Top 10 Lists : The Top 10 Revolutions In Gaming Hardware
When thinking of my next top 10 list, I was playing some video games on my PS3. After stopping to look at my virtual scenery, I got to thinking that games have come a long way from the days of chip-tunes and 8-bit sprite graphics. It was at this point where the idea hit me: write the top 10 best hardware innovations since the start of gaming.
This list will be written with these things in mind:
- How innovative it was
- Whether or not we still use it
- It's impact on the gaming industry
So with these things in mind, let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
To kick it off, at number 10 we find gaming peripherals. Since the days of Duck Hunt, gamers knew we need some special tech for certain games. As mentioned, Duck Hunt was a game on the NES about, well, shooting ducks. Not expecting you to take your controller and aim through that, Nintendo packaged the Light Gun with it - a toy gun that when pointed at the television screen and fired, would produce an in-game shot. Popularity ensued from this. There are other, more modern, cases as well - the game Dance Dance Revolution could be played at home with a regular controller, but where's the fun in that? By putting down this mat, and plugging it into the game console, you could actually dance along to the songs, just like in the arcade!
Of course though, what may be the biggest game peripheral of all is the Guitar Hero/Rock Band controllers. When Guitar Hero hit the scene, the fact that you were holding something in your hands that emulated the experience of playing guitar was pretty cool. Picking it up and playing soon became a game that was great fun to be had with friends. Rock Band came along and added drums to the mix, also using a USB microphone, a la Karaoke Revolution. And we also have had DJ Hero, with it's own little DJ turntable. Yes, game specific peripherals have had a real effect on what we play. It's here at number 10 because of the recent drop in gaming peripherals - while there are some, they aren't as prevalent as they used to be. Without them though, you may have never realized your dream of being an awesome dancer/rock star/crack shot. So show some love for number 10.
#9: Motion Controls
Here at number 9, we find a rather recent advancement in technology - motion controls. Motion controls are usually attributed to the Nintendo Wii, which is what started this new craze. Nintendo, using it's "Blue Ocean" strategy (in other words, finding a market that no one else has), started development on the Wii, then codenamed "Revolution". When it was revealed, people became fascinated with the fact that actual motion (beyond pressing a button) could be conveyed in small games like Tennis, Bowling and Baseball. While some gamers say that motion controls are just a fad, none can doubt it's popularity with the casual market. The Nintendo Wii is now a household name, all because of Wii Sports and a single remote. Sony would later release the Playstation Move as their motion control platform, while Microsoft would release the Kinect: a camera that tracks your movements and turns them into functions in a video game. The popularity of motion controls got even more of a boost.
While motion controls are quite enjoyable from a casual gamer's standpoint, some gamers say that it's something of a fad. That statement carries some truth, at least for me, but I won't go too deep into that topic. Whether you are a fan of it or not, we see the popularity and praise motion controls have gained, and you can't deny that there's great fun to be had with a group of friends or family and a single Wii. So with all of that said, I will say that Motion Controls definitely deserve a place on the list, at number 9.
#8: The Home Console
The Home Console was definitely a revolution in gaming. Previously, if you wanted to play a video game, you'd usually have to save up your quarters, then make your trip to the local arcade. Then, you'd have to wait in line at your favorite game, and stay there until you get your chance at glory on the high score board. Today, arcades don't exist like they used to (sadly) and that's because of one thing - the home console. Starting with the Magnavox Odyssey, kids everywhere were ready to play games in the comfort of their own living room. This became the new greatest craze, as systems such as the Atari 2600 soon arrived on the scene. And finally, securing it's position as bonafide manner of playing video games, Nintendo released the Famicom, known better as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES.
Today, lots of gaming occurs in the home. Whether it's on Facebook playing FarmVille, or spending hours of time on a Playstation 3, we see how times have changed since then. The fact that we even give systems generations now show how much the industry has evolved. Though it's prevalence cannot be denied, it's at number 8 here because of its sheer broadness of a topic. So while we may fight now about which console is better, always remember to take a look back to the time when we fought over arcade cabinets instead.
