Understanding New Media
December 10, 2012
Media Through Gaming
As time ticks by technology continues to advance, making the world we live in today the most technological successful one yet. Though media comes in several forms, one of the most popular and growing media forms is gaming. Video games have become so enhanced throughout time, that now they are practically virtual interactive movies. This now allows our most vivid imaginations to come to life, and it’s not just visual, it’s interactive.
Gaming goes back to the 1940s, where a couple of programmers by the names of Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann developed a cathode ray tube amusement device in 1947. Supposedly, this amusement device wasn’t marketed to the public but it laid the ground works for what could be next. My personal gaming experience began when I was just about 4 years old, I only say 4 because I don’t remember much of my childhood from any age below that, when I held my first console controller, though the developments were in motion, far before I was even born.
In 1952, A.S. Douglas created the first graphical computer game, which happened to be a version of Tic-Tac-Toe. The first computer game ever was created by William Higinbotham in 1958 called Tennis for Two. After a few years went by the first game intended for computer use was invented called Spacewar! In 1961, Steve Russell, develops the first interactive computer game. It runs on a digital PDP-1 mainframe computer and the graphics were made up of ASCII text characters (Kudler). In 1971, the arcade game Pong was developed by Nolan Bushnell and his partner Ted Dabney. They tested the arcade machine at a local pub and soon created the first big time video game (Bellis). The game was so successful that the pub claimed the game was broken, but in actuality it was so overload with quarters that no more even fit (Whitworth). This proved the potential success of video games in America and the word began to spread. Atari soon developed their first home console system.
The road at this point was being paved. Programmers began to write projects and develop concepts. It was at this point that Ralph Baer, designer of the Odyssey home console, sued Atari for their development of Pong. He claimed that he produced the first prototype of the game and presented it. He even had copyrighted the documents to the game. Atari payed Magnavox off for the rights to the game and began their journey (Whitworth). In 1975, Gunfight, the first computer game is released and it was also the first game to use a microprocessor instead of hardwired solid-state circuits (Kudler). In 1976, the company Fairchild developed Channel F, which was the first electronic systems to use microchips. Microchips became the number one way to port video games to home consoles. The microchips were installed into a plastic casing and so video game cartridges were born (Bellis). This eventually lead to Atari releasing their first cartridge based home video entertainment system called, Atari 2600. It retailed for $249.95, that’s an outrageous price for that time, but some how people were willing to pay it (Kudler).
As Atari and Magnavox became the leading game developers, there came a new company that developed one of the most popular games of all time. In 1978, the game Space Invaders was developed by Taito. This game was so popular is caused a national yen coin shortage in Japan and sold over 35,000 arcade games around the world (Whitworth). This sparked a new breakthrough in gaming, and every company wanted a piece of the pie. Atari developed countless games to compete against Space Invaders, which was also the first arcade game to keep high scores (Kudler). They even developed a new vector style graphic engine, but it wasn’t until their next breakthrough invention Asteroids that they regained any success (Whitworth). Atari once again became the number one video game company in the world, as Asteroids became the first game to allow high scorers to enter three character initials in the machine (Kudler). This arcade mayhem lead to a dangerous addiction towards teenagers. The best resolution to the problem became the creation of home consoles.
Home consoles became the next new must have product in the market. Almost every arcade classic was ported into cartridges for the new Atari console. In 1980, Atari bought off the rights to Space Invaders to give gamers the opportunity to play the worlds most popular arcade game from home. Bushnell then sold out Atari to Warner Communications for $28 million. This led to a downfall for Atari and programers left creating their own video game company, Activision (Whitworth). Activision was the first third party video game vendor created (Kudler). This led to the next big games of all time, Pitfall, Battlezone, Pac-Man, and Defender. Pitfall was the first platform game ever made. Battlezone was the first 3-D game ever created and it even had it’s own special edition made for the U.S. government training facilities. Pac-Man had 300,000 units shipped worldwide by Namco. Defender became the first game incorporating a virtual world (Kudler).
At this time movie games were even being developed and so began the trend, I for some reason never saw coming, movie video games are horrible. I remember as a kid sitting down on the tile floor turning on my Atari console playing E.T. I don’t think I ever played a game that awful before, but back then it was just so amazing to just be E.T. and walk around random maps over and over. My gaming addiction eventually began and it continues onto today.
