Without technology, there would be no video games. Enjoying a title like Fortnite or Grand Theft Auto is dependent on a string of different inventions, including the semiconductor, the computer, and the internet, as well as the many smaller innovations that led to and fed from these creations.
Gaming is actually often one of the driving forces that helps to make new technologies popular. Many non-technophiles buy newly-released gadgets and gizmos to enjoy a fresh and exciting gaming experience.
Technologies don’t just have to have one impact on gaming, they can leave their mark on several different elements at once, such as the way games are developed, distributed, and played. The evolution of technology in gaming has been constant throughout the history of the medium and this trend is unlikely to change. While it’s difficult to predict the future, we can examine how we got to where we are today.
Early Video Games
If you’re not familiar with the topic, the early years of video games may surprise you. Firstly, because the first example of a video game goes back to the 1940s and 1950s and secondly because there is actually a lot of debate over which one should hold this title. Unlike some other inventions, the reason for this debate centers around what actually constitutes a video game, rather than a dispute over who built one first.
The earliest contender comes from 1947 and has a very snappy name – the ‘Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device’. It was a very simple creation, requiring players to control the movement of an ‘artillery shell’ to hit targets on the screen. However, many argue it doesn’t count as a video game because it doesn’t run on a computing device, instead using analog electronic components.
It wouldn’t be until the following decade when the first true video game was created, though they were created as a way to demonstrate technology rather than as a commercial product on their own. These early examples were often digital recreations of traditional board games rather than entirely new inventions.
Some people claim the first video game created purely for fun was Tennis for Two in 1958, but it was Spacewar! in 1962 that was the first example of a commercial title. Not only that, but this intergalactic battle game actually also became the first esport.
Arcades and Early Home Computers
From this point forward, the cat was very much out of the bag. Enough interest in video games had been generated by these early examples that players were hooked and wanted more of this exciting new form of entertainment.
This led to the creation of the video arcade industry, specially-created places for people to come and feed coins into the gaming machines for a small amount of time to play them. They wouldn’t really come into their own until the late 1970s and early 1980s, but during this time major gaming intellectual property was birthed, including Pac-Man and Mario.
As technology marched forwards, players were able to ditch arcades in favor of being able to play games at home on a ‘home computer’ or video games console. This helped to accelerate the development of storage media like tape and the floppy disk.
The Race for the Bits
When it comes to marketing for most games consoles in the 1980s and early 1990s, manufacturers boasted about the number of ‘bits’ their machines packed in. Early consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System had only eight, meaning they were limited to blocky graphics and basic sounds.
However, over time, these machines were replaced by 16-bit and then 32-bit and 64-bit alternatives. With each increase in bits, gamers were able to experience better graphics, more colors, and more complex gameplay.
Today, however, companies don’t tend to rave about the number of bits in their system architecture. There are three reasons for this, the first being that most consumers don’t understand how this benefits them. Secondly, it isn’t entirely representative anyway, since there are many other factors at play in deciding performance (for example, the PS2 used a 128-bit CPU while the PS5 use a 64-bit one), and, thirdly, marketing now focuses on the content rather than the hardware.
The Internet Revolution
The internet was the next big technological advancement. It opened up many new possibilities for players and has helped to shape the gaming landscape we know today. The most obvious impact of the internet is that it has allowed players to compete with each other online, but the information super-highway’s influence has been much greater than that.
For example, the internet helped to pave the way for the iGaming industry which provides players with the ability to play popular casino games like blackjack, roulette, and slots from the comfort of their own homes. Demand for such games is now so high that there are many companies that fight hard to capture as much market share as possible. One of the most successful ways of doing this is by running promotions like no-deposit bonuses that allow players to try out games for free.
In addition to making casino games more accessible, the internet has changed the way many people buy their new titles. Instead of visiting a physical store, players can simply browse a huge catalog of content and then purchase and download a digital copy in a matter of minutes.
Companies have been making ways to enjoy gaming content on the go since the 1980s. Nintendo’s Game & Watch was an early example of this, though it was very primitive with its monochrome LCD display and no ability to swap cartridges to play a new title.
In 1989, the first real portable console hit shelves when the Japanese company launched its revolutionary Game Boy. There were several successors to this, each adding new features over time, including color graphics and touchscreens.
These portable gaming machines were eventually made obsolete by smartphones. Today, almost everyone carries around a powerful device capable of playing many big titles including Minecraft, Pokémon, Forza, and Fortnite.
While the graphics aren’t quite comparable to consoles, they are much better than could have ever been imagined just a few years ago. Regardless, the ability to play from just about anywhere more than makes up for this.