#7: The CD-ROM
Games were once only known as giant cabinets in an arcade. Later, once home consoles came in, they were these cartridges about a few inches wide. Even today, we actually use a form of cartridges in things like Gameboys and DS's. While they were nice (and have a nice retro cool factor) they were a bit limiting in what game developers could do with them. Sega, wanting to innovate the industry, released the Sega CD, with limited success. Enter the Sony Playstation. With its huge library of awesome games, it proved how good games could be on a more reasonable sized disc. Fast forward a few years, and every gaming console on the market was into the idea of the game on a disc.
Allowing for better graphics quality, more storage for files (i.e longer games) and better sound quality, the CD came in and rocked the market. Also proving to be a good way of playing music, CD's soon replaced the cartridge as being the superior medium for distributing games. It's here at number 7 for two reasons - one, the cartridge had one thing over it: instant load times. Two is while we still use CD's today, it itself is soon being ousted in favor of online distribution and digital storage. So rest easy compact disc, and know that without you, we wouldn't have experienced so many special gaming moments. Pay your homage to our number 7, the CD-ROM.
#6: Gaming on the Go
Imagine, if you will, a family going on a cross-country road trip. The youngest son loves to play video games, and is having fun playing Super Mario Bros. on his NES. The boy loved this game, and is a bit bummed he can't take it along with him. What can possibly fulfill his gaming needs on a really long car trip? Nintendo had thought of this situation, and so to fix it, they released the Game Boy in 1989. Quite simply, it was the thing you needed to have. Sporting two buttons, a d-pad, and the Start and Select buttons, the Game Boy quickly became another success for Nintendo. As the years passed, we received the Game Boy Color, the Game Boy Advance (and the SP) and the Nintendo DS. Finally, after pretty much dominating the handheld market, Sony released the PSP to masses, challenging Nintendo's dominance. We can argue about which was more successful at a later date, though.
Today, we see the paths Nintendo and Sony have taken - one comes with a way to see in 3D without glasses, whereas the other has the highest specs for a handheld since the start. Yes, handheld gaming has become amazingly popular, even to the point where we have pretty good gaming experiences on our phones as well. Games such as Angry Birds, Fire Emblem and Patapon have provided really enjoyable games, wherever we may find ourselves. And so just having that ability to play wherever and whenever we want to is a very important innovation in gaming, and deserves a spot here at number 6.
#5: Actual 3D
At number 5 we find 3D games, or in other words, games that pop off the screen. Movie theaters used to show movies in 3D with those iconic red and blue paper glasses. These... didn't work so well. Often times, they left your eyes hurting, and when you took them off, you'd start seeing in red and blue. However, recently, with the release of James Cameron's Avatar, people are starting to see the possibilities. No longer being restricted to red and blue glasses, we can actually see regularly through them, but with characters on the screen reaching out into your domain! TV's soon followed the trend, giving us 3D televisions, where we can watch our favorite programs (or play our favorite games) with 3D in them.
Nintendo, however, would be ready to change the market again. Releasing the 3DS, it gave us a portable experience of actual 3D - minus the glasses. It's a bit hard to explain how it looks, but suffice it to say that it gives a real perception of depth. While there are still a few kinks in the system (the fact that you have to be a set distance away, and also that it doesn't work for everybody), I think all it will take for people to realize the possibilities is one great game to showcase 3D. Until then we wait.
Get on it, Miyamoto!
#4: 3D Gaming Worlds
This might be stretching the boundaries of Hardware and Software, but let's ignore that, shall we? At number 4 on the list, we find 3D gaming worlds. How was that so revolutionary? Well, many games previously were 2D, and in a 2D world, the programmers needed to try their best to work within the limitations. One example is that of the game, "The Legend of Zelda". In The Legend of Zelda, it worked by having a 2D top-down view, so that it could give the illusion of having depth. But soon, this would change. During the time of the Super Nintendo, one game that took one of the first steps into a 3D realm was F-Zero, a racing game using Nintendo's brand new "Mode 7" graphics chip. Many other games, such as Chrono Trigger, Super Mario Kart and ActRaiser all used the Mode 7 graphics. However, one man thought of making an entire world 3D, and explorable, nonetheless. That vision was realized on the Nintendo 64, when Super Mario 64 was first released. With a fully realized 3D world that you could run mad in, Mario 64 became one of the biggest games on the N64.