In 1981, the first video game magazine was founded by Arnie Katz and Bill Kunkel called Electronic Games. During this time, Atari had to release a new up to date console called Atari 5200, in 1982, to compete against Coleco’s Colecovision. It was at this time that new graphics were being developed and being incorporated into video games. One of the most impressive innovations was developed in 1983, when Cinematronics debuted Rick Dyer’s Dragon Lair. Dragon Lair was the first video game to feature laser disc technology (Kudler). This game was the first game to really play like watching a movie. It was an entirely animated cartoon, that was also interactive. The next gigantic leap in games came from a Russian programmer named Alex Pajitov, who developed Tetris in 1985. Tetris was based off of a Russian puzzle called Pentominoes, but the pieces in Pentominoes were made of up five squares rather than the Tetris four. It was named Tetris from the Greek word tetra, meaning four (Whitworth).
Creation of Animations
In 1986, the one of the first animated created characters was born in a video game. Dizzy was the first game to feature an animated character developed by the genius Oliver brothers. They were also the developers of Road Runner which became one of the most popular games of their time. This began the age of creations that continued through the genius mind of Shigeru Miyamoto, now CEO of Nintendo. He began his journey in his head, visualizing an imaginative world. This was the first time video games were known to bring real life characters to life. He was also the first person to incorporate full fledged stories into his games. Each character had a background story such as Mario was an Italian Plumber in love with a Princess, Peach.
He felt games could draw out peoples emotions, and his first game was Donkey Kong. This arcade game was tested similar to how Bushnell’s Pong tested out their game. They used a local pub once again and found out how successful his first game truly was. Before his success, he analyzed arcade games from around the world, and noticed the major key that was missing. Miyamoto noticed that games could be more like movies, and even though the technology was no where near where they wanted to be, he worked with what he had. One big issue that changed the appearance of one of the most popular characters in the world today, was that the graphics didn’t have very good physics animations. So when Miyamoto had to create Mario for the first time, in the game Donkey Kong, he figured he should give him a red hat to prevent hair physics when Mario is falling. The first Miyamoto game, Donkey Kong, made $100 million in it’s first year alone (Whitworth). Nintendo planned to collaborate with Atari to market in America at the time, because Atari was a household name. They planned to sell them Donkey Kong, but Colecovision at the time made a similar version of the game and ended the deal (Rise).
This creativity and innovation led to the most successful entertainment developments in history. I remember looking back at the very first time I played a video game and enjoying it far more than watching any television cartoon. It was visual and interactive, in my mind it was the greatest invention ever. Though at such a young age I couldn’t possibly have imagined the world of gaming like it is today.
Nintendo Entertainment System
It may be hard to believe, but Nintendo was once just a trading card game company. As arcade games became more popular the next step for the company was to get in on the action. They developed several games to compete with other companies but eventually found themselves unsuccessful and desperate. They asked their rookie intern Shigeru Miyamoto to think of concepts for video games and so formed the Nintendo we know and love today (Whitworth).
The NES was released in 1986 in America. Sega, now a video game company, developed the Sega Master System (SMS), and Atari, trying their best to stay alive in the business, developed the Atari 7800 (Kudler). Though many of these companies had plenty of success in the arcade industry, as years went by home consoles began to take over. NES had so many appreciated characters during their early years. Mario was voted to be more popular than Mickey Mouse amongst children during the release of Super Mario Bros in 1985 (Whitworth). Nintendo's creativity continued to grow developing some of the most well known characters in gaming. The game that got the most attention was the Legend of Zelda, which became the first action adventure game that required gamers to search and build their character to becoming the hero he was born to be.
Nintendo vs Sega
The big hype for home gaming started earlier in Japan because arcade sales started to plummet due to an arcade recession. In America, it hit a year later. The crash of 1983 was a dark age for video games, and the only two arcade giants that overcame this crash were Sega and Nintendo. Before the big time Sega Genesis battle over NES, their were the SG-1000 battle against the Famicom in Japan. When the battle was brought to America Sega was one step behind, but their graphics engines were above par compared to Nintendo. Nintendo had a huge advantage simply based on it’s console original games. Nintendo’s launch title Super Mario Bros was the most successful of its time. Sega’s ambition to compete against Nintendo’s top seller was a failure. They made Alex the Kidd in Miracle World, but they had bad marketing strategies for the game. Sega was the first company to try to innovate 3D technology into gaming, but the price was far to high and the games compatible weren’t up to the task (Fahs, 3).
