camera captures the image using a CCD from Fairchild Semiconductor and then takes 26 seconds to record the result onto an audio tape. Later on gaming devices such as the GameBoy camera and the Xbox Kinect use digital cameras to offer unique gameplay experiences.
Graphic Music Synergy[edit | edit source]
At ACM SIGGRAPH 1975 in Bowling Green, Ohio a presentation is given on graphics influenced by music, an early example of a relationship that would become common in games with adaptive music.
Cars![edit | edit source]
1976 was an important year for automobiles and racing in video games.
Datsun became the first automaker to license one of it’s cars for a arcade game in 1976, later seeing a home console port to the Bally Professional Arcade. Later on, real automobile brands would later proliferate in racing games, adding to realism and immersion, as well as being a powerful marketing tool for the automobile industry.
In 1976 the Death Race arcade game is introduced, prompting media to question the violence featured in the game. The newness of video games meant that some outlets struggled to differentiate the game from a pinball machine or board game. The sensationalism surrounding the game ultimately boosted it’s sales.
Apple Computer[edit | edit source]
On April 1st, 1976, Apple Computer is founded by Steve “Woz” Wozniak and Steve Jobs in the latter’s garage. The initial purpose of the company is to manufacture Woz’s Apple I motherboard.
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- Kaczmarek, Thomas; Smoliar, Stephen W.. An experiment in interaction between independent music and graphics processors. Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 208–211. ISBN 978-1-4503-7354-8. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/563732.1138369. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
- “Datsun Was The First Car Maker To Officially Brand A Video Game” (in en-us). Jalopnik. https://jalopnik.com/datsun-was-the-first-car-maker-to-officially-brand-a-vi-1652829922.
- “The Torchinsky Files: I’m Betting Most Of You Have Never Seen A Bally Professional Arcade” (in en-us). Jalopnik. https://jalopnik.com/the-torchinsky-files-im-betting-most-of-you-have-never-1844218806.
- Wilson, Mark (8 June 2012). “How Do Real Cars End Up In Video Games? And Does It Help The Brands?”. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/1669990/how-do-real-cars-end-up-in-video-games-and-does-it-help-the-brands.
- “The Media vs. Death Race”. 1 June 2018. https://gamehistory.org/media-vs-death-race/. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
- “A Video Game By Any Other Name”. 24 May 2018. https://gamehistory.org/a-video-game-by-any-other-name/. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
- Kocurek, Carly A. (September 2012). “The Agony and the Exidy: A History of Video Game Violence and the Legacy of Death Race”. http://gamestudies.org/1201/articles/carly_kocurek. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
- “Apple Computers: This Month in Business History (Business Reference Services, Library of Congress)”. https://www.loc.gov/rr/business/businesshistory/April/apple.html. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
A CPC464 computer being used to play games in 1988.
A recreation of a typical gaming scene in the 1980’s.
Decision Making[edit | edit source]
The early 1980’s were a chaotic time in the Gaming Industry, with little demographic information on gamers available to inform game companies on their decisions.
Home Computers[edit | edit source]
The 1980’s saw the rise of personal computers, as well as home game development companies.
See the 1980’s section of the Computer gaming article.
Arcades[edit | edit source]
The late 1970’s and early 1980’s is widely considered to be the peak of arcades, as they were culturally relevant and popular in many countries. Arcade machines allowed players to game without the expensive upfront cost of consoles, as well as to experience graphical fidelity that often surpassed what was possible on popular home hardware.
High Difficulty[edit | edit source]
Games from the 1980’s are known for their high difficulty. As game media could not easily store information for detailed long stories and campaigns, many developers instead used high difficulties to make games last longer.
Gaming Watches[edit | edit source]
While gaming watches first hit the market in the 1970’s, they became relatively common during the 1980’s and 1990’s. An example of a watch from this time is the 1984 Casio GD8 wristwatch, which included a simple racing game.
Popular Genres[edit | edit source]
- Arcade games
- 2D Platformers
- 2D Action adventure games
- Puzzle games
- Rougelikes (On Computers)
Game Stores[edit | edit source]
By 1983 there were dedicated game stores and mail order used game services in the United States.
The Video Game Crash of 1983[edit | edit source]
The 1980’s also saw the end of the Second generation of video game consoles with the Video game crash of 1983 severely disrupting the market in North America. Unsold North American- market Atari consoles, computers and cartridges are buried in a New Mexico landfill to be discovered only in 2013.
Third Generation of Video Game Consoles[edit | edit source]
Beginning in 1983 the Third generation of video game consoles later saw widespread mainstream success. These consoles offered much better 2D graphics and sound then earlier generations.
WarGames[edit | edit source]
WarGames, a 1983 movie about a teenager computer hacker and phreaker looking for unreleased video games but accidentally triggering a nuclear defense system, helps put computer hacking in the public imagination and sparks some of the first high level American government efforts regarding cybersecurity. While many aspects of the movie were fake, automated scanning of phone numbers for game company computers was inspired by real phreaker practices from the time like demon dialing, which came to be known as “wardialing” after the film.
Distribution[edit | edit source]
A few companies such as Cumma Technology try their hand at game distribution through rewritable cartridges.
Beginning of the Fourth Generation of Video Game Consoles[edit | edit source]
Early fourth generation game console began to be released in 1987, though serious competition in this space would not begin until 1990 with more international releases. The improved hardware in these consoles featured much better audio and graphics than the previous generation.
