Look alive nerds – video games are becoming something for everyone.
For years, playing video games was the sport of losers. Sit at home, alone, probably in the dark, and push buttons. No social interaction. No physical activity. No wonder cheerleaders and jocks made fun of us! Those times are quickly changing however as video gaming moves away from the being “alone in the dark” (pun intended) and moves towards something else entirely. For those of you who don’t know much about video games at all, let me provide a brief history… (brief because I’m only listing the most popular consoles…there were actually over 50 consoles made between 1972 and 2000).
1972 – Everyone thinks that the Atari was the first video game console on the scene, but those people are wrong. The first console in the American home was the Magnavox Odyssey. Infamous for having a controller with poor responsiveness and being battery powered (what?!?), the Odyssey also had no sound and, as to be expected, crude graphics.
1977 – Atari 2600, which actually allowed gamers to play more than one game! Sold in cartridges resembling 8-tracks, the games had mono sound and multiple colors. It’s controller? The now-iconic black square with a joystick on top. Oh! And the big red button…don’t forget about the big red button. Now, a flood of consoles come onto the market – Mattel, one of the largest toy manufacturers of all time – brings out Intellivision, Colecovision hosts several consoles, and Atari and Magnavox continue to released updated versions of their consoles as well. Additionally, arcades in shopping centers and malls are growing in popularity.
1985 – Nintendo comes out with the Nintendo Entertainment System, revamping the gaming industry and breathing more life into the arcades. The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, is probably one of the most popular consoles of all time. It’s headlining game, Super Mario Brothers, is still played on old and new consoles across the world. Meanwhile, Atari struggles to keep up and comes out with the 2600 Junior and the 7800.
1989 – The Sega Genesis gaming system takes the stage and sells very well until…
1991 – Not to be outdone, Nintendo ships out the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, SNES. Still a cartridge system, but certainly with improved graphics and a leg up on the NES. The Sega Genesis and the SNES run neck-in-neck, for the first time providing American with two really good choices of home video gaming consoles.
1995 – Huge electronics company Sony decides to get in on the gaming industry. The Sega Saturn also debuts in 1995, but is largely outdone by the Sony Playstation. At this point, gaming graphics are good enough to be deemed “awesome” and “radical” by adolescents everywhere.
In the years that followed, a major console was released nearly every year. 1995-2002 proved to be sort of a “proving ground” for the video game market, and everyone held their breath to see which company would be on top of the game at Christmas every year. 1996 brought us the Nintendo N64, 1997 was the year for the SNES Model 2 which sold very well also. 1998, Sega brought out the Sega Genesis 3 and followed it quickly in 1999 with the Sega Dreamcast, its last console to date. In 2000, Sony revamped its system and marketing the Playstation 2 (or PS2) and then it all came crashing down in 2001 when both the Nintendo Game Cube and the Microsoft Xbox were released, much to Sony’s dismay. In 2001, it was the clash of the titans as Nintendo, Sony and newcomer Microsoft battled it out for the highest sales numbers every quarter.
The most recent years haven’t proved to be much different; Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are still the big three players. In 2005, Microsoft debuted the Xbox 360 to rave reviews but in 2006, both Sony and Nintendo unveiled their new consoles as well. Sony’s PS3 was a higher-end console (read: overpriced) and was geared towards more hardcore gamers (read: nerdy “alone in the dark” types). Nintendo, however, took it to another level entirely….
2006 brought us the Nintendo Wii. What makes it so awesome? Just watch someone play it and you’ll quickly find that the Wii is not just a video game console but a party game console! With games like bowling and baseball that anyone can play (and I mean anyone – my 82 year old grandfather loves it just as much as my 4 year old cousin) the Wii has sent gaming into orbit. It’s not just for adolescent boys anymore.
What does the future hold? It’s unclear at this point if Sony will be able to hang in there. Sales of their overpriced consoles lack from the downturned economy and they haven’t made any announcements regarding the future of their involvement in the gaming market. Microsoft however has already begun implementing a new system that could be – dare I say it – BETTER than the Wii. It’s called Project Natal, although it’s unclear at this time whether that will be the final name of the device, but it is an add-on for the current Xbox 360 console that will allow gamers to play games without any controller at all. What? No, no….I don’t mean you need to strap something to your arms or hold something in your hands to play the game. I mean you don’t need ANY controller at all. Well, let me rephrase: your body IS the controller.
Why did I bother blogging a brief history of video games? Because I think that it’s all changing. Ever since 1972, gaming has been a one or two person thing either done full time by nerds or part time by cool kids when it’s raining and there’s nothing better to do. But with the onset of games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band and the collection of team sport games on the Wii system, video games are becoming a more popular party activity…if you had a party in the 90’s it was “Let’s play charades!”
I’m thinking that the future of house parties and cookouts will be something entirely different…something that revolves entirely around a big screen TV and an inconspicuous gaming console.