Today, many adventure games use those 3D graphics. Adventure games, such as Ocarina of Time, Skyrim and the Uncharted Series have worlds with people inhabiting them, living their lives as you push through on your quest. The same experience could not have been possible with a flat background. In fact, the top 10 ranked games EVER on GameRankings have 3D graphics in them. For myself, I like the art style of a 2D sprite background, but it is undeniable how 3D worlds have changed gaming. With the constant evolution of technology, worlds like this will only get better from here on. Props goes out to number 4.
#3: Online Gaming
For some people, the expression "the more the merrier" applies to video games, me being one of them. There's nothing like getting together with a group of friends and playing cooperatively, helping each other through the game. There's also nothing like playing competitively, scheming against the friends that you brought over to have fun. But what if you aren't able to be together, separated by a town/city/country? Fear not, for online gaming is here to save the day. The first case of online being implemented into a game console, is the Sega Dreamcast, even including a special web browser. Next up would be Sony's attempt at online functionality, using the Playstation Network Adapter to get online. Some games featured with this was Frequency, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 and Burnout Revenge. Having owned this, it was definitely something new.
Now that we're into the modern age, online is everywhere. Both the Playstation Network and Xbox Live offer online experiences on your living room couch. Distance no longer being a problem, people around the world can challenge each other (provided your internet connection is okay). They also come with marketplaces, where you can buy games from the comfort of your own living room. The online gaming scene is thriving, and has changed the way we play games. While playing with friends in the same room is still a better experience for me, online gaming has certainly changed a lot. That's why it deserves number 3 on this list.
#2: The Analog Stick
The story of the analog stick stems from the old arcade games back in the 1980's. Games like Galaga, Galaxian, and Pac-Man were all controlled using this simple stick, which is what we call the Arcade Stick in this time. It was first implemented in a home gaming console with the original Atari 2600. Nowadays, the arcade stick still exists in fighting game circles, but for a lot of us, we know it under it's new name - the Analog Stick.
The analog stick is used in pretty much every single game console controller. Why? It provides a different degree of control than a D-Pad would. With it, you can make your character move in a more fine tuned direction, allowing for more player control - a must for modern 3D platformers and third-person action games. I chose the analog stick for number 2 because of it's unsung hero-like qualities. Everyone that plays games has one of these, yet no one ever questions it. Imagine playing those games with the D-Pad or maybe even the Pong controller! With it's obvious effect on games, and it's prevalence in the modern world, it garners a place here on the list at number 2. Now then, what could be more innovative than the Analog Stick?
You've all been there: you're playing a really hard game, but you're getting close to the end. As you reach the final boss, you start to worry about whether or not you'll be able to survive your last encounter. Fear not though, for outside the chambers of the final boss lies your single glimmer of hope if all else goes wrong: a lone save point, glimmering in the light. Yes, the ability to save your game is single-handedly the biggest innovation in games today. Imagine playing to the end of a game, dying because of a fluke, and now being stuck at the start with no way back except to play again. Quite the scary situation, I know.
And yet, this simple feature of video games has affected all of us. The ability to save your game is the reason we can have games beyond a simple 10 minute arcade adventure - it gives us the ability to take breaks on our quest to save the world. A novel idea, right? The Mega Man series is known for its passwords, allowing you to resume your quest if you needed to stop. Think of this as the early prototype of saving your game. Then, once Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda, for NES, we got what we didn't know we wanted - the very first "Save Game" feature via a small battery in the cartridge.
Yes, this small thing soon blossomed into memory cards, which you'd plug into your console to save multiple games onto a single card. And now, we're in the age of saving directly to a hard drive, and even game saves are being transferred to an outside source, which can later be recalled whenever you need them (aka Cloud Saving). So surely, the one thing we all take for granted nowadays should be given the utmost respect - ladies and gentlemen, the number 1 most important and innovative thing in gaming tech: the "Save Game" feature.
And that concludes our list. Gaming certainly has come a long way since it's beginnings, and it'll probably keep going far on into the future. At times like this, it's good to reflect on our heritage as gamers and see how we got the things that we have today. Never forget where you came from, my friends.
So at last, I leave you with the words of Kevin Butler:
"GAMING! FOREVER SHALL SHE REIGN!!!"
List by 99Winters (05/14/2012)
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