Fall of the Berlin Wall[edit | edit source]
Throughout the 1980’s game developers in East Germany had to make games in accordance to party wishes, such as not including violent elements in their games. Meetings of gamers were often monitored by the Stasi agents out of concern that western software and games were being used. On November 9th, 1989 East German citizens begin to tear down the Berlin Wall, leading to German Reunification and thus the end of gaming culture under the East German government.
The 3D Bradley Trainer, the military version of the 1980 Atari game Battlezone.
The 1980 game Mystery House on the Apple II.
The 1986 game Rebelstar on the ZX Spectrum, an early example of the turn based tactics genre.
Turbo GT Circuit from 1986, showing typical 2D graphics of the era.
Laser Squad, a 1988 strategy game.
Rebel Star II, a turn based tactics game from 1988.
Bubble Ghost, a 1988 puzzle game.
Another recreated typical gaming scene.
A map of the Cold War alliances in 1980. As computer technology was a sensitive field during this era, there were significant differences in the general availability of specific models of computers and game consoles between nations in NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
A PC Gaming scene featuring competitive esports player Thresh at Comdex 1997.
Network Gaming[edit | edit source]
The Internet was a sensation in the 1990’s, leading to more incorporation in games. LAN parties became common among computer gamers. Many legacy dial up gaming services from the 1980’s shut down in the mid 1990’s and many were founded in the 1990’s.
– The noise of a dial up connection being made, a common way 1990’s gamers got on the internet.
3D Gaming[edit | edit source]
While 3D games predate the 1990’s, this decade saw a huge leap and refinement in 3D video games in terms of graphical fidelity. More importantly, this decade also saw refinements in 3D gameplay especially in level design and control. The 1990’s also saw improvements to storytelling in games, allowing for richer tales and better plots.
Some terms in this section will link to Wikipedia for more information.
Platformers[edit | edit source]
Early this decade saw new and novel takes on the platformer genre, such as the fast paced Sonic the Hedgehog. Other titles evolved complexity over previous releases, such as the game Super Mario World.
3D platformers were dominated by the collectathon genre, notably by the landmark title Super Mario 64, which helped pioneer 3D control schemes. Other notable collectathons include Spyro the Dragon, Donkey Kong 64, and Banjo Kazooie.
Other notable platformers of the decade include Crash Bandicoot and Gex: Enter the Gecko.
Action-Adventure[edit | edit source]
Notable general Action-Adventure games of the decade include The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Tomb Raider.
Survival Horror Action-Adventure games of the decade included Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill.
3D Racing games[edit | edit source]
This genre was influenced by important games such as the 3DO and DOS game The Need for Speed (1994-1995) and the PlayStation game Gran Turismo (1997) which aimed for realistic 3D graphics and driving mechanics for a much more immersive driving experience then prior 2D racing games could provide. Both generated successful franchises for the PC and console platforms (although the latter never left the PlayStation line).
Less realism focused arcade style and karting games were also released, including the original 2.5d titles F-Zero and Super Mario Kart, as well as their fully 3D followups F-Zero X and Mario Kart 64. Other notable 3D racing games not focused on realism included titles such as Wipeout, Cruis’n USA, Sega Rally Championship, and Daytona USA. Ridge Racer was an interesting example of a game that mixed very realistic graphics, with arcade style gameplay.
Shooters[edit | edit source]
After id Software’s first-person interface experiments with Hovertank 3-D (1990) and Catacomb 3-D (1992), a number of Shooter sub genres, especially third person shooters and fast-paced first person shooters, were pioneered in this decade with groundbreaking hit titles. id’s Wolfenstein 3D (1992) was a landmark title in the genre, a remake of the earlier 2D video games Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein and one of the first popular first-person shooters ever and pioneer in 2.5D graphics, although it allowed 2D-only gameplay action, thus making it impossible to jump, go up or down stairs, or even aiming up or down. More complex shooters such as id’s highly controversial Doom (1993) and the tongue-in-cheek Duke Nukem 3D (1996) developed by the emerging Apogee Software and published by 3D Realms, would follow.
All three games also spawned notable modding communities, altering and modifying game files at one’s own pleasure.
Other notable first person shooters would include Quake, Unreal Tournament, Tribes, MDK, Perfect Dark, and the 1997 Nintendo 64 shooter GoldenEye 007, based on the 1995 James Bond film. Later games with FPS mechanics such as Half-Life and Deus Ex would use this medium to tell detailed and immersive stories.
Point and Click Adventure[edit | edit source]
The 1990’s are often seen as the critical apex of the Point and click adventure genre, where the culmination of a developers with a decade of experience during the 1980’s still retained significant financial backing from publishers.
Fighting Games[edit | edit source]
Games such as Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat would forever shape the genre with their technical and artistic decisions which skyrocketed the appeal and popularity of the genre.
Role Playing Games[edit | edit source]
Notable JRPGs (Japanese role-playing (video) games) from the decade include games III-VIII in the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana.
Notable western computer role playing games from this decade include System Shock, Fallout 1 & 2, and the first Baldur’s Gate.
Other RPGs sought to subvert traditional expectations of the RPG formula, including Earthbound/Mother 2, Super Mario RPG, and Moon: Remix RPG Adventure.
FMV Games[edit | edit source]
A number of games attempted to leverage the high capacity of CD-ROM to make movies interactive using full-motion video (FMV). This was a selling point of consoles such as the original PlayStation (1994) by Sony Computer Entertainment and the failed CD-i (1990) by Philips.
