Monday, 11 October 2010

Ancient History!

Compared to other types, gaming is a relatively young form of media. The concept of gaming was created by Ralph Baer, an engineer who, when asked to build the best television set in the world in 1951, thought that a good television should allow you to play games. Although his boss refused the suggestion, Ralph continued his idea and started building the first video game prototypes around 1966.

The roots of games lie back in the 1950s, and the first game created was by Alexander S. Douglas in 1952. Douglas made Tic Tac Toe game that used both AI and a graphics interface, where the player went up against AI making logical decisions based on a set of algorithms to win whenever possible, although it was not available to the general public.  Later, in 1958, William Higinbotham created ‘Tennis for Two’ while working at Brookhaven National Laboratories. Tennis for Two was a basic game using an oscilloscope in which two players would bat a ball back and forth over a “net”.
Paving the way for one of the best N64 games of all time
The first game that was closer to the idea of what a game is by today’s standards was Spacewar! which was created in 1972 at MIT. The game ran on a computer about the size of a car, and the graphics were pretty simple, as was the premise- two players each control a spaceship circling a sun, and try to hit the other player by shooting at them, before they got hit themselves. 11 years after Spacewar! Atari release the first commercial arcade video game, Pong, and around 1974, video game systems in the home started to gain in popularity.

Thinking about the divide you find in gaming between “hardcore” and “casual games” is a bit bizarre really, when you look back at how games started. The very first games were pretty much the definition of what a casual game is; they’re easy, simple to play and appeal to a wide audience. It’s strange to see how complex the definition of a traditional video game has become and the mania over what a “real game” is in gaming culture, when its origin was so simple.

In a way, I’ve always been around games. Although I didn’t realise it until recently, I've been enjoying video/computer games since I was very small. When I was a kid, I loved playing the original Sims, and the Catz and Dogz games released in the early 90s, as well as Mario on the SNES, and various games on the PS1. When I wasn’t playing games, I loved watching my sister play (although it drove her nuts), and even now I’m as happy watching someone game as I am playing the damn game myself. I guess it never really felt like I got into gaming properly until a few years ago, because gaming was more of a hobby than a passion, and I didn’t really feel a part of the gaming community.

I’d say the first game that really got me into gaming would be Final Fantasy XII. It gets a lot of crap (and some rightfully so, I mean just look at some of the ridiculous character designs), but I think it was the first game to make me go “Wow” and really appreciate the art and beauty you can find in games. I could travel across the world killing these gorgeous monsters, getting rich and strong, and go from one beautiful place to another doing whatever I felt like. There was something about the colour and diversity in the game, being able to run through these snowy mountains or exploring creepy jungles, or flying around in massive airships that really spoke to me, and I think the game had a lot of soul and imagination put into it. I loved it so much, I ended up buying an Xbox in preparation for FFXIII (which ended up being a huge let down, as it turned out to be pretty stale and soulless), but Final Fantasy was led me into the gaming world.
Wow. Let's hope they don't aim for your abs dude.

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