In 1988, Nintendo had sold more than 7 million systems. They were mutilating there competition so bad that Sega sold out their American rights and shut it down for $30 million. Sega considered their Master System defeated and waited for a sign to rise once again. Towards the end of the 1980s Nintendo’s market share decreased by 10%, Sega felt this was the sign they were looking for. Sega created the Mega Drive, which was a dubbed home arcade console. This console planned to release in 1988 just before Halloween in Japan, and all Nintendo had to do was release Super Mario Bros. 3 to defend against it. The new Sega console was pretty much ignored even though they sold just about 400,000 units. The next step was to go back and try once again in America (Fahs, 4).
In 1989, the Sega Genesis was born, and they turned to Michael Katz, who had a career in video game business. Katz became the President of Sega of America, and was told to sell one million systems. Katz made no promises, but he felt he had to overcome Sega’s three main flaws:
- Third-party support
- Lack of games catered to the western audience.
Katz’s first strategy was to sign celebrities, because Nintendo had already taken most of the top third-party developers. He started with the most popular American sport, football. He signed Joe Montana for $1.7 million and their rise to stardom began. This strategy led to signing Tommy Lasorda, Evander Holyfield, and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. This led to the next big time football franchise in the world, though at the time Electronic Arts didn’t have much, Sega gave them the support they needed. Madden Football was developed as so was Joe Montana Football. Sega was now alive and kicking but the next challenge was getting a Mario-Killer (Fahs 4).
Through all the horror and failures before to compete with Nintendo, Sega finally stood up and defended itself with a all new mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. Katz personally believed American kids wouldn’t respond well to an animal they weren’t familiar with, but truth be told, Sonic became the next big thing.
The final step was now in place, they needed a better marketing strategy. Katz believed in ambitious marketing techniques that could trigger a competitive war between the two consoles. He had competitive advertisements that proclaimed “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” This sparked the truth, because he already new that Sega’s 16 bit console was more powerful then the NES. Though despite the attempt to overcome Sega’s failure, they only sold half of the amount they expected to reach. Katz for some reason took the blame, even though he began the rise of Sega without even knowing it. Sega then focused on finding a new President and found it in Tom Kalinske. Tom became the new CEO of Sega of America, he was a long time worker in the toy industry, and they felt he knew how to get into the minds of kids (Fahs, 5).
As Sega began working along side their new CEO teaching him the ropes the next big thing came out from Nintendo. In 1989, Nintendo released the first portable gaming console, Gameboy. They struggled to find a game that was worthy of marketing the system for many years, until they visited Moscow to get the rights for Tetris (Whitworth). Sega didn’t stop their though, they pursued with new marketing strategies and instead of using Alter Beast, a mediocre arcade classic, they began to package the new Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog. They also dropped the price of the console from $249.95 to $149. They also released the Game Gear to compete against Nintendo’s Gameboy with the campaign slogan that called Gameboy users dogs. The next big time battle began as the next generation console from Nintendo was finally born in 1991, the Super Nintendo (Fahs, 5).
Sonic Vs Mario
The battle had finally began, two cartoon characters were both launch titles to their new consoles. The Genesis system, a bit outdated ran for $149 while the new Super Nintendo ran for $199. At this time Super Mario seemed to be losing his grip on success, because Sonic was the flashier next generation favorite, with his blazing speed and razzle-dazzle. Most other competitors were ignored at this point, because they lacked the big named characters.
I remember as a kid growing up, I was alway a nintendo fan. I never even personally owned a Sega Genesis, simply because it didn’t appeal to me. I was never one to get a console based off of one game, and in my own point of view Sonic wasn’t even that great. I enjoyed the variety that Nintendo had developed including: The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, and I was soon to be introduced to FIre Emblem. Fire Emblem became my all time favorite video game developed by Nintendo, it was the first game that put you into control of your characters and let you strategize their battles. Sega had their counter part called Shining Force, but that game didn’t allow your characters to die. Fire Emblem was the first game I felt emotionally attached too, and it sparked a whole new addiction for me. This made me realize games shouldn’t be all about glitz and glamour, but instead they should remediate actual life.
Nintendo constantly did that with their core games, such as the Legend of Zelda, where you start with nothing and end up being a hero at the end. They also did it in a different style with Metroid, a game that felt more like a survival game working your way through the finish. Sonic was very similar to Mario, and that’s why many fans became addicted to it, but it never developed that emotional impact until the characters finally made it to 3D environments.
Sega’s Ridiculous Downfall
If their’s one thing that video game companies need to keep working on it’s innovation, and Sega personally must have forgotten that part for a few years. In 1993, Atari released the Jaguar, I swear this system was so unsuccessful that I literally didn’t even hear about it when I was a kid. Though in all respects it was the first console to be 64-bits, though at the time no one was making games for the console, so the system quickly died out. Also in 1993, the government stepped in for the first time to ban violent games, but a year later it only led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (Kudler). Perhaps, this is when gaming got far to complicated for Sega, because they quickly went from trying to be known as the best action gaming system to pure garbage.