Sports[edit | edit source]
At the very end of the decade, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater would spark an interest in the skating subgenre.
Strategy & Tactics[edit | edit source]
This decade saw increased interest in real time strategy games, notably with the release of Starcraft, Age of Empires, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness.
Turn based strategy and tactics games would also see landmark titles, such as Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, Front Mission, and Final Fantasy Tactics.
The original XCOM trilogy, including X-COM: Enemy Unknown, X-COM: Terror from the Deep, and X-COM: Apocalypse, offered a unique take on the genre with a theme of planetary defense, and offered a hybrid approach of real time strategy on a macro scale, with turn based tactics on a micro scale.
Simulation[edit | edit source]
Notable games from the decade include SimCity 2000 (Despite the name, it was released mid decade).
1993[edit | edit source]
Tetris in Space[edit | edit source]
Like all cosmonauts, I love sport. My particular favorites are football and swimming. During flight, in rare minutes of leisure, I enjoyed playing Game Boy.—Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Serebrov, Soviet and later Russian Cosmonaut and Engineer who also helped design Salyut 6, Salyut 7, Mir, and a space motorcycle., Provenance note Retrothing
Cosmonaut Aleksandr Serebrov flies on the Soyuz TM-17 mission to the Russian space station Mir, bringing a MIR postmarked Game Boy and a copy of the famous Russian game Tetris to play in space during limited free time, thus becoming among the first, if not the first person, to play video games in space.
While this may seem like a trivial fact, it represents a small though significant milestone in space exploration. Following the revolt of the crew of the space station Skylab in 1974, the welfare of spacefaring people has been of particular importance. Today entertainment during extended time in space is considered an critical part of daily life. This event marked a point where video games became part of that strategy.
1994[edit | edit source]
Industry Organization[edit | edit source]
In 1994 the Computer Game Developers Association is founded, later becoming the International Game Developers Association.
1995[edit | edit source]
Neon Genesis Evangelion[edit | edit source]
The 1995 release of the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion would go on to influence a number of Japanese game developers.
1996[edit | edit source]
Dawn of the MMORPG[edit | edit source]
The game Meridian 59 launches on PC, letting over 10,000 players play simultaneously in a 3D environment, making it among the earliest modern MMORPGs. Players engage in social activities that the developers did not anticipate such as marriage and mass player killing. Emergent behavior caused by the social systems massively multiplayer games would often prove an interesting field of study in the following years.
1998[edit | edit source]
.beat[edit | edit source]
Swatch .beat internet time is announced, and sees some use by players of MMORPGs for coordinating across time zones.
Other Gaming Tech of the 1990’s[edit | edit source]
The 1990’s saw the first mobile phone games, as well as a number of novel small LCD games.
A 1994 Aura Interactor Force Feedback Vest.
Vroom, a racing game from 1991.
Video explaining the technology behind the 2.5d graphics of Wolfenstein 3D.
Warzone 2100, a 3D real time strategy game released in 1999.
The 1999 adventure game Amerzone, showing pre-rendered 3D graphics.
A number of first person shooters and engines would be descended from the Quake engine, including some still in use in 2021.
- Williams, Owen (16 February 2015). “How People Described The Internet In The 1990s is Hilarious” (in en-us). https://thenextweb.com/insider/2015/02/16/ways-people-described-computers-1990s-hilarious/.
- “In-person LAN parties > Online multiplayers”. 15 June 2020. https://www.imore.com/remember-multiplayer-lan-party.
- “The Game Archaeologist: Online gaming service providers of the ’80s and ’90s Massively Overpowered”. https://massivelyop.com/2016/01/16/the-game-archaeologist-online-gaming-service-providers-of-the-80s-and-90s/.
- “The Magic of Early 90s 3D”. 4 May 2012. https://www.gamezone.com/originals/the-magic-of-early-90s-3d/.
- July 2010, PC Plus11. “The evolution of 3D games” (in en). https://www.techradar.com/news/gaming/the-evolution-of-3d-games-700995/2.
- Otty, Karl (28 September 2020). “In Defence of Tank Controls” (in en). https://medium.com/super-jump/in-defence-of-tank-controls-5c9d6ce2d6f5.
- “Educational Feature: A History and Analysis of Level Design in 3D Computer Games – Pt. 1” (in en). https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131083/educational_feature_a_history_and_.php?page=3.
- James, Matt (29 November 2018). “The Enduring Legacy of ‘Half-Life,’ 20 Years After Its Release” (in en). https://www.theringer.com/2018/11/29/18116704/half-life-20th-anniversary-valve-fps-black-mesa-xen.
- “The 10 Best Stories In ’90s Horror Video Games”. 7 June 2019. https://www.thegamer.com/best-stories-in-90s-horror-video-games/.
- Martin, Douglas (17 November 2013). “Aleksandr Serebrov, 69, Dies; Cosmonaut Who Persevered (Published 2013)”. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/18/science/space/aleksandr-serebrov-cosmonaut-of-fettered-times-dies-at-69.html. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
- “Auction: Nintendo Game Boy Flown In Space”. https://www.retrothing.com/2011/04/auction-nintendo-game-boy-flown-in-space.html. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
- Eschner, Kat. “Mutiny in Space: Why These Skylab Astronauts Never Flew Again” (in en). Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/mutiny-space-why-these-skylab-astronauts-never-flew-again-180962023/.
