From Atari to Candy Crush Saga: Gaming, Then and Now

Atari ConsoleThis is a guest post by David Bledsoe. David is an engineer during the day and a gamer by night. He enjoys writing about digital technology and entertainment news.

Are you begging for lives on Candy Crush Saga, while trying to maintain the top score amongst your Facebook friends? Have you forgotten to go to work because you are stuck on the chocolate levels, struggling to destroy the sticky stuff before it gets the better of you? For millions of folks, this online game has hooked them body and soul. But how did such a game become possible? What started our fascination and compulsion with gaming? Who is to credit (or blame) for our desire to play?

The Beginning

In the past year, ESA reports consumers have spent more than $20 billion on accessories, software and content for video games, proving this is an ever-profitable industry. Ralph Baer has been credited as the “father of video games,” and what a phenomenon he started. Baer created the first video game console known as the Odyssey, manufactured by Magnavox in 1972. Immediately following, an inspired Nolan Bushnell founded Atari, and created the arcade game known as Pong. This led to a cartridge-based console known as the Atari VCS, or Atari 2600 as it is now known, designed to be able to support a variety of games. This concept was revolutionary and spawned a billion dollar industry. People adored being able to play the arcade games they knew and loved in the comfort and convenience of their homes.

Atari Faces Stiff Competition

By 1981, Mattel’s Intellevision gaming console posed a considerable threat to Atari’s near-monopoly of the home gaming industry. Along with this competition, other companies joined the race, and in 1983, the video game market crashed due to an overabundance of products. As 1985 rolled in, whispers began to surface about the death of video games, and this was when NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) was introduced by Nintendo. Released earlier in Japan, NES had proven to be a wild success, so it made its way to the U.S. Sales of NES were astonishing, and to date, NES has been credited as the savior of the video gaming industry.

Beyond Cartridges, PlayStation, Xbox, and More

The early ‘90s proved to be the start of a new generation of systems. Sony came out with the PlayStation in 1995, a console that used CDs instead of cartridges to play video games. According to editors at PlayStation.com, PlayStation sold more than 100,000 units its opening weekend, making it an overnight sensation. From here on, technological advancements and features increased dramatically, to allow for 3D gaming, increased interactivity, and PC compatibility. Microsoft’s Xbox came out in 2001, and eventually Xbox Live, allowing gamers to connect online and play with real people across the country and the world.

As the public became more interested in playing games online, the popularity of consoles and systems such as Nintendo Wii skyrocketed. Cartridges and cords soon gave way to play that synced up with services such as hughesnet to empower the online experience, dramatically changing the world of gaming as we knew it. Simultaneously, interest in mobile phone game apps and online computer games created an ancillary market for video games.

Video Gaming and the Internet

Approximately 62 percent of gamers play these games with others, either in person or online, ESA reports. Increased access to the Internet allows for a more collaborative gaming experience. The world as we know it is connected, and the gaming industry understands the importance of this cultural phenomenon. ESA notes the type of online games played most often are classified as casual or social, requiring interaction to continue. With the convenience of downloading directly to our phones, tablets, consoles, and computers, game applications continue to be a highly profitable industry, and are the future of gaming.

Video games are a part of our collective history. These games are synonymous with our culture, and their evolution has gone hand-in-hand with the increased global connectivity possible through the Internet.

Are you a gamer? Do you see games as a part of our collective history, or just as entertainment? What do you think will be the next leap forward in games tech? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know.

Creative Commons image by moparx

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