Sega released the Sega CD which used CDs for the very purpose to stay ahead of the market. Their games were so cheesy and they simply represented playing a movie on the television. This console definitely didn’t make Sega an action based console developer anymore. I personally skipped over this console, and I only new one person who actually owned the all new Sega Saturn at the time. The next generation leap for Sega seemed to be through CD gaming, but Sega Saturn didn’t stand up well against it’s competition. Surprisingly, Nintendo wanted to team up with Sony back in 1994 to develop their own CD based gaming console, but issues brewed (Fahs, 6).
After Sega’s plans began to fall, they turned to other companies interested in joining the gaming industry. They met with Sony about developing the next generation CD based gaming console, but it all fell apart, even though the specs from the meetings turned into the first designed Sony Playstation console. This comes as a ironic moment in Sega’s career because the main reason for the failed collaboration from Sony was because of Sega of Japan. They declined to work with Sony, probably based off of some personal reason. It’s hard to believe, what might have happened if Sega accepted to be part of Sony’s industry back then. We might just have been playing the Sega Playstation 3. A catastrophic decision made by Sega to decline Sony’s partnership would soon lead to their demise (Fahs, 6).
Sega looked to create new innovative gaming consoles constantly, but was held back due to cost. They were rumored to be developing a new handheld console to compete against the success of the Gameboy, which would have featured 16-bit graphics, high quality and resolution screen, and a touch-screen interface. This was years before the invention of the Nintendo DS. They backed out of the plan once the specs came down to a product that would cost about $289. Instead of relying on the handheld market, they became the first company to develop the first full-fledged 3D games. The Sega Saturn was released in 1994 and featured games like Virtua Fighter, Virtua Racing, and Star Wars Arcade. Sega made there next huge mistake by retiring the Genesis far to early and then releasing the Saturn far to soon. This eventually led to the next big time battle between the next generation consoles (Fahs, 8).
Sega Vs Sony
As the next generation consoles began to use CDs to play games, Nintendo stayed back with their success on the Super Nintendo. I personally at the time still continued to play my Super Nintendo. They continuously developed original titles that made me want to keep playing more and more. I was even introduced to cooperating games between to players. One of my favorite games at the time was Spiderman and Venom Vs Carnage. I began to realize that video games just weren’t ready for CDs yet. Many developers created bad games and clearly didn’t know how to use the graphics engines properly. While at the time I felt like Super Nintendo games were finally perfected and glitch free.
So as Sega Saturn continued it’s ambitious ways, they eventually lost the support of one of their leading allies, Electronic Arts. EA actually went on to side with Sony’s Playstation. This led to Kalinske’s retirement in 1996 and opened the flood gates for a former Sony employee Bernard Stolar. Stolar was one of the key men who realized that the Saturn was a mess. The hardware seemed to be to difficult for third party gamers to develop games for, which made them lose a lot of key developers. The attempt to save Saturn was hopeless and Sega had to move on. Playstation had taken over and won the battle taking away several third-party companies.
In 1996, both CD based game consoles, the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation, found themselves battling against a new cartridge based gaming console, Nintendo 64. Once again Nintendo stood the test of time, bringing a new form of innovation, while people were playing their CD based games, and waiting for that lovely loading screen to finish. Nintendo 64 was promoted simply by marketing their lead character Mario. Going back to 1992, at at CES convention, Consumer Electronic Show, Nintendo communicated with Sony to help them develop their own CD-rom gaming console, but after hearing about Sony’s future idea of making their own gaming console, Nintendo turned away never mentioning it to Sony. Sony publicly announced to help Nintendo develop a new console, but Nintendo stood up on stage and declined their offer and signed with Philips (Sony). This provoked the next big time battle between major consoles.
Nintendo vs Sony
Sony was a company with far to much money but no brains about game development. Nintendo on the other hand had already made a few errors, their first mistake was probably rejecting Sony’s offer. This wasn’t the end of their journey though mainly because Nintendo had the games, and Sony’s new creations couldn’t match up to Nintendo’s creativity. Sony’s biggest strength at the time was their third party games such as, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, and etc. While Nintendo only released Nintendo 64 with two launch titles, it still fought strong because of its history. Nintendo was the trusted gaming company in America and Sony wasn’t (Sony).