- Wild, Flint (8 June 2015). “Free Time in Space”. https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/stem-on-station/ditl_free_time.
- “About Us – IGDA”. https://igda.org/about-us/.
- “How much Neon Genesis Evangelion is in Metal Gear Solid?”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOnmiG6bxYk.
- “The Game Archaeologist crosses Meridian 59: The highlights” (in en). https://www.engadget.com/2011-12-13-the-game-archaeologist-crosses-meridian-59-the-highlights.html. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
- “Finding Art in an Internet Game”. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/surf/073097mind.html. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
- “.beat: Swatch’s Insane Attempt To Reinvent Time for the Internet”. https://www.themarysue.com/beat-swatch-internet-time/. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
- “PSO-World.com – Guides – .beat Time System”. https://www.pso-world.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&artid=883. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
A typical game shop in 2005, showing a variety of games for sale.
A typical gaming scene in the December 2006. People hang out while two gamers play a Nintendo Wii with motion controls.
The living room of a gamer in 2007.
The line for GTAIV on launch in Las Vegas, 2008.
Internet Gaming matures[edit | edit source]
In late 1999 EverQuest was released, popularizing MMORPGs. The 2000’s saw the release of popular MMORPG’s such as World of Warcraft, and Runescape. These MMORPGs offered unique social experiences for their players and resulted in in game social institutions being formed.
New Economics of games[edit | edit source]
The concept of free to play games primarily downloaded on the internet with small paid additions, microtransactions, is refined. This strategy begins to be seriously pursued by major game companies like EA by the end of the decade.
Companies begin seriously marketing small DLC, with incidents like Horse Armor DLC for Oblivion initially attracting an incredulous response for selling something that did not include story or other additional content, and becoming a common joke online by the end of the decade.
Virtual in-game currencies that can be officially exchanged for real currencies or to replace membership costs emerge in games like Second Life and EVE Online. In part due to concerns of inflation, EVE Online developer CCP Games hires an economist to manage the in-game economy. In games that prohibit trading in game currency for real currency like World of Warcraft, and to a lesser extent games that allow it like EVE Online, under the table deals and grey markets for in game currency obtained by techniques like gold farming arise. In game thefts for real world gain begin catching the public eye.
Games as Apps, Mobile gaming in the 2000’s[edit | edit source]
Games for non-gaming mobile computer devices gained popularity, often running on mobile media players like iPods, or on basic feature phones.
Later the introduction of smartphones and application stores on them made mobile gaming more accessible.
- First Person shooters
- Role Playing games
- Rhythm and Music games.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games[edit | edit source]
While Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) emerged before the 2000’s, this decade was when they achieved mass popularity. Most notably World of Warcraft was released this decade.
Open World[edit | edit source]
As hardware increasingly became more powerful, game developers soon were able to craft comprehensive, vast 3D environments much more easily than before. Open World games blur the line between a subgenre, a design choice, and a game mechanic. Open world mechanics often were mixed with other genres for interesting results.
Constructive[edit | edit source]
One of the most notable video games to be released in the 2000s, despite the fact that it was only a paid public alpha, is Markus “Notch” Persson’s 2009 masterpiece Minecraft, which was an instant success since the time of its release and has since become an ever-evolving video game running on various different platforms – eventually becoming one of the most popular games of all time. The 2009 version evolved in what was later known as the “Java Edition“, due to the fact that it was completely written in Java, although this will be explored in later chapters.Earlier in the decade, similar games attempted to capture this idea of an open world where the player could do anything, though far less popularity.Minecraft was influenced by the earlier 2009 voxel building game Infiniminer. 2002 saw the beginnings of the game Dwarf Fortress.
GTA Clones[edit | edit source]
Other, earlier, games that had enormous success in the 2000s were Rockstar Games’s Grand Theft Auto III (2001), IV (2008) and the intermediate chapters Vice City (2002) and San Andreas (2004). They have spawned the GTA clone video game genre, which also encompasses many other video games, all characterized by being a hybrid of third-person shooters and driving simulators and often focusing on organized crime and mafia storylines.
There was a large demand for GTA style games on the go, leading to innovative attempts to replicate the gameplay on very underpowered handheld hardware. This resulted in the release of acclaimed titles such as Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars in 2009.
Handheld Era[edit | edit source]
High demand for handheld electronics of all kinds causes a severe shortage of the chemical element Tantalum.
War on Terror[edit | edit source]
The horrific attacks on September 11th, 2001 had huge repercussions on both culture and the global economy. In response to the attacks, many games are delayed and edited out of respect to the victims of the tragedy.
Game Jams[edit | edit source]
In early 2002 Game Jams begin taking off with developers. In Oakland, California the 0th Indie Game Jam is held from March 15th, to March 18th. The first Ludum Dare follows shortly in April.
Strategy Guides Peak[edit | edit source]
By 2003 the rush to write official strategy guides that release either on or before the launch of a game lead to poor quality writing in such guides. Furthermore some strategy guides for Square Enix games required use of a non-free website in conjunction with the guide, which was problematic in an era before laptops and mobile devices were common, and when desktop computers were often kept in separate rooms from a television and console. Meanwhile a popular unofficial strategy guide website GameFAQs is acquired by CNET.
World of Warcraft goes Viral[edit | edit source]
2005 was a landmark year for World of Warcraft, including a number of events which would have broader influence outside the game.
