Play Where You Like!
By Jeff "nonick" Solomon
aming system. Quick: what did you picture in your mind? A PC or a console system? Was it a Dell box running Windows 95 with a 2 meg video card and a pair of small, treble-happy speakers? How about a custom built Win98 system with dual Voodoo 2 cards, a subwoofer, a force feedback joystick, and a 21 inch monitor? A Sega Dreamcast? An iMac, anyone? Maybe a Palm Pilot? Any votes for Linux? Be?
I could go on for days listing the various machines on which we play games, but the point is that there is no simple definition for the term "gaming system." The gaming industry is at a point right now where there are many different platforms fighting for market share and software support. And while there have always been a number of system platforms to chose from, never before has there been the sheer volume and diversity of units that we have now.
While it might seem like overkill to have so many different systems to choose from, try to imagine a world where there actually was only one kind of gaming system - say, the XPR 1198 from Acme - and you begin to realize how strange and limited the gaming world would be.
This article aims to provide an overview of the constantly changing gaming platform environment, and to broach the issue to a larger audience. Where are we now, and how did we get here? More importantly, where are we headed? Which platforms will succeed, and which might not? What are the trends?
I'm going to start with a brief history of the events that have lead us to our current moment in time, and then move forward and discuss some of the new alternatives that are arriving as we speak. Ten years ago, things were simple. Ten years from now, we might be able to play Unreal XIII on our refrigerator control panel while we wait for our ice to be crushed.
The sequence of events that leads up to our present-day gaming environment is detailed and fascinating. Much like the PC industry, the gaming industry's early days were marked with charismatic people who took unprecedented risks to promote visions that were not widely accepted at the time.
Inspiration teamed with luck helped to propel the gaming industry from a few innovative ideas back in the early 1960s to the massive phenomenon in which we now find ourselves enveloped. Back in 1961, Steve Russell developed Spacewar, the very first computer game (you can play a Java version of Spacewar at http://lcs.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/projects/spacewar/). Six years later, Ralph Baer conceived of the idea to use the combination of a standard television set teamed with a specialized gaming system- as opposed to expensive computer systems - as a delivery mechanism for home gaming. In 1977, Nolan Bushnell oversaw Atari's release of the Video Computer System (AKA the Atari 2600), which introduced the concept of gaming consoles as we now know them. Russell, Baer, and Bushnell are examples of the gaming industry's Alan Turing, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates.
All of this is detailed very nicely in VideoGameSpot's comprehensive History of Video Games. In the interest of time and fairness, I'm not going to repeat all of that information here; it's done very nicely at VideoGameSpot.
Rather, I'm going to examine the historical trends that have brought us to where we are now, so that we can have a better perspective on what might happen in the future. Let's go back roughly thirteen years- to Marty McFly's good old 1985- to a time when a product known as the Nintendo Entertainment System made its American debut (in a test market scenario). Remember the Robot? Things were a lot different then.
|Credits: Illustration © 1998 Mike Sanzone. Play Where You Like! is © 1998 Jeff Solomon. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, dammit.|