Third party developers loved the Playstation because it was easier to develop games for it because it was held on CD-roms. They also held more space than cartridges. Sony began a trend with their gaming consoles making each one have a secret side feature no other console had. The Playstation played music CDs, the Playstation 2 played DVDs, and the Playstation 3 is the cheapest blu-ray player (Sony). Nintendo was always a year behind Sony, but the core games were so much more successful that it was hard for Playstation to completely dominant.
As Nintendo 64 sticks to cartridges they happen to lose one of their main third party developers, Square Enix. Square Enix was the developers of the Final Fantasy video games, which became increasingly popular during their time on the NES and Super NES. Square switched to Sony because of the size of their newest game, Final Fantasy 7. This was one of the biggest losses for Nintendo because it became known as one of the best games of all-time. Nintendo still stuck to their ground being the cartoony, animated, gaming console that they were known for, while Sony appeared to have the more mature games.
Death of Sega
Between this battle, Sega Dreamcast came into the picture. Sega Dreamcast was one of the first systems I was extremely excited about because it had a great promotional video. I still remember seeing all the 9/9/99 commercials over and over. I loved it, for a fan who didn’t even like Sonic that much, it was amazing to see him in 3D. Dreamcast had far to many flaws though, even though it was the first system to introduce online gaming, it lost a lot of credit due to defected games. I remember specifically almost every third party game was recalled and rereleased on launch day. Though by the time the new version came out it was too late, people had already given up. Sega also created the first company to defend themselves against EA sports. They got Virtual Concepts to make their own games for the console, while Nintendo fell behind losing the sports battle.
Nintendo till this day is losing the sports battle in gaming, seeing as most of their technology is out of date from the new next generation consoles, NHL games have yet to be made from EA to be ported onto the Wii. Nintendo has to hope the WII U can change all of that before it’s too late. Sega produced the start of the next generation with innovative games that hit arcades with a great success, such as Crazy Taxi. They even had implemented portable gaming through the console with their memory card pets. It was much like the new style from the Wii U where you can take your game off the television and play on your remote.
The main blow was by the creation of the Sony Playstation 2. One of the key reasons was because of Playstation’s play back capabilities. Sega at this point couldn’t afford to develop another console with the development of the new Nintendo Gamecube and Microsoft Xbox on the way. They slashed down their prices to $99 and admitted defeat in 2001. Sega went on to continue their success for games rather than consoles. They mainly have been teaming up with Nintendo creating Mario vs Sonic games, which I personally dislike. Most of their games are still recognized very well but I almost feel it’s a matter of time before they call it quits with some of their most popular named characters such as, Sonic. I can’t recall the last time I played a Sonic game I enjoyed since the Sonic Adventure games for Dreamcast, I’m starting to think his run is over.
Throughout all the history of gaming, it all leads to the gaming technology of today. Portable gaming is more advanced then ever, it has also reached a great success through phones rather than just gaming consoles. All future gaming consoles are connecting to the internet, which all began with the Sega Dreamcast, besides PC gaming. Sports games are still one of the top selling games of all time and slowly but surely we are going to see new ground breaking developments come our way. The Nintendo 3DS is already one of the most impressive gaming consoles I’ve ever played. Simply allowing the gamer to see 3D without glasses is impressive, it also implements augmented reality through it’s cameras. The new Wii U allows to interact with a game better then ever before, with a multi-screen experience in a home console. Xbox’s Kinect allows you to be the controller. Their is so much to look forward to in gaming, making it a never ending fantasy of creations.
Video games today, create real life characters and bring them to life. They simulate experiences through a fantasy world. People today write full-fledged scripts for video games and develop the entire environment. Characters are created by the gamers from head to toe and massive online multiplayer games are being developed everyday. Gaming has went from a fun interactive experience to a new breakthrough social medium. Gaming today is so advanced that they continuously update on their own, allowing companies to advertise products in them. They also allow you to communicate with friends from across the world in seconds. Where will the future lead gaming? What is the next gigantic leap for consoles?
Games are being developed everyday. The interactive experience has become increasingly more popular and addictive. Technology has allowed breakthroughs in gaming. One step I see happening in the upcoming years is verbal initiation, instead of button pressing. For example, to change your line in a NHL video game all you have to say is, “Line 2,” and if your some sort of hero with multiple powers you should be able to announce the ability you want to use as in, “Fire.” Their are already steps like this being taken, so it wouldn’t be a surprise in the upcoming years. What kind of gaming improvements or innovations do you see for the upcoming future?
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