In 2005 a bug in the popular MMORPG World of Warcraft leads to the player transmissible status effect Corrupted Blood not always disappearing after a specific encounter, thus spreading across the game world and infecting over a million player characters in a virtual epidemic.
The event became a subject of academic research by medical professionals, as the event was essentially a model of a real life epidemic. In particular observations from the Corrupted Blood incident would later be used in 2020 by researchers looking to understand decision making during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A video of the infamous total party wipe in the Leeroy Jenkins World of Warcraft raid gained enormous online popularity following its posting on the 10th of May 2005, though in 2017 the video was confirmed to have been staged. The name Leeroy Jenkins became somewhat of an icon, and was used to refer to players who charged into dangerous situations with blind enthusiasm.
2005 Gallery[edit | edit source]
Japanese arcade in 2005, featuring Purikura booths.
Planning for Grand Theft Auto III on display in 2005.
PSP Demo Bubbles at E3 2005.
Great Recession[edit | edit source]
The Great Recession hits the economy in 2007, wiping out savings and deeply hurting the stock market. Sales of video games and gaming hardware subsequently drop. Compared to other industries, the gaming industry was relatively resilient.
Tabula Rasa in Space[edit | edit source]
The creator of Ultima, Richard Garriott, flies to the International Space Station as a tourist. He attempts to play the game Tabula Rasa into space, but this is denied for security reasons, bringing the code of Tabula Rasa with him and broadcasting a message to players instead.
2008 Gallery[edit | edit source]
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, a game released in 2008.
Richard Garriot (Right) on the International Space Station with Greg Chamitoff, Michael Fincke, and experimental satellites free floating.
Simple games gained popularity on mobile phones such as this Sony Ericsson running Edge in 2008.
The original iPhone, next to an iPhone 3G compared in 2008, both popular smartphones of the late 2000’s.
Screenshots[edit | edit source]
PeaceMaker, a strategy game from 2007.
Symphony featuring music from Oblivion in 2007.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a game from 2007.
Combat in EVE Online in 2007.
Trine, a game released in 2009.
King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame, a game released in 2009.
And Yet It Moves, a game released in 2009.
The 2009 release of Killing Floor.
Crusaders, a 2009 video game.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.- Call of Pripyat in 2009.
The Whispered World in 2009.
Menu from the game Cricket Revolution, a fairly typical interface from 2009.
Events[edit | edit source]
Ion Storm employees at E3 2000.
Bayonetta promotion at E3 2009
Promotion of Metal Gear Solid Touch for iOS at E3 2009.
- “Engineering Everquest” (in en). https://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/gaming/engineering-everquest.
- Silva, Matthew De. “What I learned from getting scammed by 12-year-olds” (in en). https://qz.com/1608914/how-runescape-mmorpgs-shaped-millennials-during-childhood/.
- Schiesel, Seth (21 January 2008). “The Video Game May Be Free, but to Be a Winner Can Cost Money (Published 2008)”. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/21/technology/21game.html.
- “Download Oblivion’s horse armor, for a price” (in en). https://www.engadget.com/2006-04-03-download-oblivions-horse-armor-for-a-price.html.
- “Oblivion Horse Armor On Sale For Twice The Price” (in en-us). https://kotaku.com/oblivion-horse-armor-on-sale-for-twice-the-price-5193675.
- “Industry must address horse armour ‘joke'”. 15 July 2009. https://www.mcvuk.com/business-news/industry-must-address-horse-armour-joke/.
- “Virtual Economics” (in en). https://www.technologyreview.com/2005/12/01/229988/virtual-economics/.
- “EVE Online player loses USD 19,000 in shady virtual currency deal” (in en). https://www.engadget.com/2008-12-30-eve-online-player-loses-usd-19-000-in-shady-virtual-currency-dea.html.
- Hillis, Scott (16 August 2007). “Virtual world hires real economist” (in en). https://www.reuters.com/article/us-videogames-economist-life/virtual-world-hires-real-economist-idUSN0925619220070816.
- “China’s ‘Gold Farmers’ Play a Grim Game” (in en). https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10165824.
- “Gamer robs virtual bank to get real-world cash CBC News”. https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/gamer-robs-virtual-bank-to-get-real-world-cash-1.799414.
- Hill, Jason (4 September 2008). “The rise and rise of casual gaming” (in en). https://www.smh.com.au/technology/the-rise-and-rise-of-casual-gaming-20080904-gdstl3.html.
- Wortham, Jenna (5 December 2009). “Apple’s Game Changer, Downloading Now (Published 2009)”. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/technology/06apps.html.
- “The good, the bad, the Minecraft: All the inspiration and clones you’ll ever need”. VentureBeat. 15 September 2012. https://venturebeat.com/2012/09/15/minecraft-inspiration-and-clones/.
- “Minecraft: 10 Facts About The Game That Every Fan And Newcomer Should Know About”. Game Rant. 25 October 2020. https://gamerant.com/minecraft-facts-about-the-game/.
- Roos, Gina (January 31st, 2000). “A Serious Case Of the Shorts”. https://www.eetimes.com/a-serious-case-of-the-shorts/.
- “Events of 9/11 Affected U.S. Culture in Ways Both Clear and Obscure”. https://www.trincoll.edu/NewsEvents/NewsArticles/pages/911Panel.aspx.
- Brainard, Lael (NaN). “Globalization in the Aftermath: Target, Casualty, Callous Bystander?”. https://www.brookings.edu/research/globalization-in-the-aftermath-target-casualty-callous-bystander/.
