Video games are advancing at an incredible rate. 30 years in video game developing time is an eternity. What was popular 5 years ago isn’t and 10 years is considered “retro.”
So what was gaming like in the ancient era? I highlight 5 things that have drastically changed for the better after the break
Health based games
Nintendo is obsessed with keeping us healthy. The Wii fit board currently collecting dust in my apartment is a constant reminder of this. While the Wii Fit board coupled with fitness software is new, Nintendo’s focus on being healthy isn’t.
Then: The PowerPad was Nintendo’s first attempt at getting its foot into American homes. With games like Track and Field and Dance Aerobics, the mission of Nintendo was clear – get people off the couch and moving. The Super Nintendo took it one step further by offering an exercise bicycle by LifeFitness. The excertainment bicycle allowed people to play SNES games by using the bicycle as a controller. The downside was that the bike was very expensive and bulky.
Now: Wii Fit fitness trackers that’s essentially a pedometer that you can fit on your belt and then upload your progress to Wii U Fit. I’ve walked around Chicago and Paris with the amount of steps logged. The Wii fitness tracker is actually an upgraded version of the Pokewalker and Nintendo Pedometer that were included in certain DS games. Now the 3DS actually tracks steps that you can cash in for coins to be used for extra content.
Nintendo isn’t the only one on board the fitness train nowadays. Microsoft has special fitness programs available with an Xbox Live Gold membership that takes advantage of Xbox One’s Kinect sensor. The Kinect monitors the user’s movements to ensure they are performing the exercise correctly. In the rising fitness obsessed world where fitbits and apple watches fly off the shelf, this is an exciting time to see such technology reach a point where it’s small, effective and cost efficient.
Motion controls have still not reached Minority Report levels, but it’s getting there. With all three companies at one point embracing motion control gaming as the future, it might be more than just a passing fad.
Then: The Power Glove – It’s so bad. Well it’s not the most responsive, but the Power Glove was pretty awesome for its time. The Power Glove gets its bad rep primarily from the Angry Video Game Nerd, but to his credit, it’s wasn’t the end all, beat all success story that many people were hoping for when it was advertised. The thing you have to understand about being a kid in the Eighties and early Nineties is that toy manufacturers could advertise their toys to do almost anything as long as they put the small, hard to read text at the bottom “our toy can’t really do that”
The Power Glove isn’t the only motion control toy that fell flat. The Sega Activator (Full Body Motion Controller took motion controls to the next level with a sensor that allowed you to punch and kick in certain to reflect in certain games was a perfect example of Sega being way ahead of its time.
Now: The Xbox One Kinect is the pinnacle of motion controls. With IR tech and high resolution camera, it can determine the depth a specific room, recognize your face to sign you into Xbox Live, and even read your facial expressions. Truly the future is here with this technology. It’s too bad that it’s not popular enough to get more games than Kinect Sports Rivals and exercise games. Microsoft attempted to include the Kinect with all Xbox Ones and was quickly burned by paranoid gamers and Sony who listed their console at $399 compared to Xbox One’s $499 price tag. Microsoft eventually dropped the Kinect from being bundled and instead focused on selling Xbox One as a gaming device instead of the original Home Theater One Device.
Virtual reality: The final frontier of computers. Video gaming has always strived to create an experience that felt like you’re there.
Then: virtual reality was huge in the nineties. And by that I mean the technology was huge and generally lackluster. Virtual reality games were primarily in arcades and had a very large footprint. Also the technology wasn’t very immersive and it was pretty easy to pop in and out of the virtual reality world. Nintendo’s entry into the Virtual Reality market was the Virtual Boy- a 32bit “portable” system capable of playing simulated 3D games by using two displays to deliver content to the gamer. The system was riddled with limitations such as a poor library (14 games including Water World), all red display (many gamers reported headaches after about 15-20 minutes of use. The Virtual Boy is one system that Nintendo would rather forget.
Now: Virtual reality is hitting its stride and doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. It all started with the Oculus Rift. The Kickstarter project has been a runaway hit almost collapsing under its own success. Last year Facebook made a surprise move and bought the company for a jaw dropping 2 billion dollars. Oculus isn’t the only player either. Samsung, HTC, Sony, and Microsoft all have a virtual reality headset in one form or another coming out either this year or the next. Having actually tried the Oculus Rift, I’m very excited for the potential of these devices.
The only thing better than playing video games is playing video games with your friends. This hasn’t changed over the years.
Then: Got two controllers and your friends? Good, you can play a two player game together. Fighting games, platformers and sports games were all great games to play with friends. The only arguments that you had was who got to play the best character.
Now: There are now games that are multiplayer only. World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Titanfall – all games that have multiplayer modes only. Multiplayer games are the majority now and it’s very rare to see a game with a solid single player story. Grand Theft Auto V was the latest game to bring a solid single player AND multiplayer modes. The downside of that is that we get to hear from 13 year olds yelling how they banged our moms.
Remember when your parents told you that playing video games was a waste of time and you’d soon wind up in a gutter rather than making a living out of it? Well 15 years ago they would have been right. Now Twitch and Youtube are launching careers based on video games. If there was ever a time to make a living out of playing video games it’s now. League of Legends and Starcraft are two titles I can think of where gamers are paid to play competitively. With the ESPN picking up league play and posts dominating Reddit’s /r/All, it’s safe to say that it’s quickly becoming a popular sport that draws plenty of fans daily.