- “How 9/11 Affected Games bit-tech.net” (in en). https://bit-tech.net/reviews/gaming/pc/how-9-11-affected-games/1/.
- “Technology Inspires Creativity: Indie Game Jam Inverts Dogma 2001!” (in en). www.gamasutra.com. https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2989/technology_inspires_creativity_.php.
- “Get Your Game On with Ludum Dare: Interview with Mike Kasprzak (Part…” (in en). https://software.intel.com/content/www/us/en/develop/blogs/get-your-game-on-with-ludum-dare-interview-with-mike-kasprzak-part-1.html.
- “Decline of Guides”. 8 September 2003. https://web.archive.org/web/20030908223435/http://alanemrich.com/Writing_Archive_pages/decline.htm.
- “GameSpy.com – Article”. 17 June 2006. https://web.archive.org/web/20060617055414/http://archive.gamespy.com/articles/june03/dumbestmoments/readers/.
- “GameFAQs Acquired by CNET – Slashdot” (in en). https://games.slashdot.org/story/03/06/04/1438227/gamefaqs-acquired-by-cnet.
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A group of Pokemon Go players in 2018. During the 2010’s mobile gaming became very popular.
A GameStop game store in 2018. Physical retail faced increasing digital competition this decade.
PAX East 2019. Large game conventions were a notable hallmark of this decade.
The changing economy of games[edit | edit source]
Online game marketplaces like Steam became quite popular as digital distribution of computer games takes off with gamers. Other major publishers enter or redouble their efforts in the market, such as the launch of EA’s Origin platform in 2011, the revamping of Ubisoft Uplay in 2012, the release of the Bethesda Launcher in 2016, and the release of the Epic Games Store in 2018. There were also less standard online storefronts that gained popularity, such as the launch of the indie focused platforms Humble Bundle in 2010, and itch.io in 2013. In the later part of the decade, cross play between platforms begins to see more adoption.
Often new game storefronts and associated customer support systems were poorly secured, leading to large breaches of gamer information. Casual games reach wide audiences with digital distribution on smartphone application stores, as well as on social media websites such as Facebook. The new frontier of digital game storefronts also attracted criminals, who took advantage of these new platforms and associated services by exploiting policy weaknesses to resell hacked keys or launder money gained through more traditional criminal acts.
Many games go free to play, with monetization strategies such as in app purchases proving lucrative for some developers. Dark patterns in many games enabled by internet connectivity begin to catch attention. In particular, many games, both paid and free to play, add cosmetic and “Pay to Win” microtransactions and loot boxes. Loot boxes in particular are linked to gambling addictions during this time. These techniques raised concerns and potentially ran afoul of gambling laws, creating friction between the industry and regulators. Unofficial sites that offered services such as skin gabling proliferated during this boom of in game cosmetics.
A lack of moderation on online storefronts lead to a number of controversial and low quality games being released.
Some games see success on crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, despite often lacking solid prototypes. This also helps to revive old styles of games no longer seen as viable by major industry players. At the same time, a number of high profile scams and failures shake confidence in crowdfunding as a model for video game funding.
Many of the first widely available cloud gaming platforms were launched during this time. Some launches have problems, though the potential of the technology is acknowledged.
The ebb and flow of sanctions on Iran during this decade helped shape their burgeoning game industry. Notably, their small but hardy homegrown industry managed to compete against mostly pirated international imports for its domestic marketshare of about 20 million gamers.
Developer treatment enters the public eye[edit | edit source]
This decade saw the increasing awareness of gamers of frequent poor treatment faced by video game developers in some work environments. While imperfect conditions can exist in any occupation and issues had existed in the game industry previously, this decade saw a large deterioration in relations between companies and developers.
Tactics used by companies which hurt developers during this time included misclassifying workers to dodge labor laws, expecting a cycle of long crunch times with unemployment following immediately after, and creating a fear of retaliation so that employees would be reluctant to speak to the press.
In late 2016 the video game industry saw it’s first major strike, following a breakdown of negotiations between a handful of major companies and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), with 450 members picketing the company Insomniac Games. This lead to industry concern that game developers would observe these workers demanding better and possibly unionizing as a result.
Quality Assurance (QA) Testing entered the spotlight as a field where some companies were mistreating employees. The practice of using Bug Quotas in QA testing in particular were in decline around 2019, as it created a perverse incentive which resulted in counterproductive work being done.
From 2009 to 2019 game developer views on unionization shifted radically from a small percentage of developers in favor of unionization to much broader support. Notably, in the United Kingdom an official trade union for video game developers was formed in 2018. Some American politicians supported unionization efforts within the gaming industry.
Not all companies mistreated their developers this decade. As a result of increased public awareness of these issues, companies such as Nintendo and Media Molecule use their avoidance of crunch as a symbol of ethical leadership within the video game industry.
Player Wellbeing[edit | edit source]
As video game industry grew dramatically this decade, interest grew in safeguarding the wellbeing of gamers.
Following industry support for gamer healthcare, the Obama Administration supported an initiative for gamers to get healthcare coverage in the United States of America from 2015 to the end of the administration’s term in office in 2017.
On May 25th, 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes gaming addiction as a medical disorder, though there was some contention around the issue. The description of gaming addiction provided was very specific, and was only applied to those neglecting basic needs to play games for extended periods of time. Research this decade also suggested that gaming may have positive effects when performed in balance with other life activities.
Mobile operating systems iOS and Android focused on digital wellbeing tools in 2018. While meant for general use, the granular settings of these tools allowed either parental or self imposed limits to be set on game time specifically.
Decline of the Physical Mediums[edit | edit source]
As the industry shifted to online focused markets, the industry shifted away from traditional physical ones. This decade was especially transitional, as though physical games remained an important factor in the industry throughout the decade, digital games went from a small niche to the favored future of game distribution. Online shops gave serious competition to physical stores, leading to large chain stores floundering by the end of the decade. This also affected other games related media. Continuing from the late 2000’s game manuals continued to shrink and were abandoned all together in some cases. Major publishers of Strategy Guides went from paper to online during this time.
Automotive Gaming[edit | edit source]
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announces partnership with Atari for games as easter eggs on Tesla electric cars.
German automakers Audi and Mercedes-Benz both experimented with in car gaming concepts in 2019.
Rebirth of Arcades[edit | edit source]
To a limited extent, Arcades saw a small revival during this time. In the 2000’s arcades had struggled to compete with increasingly better home gaming experiences. Recognizing that Arcades could no longer rely on the technical dominance they once did, arcades reinvented themselves. Often this meant appealing to nostalgic adults and young adults looking for a new experience with barcades. Others focused on special experiences that couldn’t be had at home without spending significant amounts of money, such as virtual reality, to mixed success.
Cobra Arcade Bar in Phoenix Arizona in 2016.
A Virtual Reality Arcade in New York City in 2018.
Gaming stations in 2019 at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
Popular Genres[edit | edit source]
- Open World games
- Survival games
- Action adventure games
- Retro revival games
- Walking Simulators
- Visual Novels
Notable Cross Platform Games of the 2010s[edit | edit source]
Mass Effect 2[edit | edit source]
Outcry from conservative media on the first Mass Effect lead to LGTQ themes in Mass Effect 2 being suppressed.
The Witcher 3[edit | edit source]
Final Fantasy XV[edit | edit source]
Released in 2016 Final Fantasy XV is known for it’s well written characters and real time combat system. Final Fantasy XV is also known for the extensive care which was taken in modeling it’s in game food.
eInk games[edit | edit source]
A few makers of eInk based ebook readers experiment with simple games that play well with the slow refresh displays used on these devices, though the market for such games quickly peters out.
Video Games as Speech[edit | edit source]
In 2011 the United States Supreme Court rules video games are protected speech under the First Amendment of the United States constitution. This overruled state legislation restricting the purchase of games based on game content. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, which was backed by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Stephen Breyer dissented in this case. Justice Stephen Breyer cited court rulings allowing similar prohibitions on sexual content, while Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that a constitutional right to free speech does not fully apply when to speaking to youth. Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the opinion given by Justice Clarence Thomas, noting that if such a position was taken, it would also lead to the erosion of the religious and political freedoms of youth in areas outside video games. Thus this case not only strengthened civil liberties in the United States of America as it relates to video games, it helped set a much broader precedent supporting general freedom of speech by youth.
Video Games as Artwork[edit | edit source]
In November of 2012 the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City debuted an applied design exhibition of 14 noteworthy video games. This prompted some backlash by those who did not consider video games to be artwork.
Satellite technology in Games[edit | edit source]
The 2012 release of Super Snowcross by EA (Electronic Arts) capitalizes on the public data provided by the ASTER sensor of the NASA earth observational satellite Terra to make realistic game maps based on real world locations based on data collected by the satellite, improving realism by replacing earlier randomly generated terrain.
Microconsoles: Boom & Bust[edit | edit source]
A number of crowdfunded microconsoles are launched this year, with hopes of finding a new approach to the console industry that was more open and inexpensive then what traditional consoles offered. Several years later it becomes clear that none of the early microconsoles were long lived successes, though the boom did create an interesting period of gaming history.
Eighth Generation of Game Consoles[edit | edit source]
2013 saw the eighth generation of game consoles begin in earnest.
Digital catches Physical[edit | edit source]
In 2014 digital sales of games roughly reach parity with physical sales of games. The convenience of digital games was especially resonant with owners of portable devices, with many gamers growing accustomed to not needing to carry multiple cartridges with them in addition to the system itself.
Twitch Plays Pokemon[edit | edit source]
An experimental crowed source play through of Pokemon Red leads 35,000 collective players to beat the game in 16 days. The immense internet sensation created by Twitch Plays Pokemon spurs other creators to create more interactive content on streaming platforms such as Twitch.
Kojima & Konami[edit | edit source]
In early 2015 Konami and a well known then Konami employee Hdieo Kojima had a falling out, resulting in Kojima going independent.
Konami also attempted to remove independent journalistic coverage of the event. This backfired, as this action attracted the attention of larger media outlets.
Satoru Iwata[edit | edit source]
Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo, passes away at the age of 55, with a number of tributes made. Respects were paid across the industry, including from people working at rival companies who respected the impact and character of Iwata.
Year of Innovation[edit | edit source]
2017 is noted for a number of high quality or mold breaking games releasing that year, like Breath of the Wild, Cuphead, Nier: Automata, Sonic Mania, Gravity Rush 2, Pyre, and Super Mario Odyssey.Nier: Automata was noted for it’s nihilistic tone.
2017 also saw the release of new ways of gaming. The Nintendo Switch was released this year as the first popular hybrid game console, combining a portable console and a home console in one unit. Netflix tested out interactive movies this year.
End of Miiverse[edit | edit source]
On November 8th, 2017 the Miiverse social networking service is shuttered. Miiverse had been Nintendo’s gaming social network since 2012. An unofficial community archive of Miiverse content was made before the shutdown occurred.
Blockchain Mania[edit | edit source]
In 2017 blockchain technology saw significant hype. Later in 2017 the early blockchain game Cryptokitties is released, crowding the Ethereum network with over one million USD worth of transactions made after a few days.
Celebrities in Gaming[edit | edit source]
2018 saw several celebrities attempt to get involved in the gaming industry, primarily by leveraging their name or brand to partner with existing manufacturers.
Rapper Soulja Boy briefly launches a console line, with Soulja Boy claiming 5 million consoles sold before withdrawing from the market. Consoles were existing models, such as the Chinese Fuze microconsole.
Telltale Games[edit | edit source]
In September of 2018, noted studio Telltale Games abruptly collapses. Following a failure to raise needed funding, most employees are fired and given 30 minutes to leave. Inability to retain talented employees, poor management, dated technology, and increasing competition from other studios are common factors cited in the collapse of the studio.
Scapegoating games[edit | edit source]
In the United States, politicians consider a ban on violent games, blaming violent video games for recent mass shootings despite little evidence linking the two together.
In response to the shootings some stores and television networks reduced or eliminated advertisements for violent video games. Additionally, lawmakers in Pennsylvania revived discussions on a 10% tax on mature rated games in response to the shootings.
Auto chess[edit | edit source]
2019 saw the release of a number of games release in the new genre Auto Chess.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World The Game.
Deus Ex Human Revolution booth at E3 2011.
Fez, a game released in 2012.
Trailer for Dustforce, a 2012 release.
Strike Suit Zero, a 2013 game.
The Stanley Parable, a 2013 game.
Celeste, a game released in 2018.
The 2b2t Minecraft server in June of 2019.
Manifold Garden, released in 2019.
The Outer Wilds, released in 2019.
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Games as a Political Vehicle[edit | edit source]
In the run up to the 2020 United States elections, politicians used online multiplayer games and game streaming to reach out to voters safely during the pandemic. The Biden campaign operated a custom Fortnite island with its own minigames. In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which supports user made content, digital yard signs were distributed by the Biden campaign. Though the official Trump campaign mocked campaigning in games, independent efforts by his supporters also made Animal Crossing signs, as well as using the massively popular game Among Us to promote their candidate. Following the election a video was posted of President Biden playing Mario Kart Arcade GP DX with Naomi Biden at Camp David.
COVID-19[edit | edit source]
The game industry booms, as people hunker down at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some game retailers initially resisted closing down during lockdowns by declaring themselves essential businesses, to widespread criticism. Numerous high profile games are delayed due to COVID-19. Game development companies move to work from home, with some such as Square Enix planning to allow work from home after the pandemic ends.Animal Talking leverages the Animal Crossing: New Horizons as a medium to create a highly successful talk show that rivals and outcompetes traditional media during early pandemic restrictions.
The pandemic simulation game Plague Inc., which was originally released eight years prior in 2012, gains massive popularity, with the developers releasing an update to enhance the educational experience of the game in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The developer of Plague Inc. also donated $250,000 to CEPI and WHO to help fight the pandemic. The older 2008 flash game Pandemic 2 also experiences a surge of popularity.
In 2021 the Truck Simulator series held a virtual trucking event in solidarity with real truckers delivering COVID-19 vaccines. Players from around the globe organized a virtual graduation ceremony using Minecraft.
COVID-19 increased the public profile of virtual reality applications, potentially increasing interest in VR gaming as a result. AR gaming proved to help some seeking reprieve from isolation. As gyms closed, interest in Exergaming greatly increased by those looking to get fit while isolating.
Though its launch was delayed by COVID-19, the first Super Mario World theme park in Osaka, Japan was shown in a video tour online by Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto.
Apple Vs. Epic[edit | edit source]
In August 2020, Apple and Epic begin disputing payment systems on the Apple App store, resulting in the game Fortnite being removed from the App Store. Coupled with increasing scrutiny from lawmakers, Apple reduces their cut from 30% to 15% for developers making under a million dollars annually, a move said to benefit indie game developers.
Ninth generation of video game consoles[edit | edit source]
The first ninth generation consoles launch in November of 2020. 3D audio, SSD storage, and raytracing support is a common trend in this generation. Initially supplies of new PS5 and Xbox Series consoles are quickly bought up.
Economy[edit | edit source]
GameStop Stock[edit | edit source]
Defying expectations, in January 2021 Redditors send the stock of the physical game retailer GameStop soaring over 1600%. This had broader implications for the overall market, as the reactions from some firms caused some members of Congress to begin looking into the event.
Other[edit | edit source]
Some game developers and game artists turn to non-fungible tokens as an additional revenue stream, with concerns over environmental impact and issues with rights leading to controversy.
A map of countries showing GDP per capita in 2020. Countries with wealthier citizens are more likely to have higher impacts in non-essential markets such as video games. Dark purple indicates higher GDP per capita, light blue indicates lower GDP per capita.
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- “Gaming Crypto-Artists Court Controversy While Cashing in on NFTs” (in en). Bloomberg.com. 9 March 2021. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-09/gaming-crypto-artists-court-controversy-while-cashing-in-on-nfts.
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