Tuesday, 15 November 2011

My personal gaming history

From a very young age I always had a love for bright visuals and colourful imagery. I had only ever been able to experience this through cartoons I had watched or books I had read. This changed at the age of 4 when I had played my first video game. The concept of being able to control the moving pictures on the television screen was new and exciting to me. The first game I ever played was Super Mario Bros. on the NES; and from that moment on I began my obsession with video games.

The first console I owned was the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and with it I had all the major Super Mario games and various other titles. Super Mario World and its Sequel, Yoshi's Island remain to be two of my most memorable experiences. I love the charming 2D sprites and the colourful worlds Nintendo's artists had created and the innovative and addicting gameplay. Fundamentally, I associate Super Mario with excellent platforming and also with my childhood. I don't think any game has sparked such a tremendous amount of nostalgia for me.

Getting older I began to play a wider variety of games. I began to play fighters, my first being Street Fighter 2 which I imedietly fell in love with and continue to play to this day. I also discovered RPG's which became a new addiction to me; The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy series being 2 of my all-time favourites. I loved the idea of having complex, interesting characters work along side eachother in a team which was fully customisable. Another aspect I particularly enjoyed was the deeper, more engaging storylines.

A game I played recently that really captivated me was Silent Hill 2. The characters were complex, original and completly messed up. The fact that non of them followed the stereotype of being pristine looking and highly-polished, instead opting for faulted and in some ways, unattractive is what made them so appealing and memorable.The world of SH2 is also very intriguing; the pepetual fog and the concept of hearing what you cannot see is particularly terrifying. I also loved how psychologically distressing some of the levels were; when the main character, James comes face to face with the monstrous Pyramid Head from behind bars, only after prolonged consideration do you realise that the creature is infact the protagonist's own reflection.

Silent Hill 2 tapped into something that I believe is still new territory in gaming; it created a psychologically invasive experience, filled with subliminal messages and genious artistic execution. I believe that with the constant tidal wave of first-person shooters and action adventure games dominating the market that games like SH2 have little chance of reapearing in the industry. Even the Silent Hill series on a whole seem to have strayed away from their roots and opted for more action-orientated games. Now games striving for such unique premises at times fall short or just fail to sell as well.

However, games promoting originality and character seem to strive more on the downloadable market place. Games like Limbo took a simple concept and married it with unique visuals and challenging gameplay. I would like to see more games released in a similar vein, whether it be over xbox live or through retail. My dream would be to play a game that could transport you to a living, breathing dystopia which would allow you to interact with computer-controlled characters as if they were people and change things in the digital world around you. An ideal way of playing this sort of game would be through a virtual-reality interface like VR goggles and wired gloves that recognise motion. This sort of technology has been explored before but not to great depths. Either way it will be very interesting to see what the industry produces next.

Monday, 14 November 2011

A history of computer games, part 3: 2000's

In the year 2000 Sony released the Playstation 2 which sold incredibly well upon release due to an already established consumer base, strong support from 3rd party developers and the backwards compatability option allowing gamers to play their original Playstation games on the new system. It was this option that gave the PS2 its edge over the competition. The PS2 overtook its competitors and remains to be the best selling video games console of all time.

A year later in 2001 Nintendo released the Gamecube. It was the first Nintendo console not to utilise a cartridge-based game medium and instead used 80mm mini-CDs. The console suffered from a lack of third party support and its launch titles were not as well received as on previous consoles. The Gamecube went onto to receive a stigmatism and became labelled as a "child-friendly console" and ill-suited to hardcore gamers. Nintendo tried to battle this notion with games suited to an older audience like Resident Evil 4 but ultimately couldn't compete with the the PS2.

Around the same time the Dreamcasts life came to an abrupt end. This was due to Sega being unable to compete with the PS2 and releasing games lacking in quality. The Dreamcast even released a number of Playstation 1 ports during its cycle which looked rediculous running on the technically superior Dreamcast. When the Dreamcast sunk, Sega pulled out of the console wars and re-appeared as a 3rd part developer. Suprisingly enough, Sega went onto produce a majority of its titles for Nintendo's console, even allowing its mascot, Sonic to appear in games for the system. This formed an alliance between the once warring companies.
In 2002 Microsoft, known for its personal computers and Windows opperating software joined the console wars by producing the Xbox. The console was technically more powerful than the competing consolesand also focused on an area which had not been extensively explored yet: online gameplay. The xbox sold at a lost towards the end of its cycle but the sales of games were high in profit. Halo: Combat Evolved was the Xbox's flagship title and sold in its millions, going on to become one of the best-selling shooters of all time. Towards the end of the sixth-generation of consoles the Xbox and the Gamecube were neck and neck; however the PS2 ended the era miles ahead of the competition.
At the end of 2005 Microsoft released the Xbox360 and began the seventh-generation of consoles. The console was technically superior to its predecessor and offered an enhanced and refined online gaming experience. It had a strong selection of launch titles and sold well. A year later Sony released the highly-anticipated Playstation 3 but ran into an array of unanticipated, potentially lethal problems. The first mistake Sony made was to retail the PS3 at a shocking price of $600, and the second mistake was to release the PS3 without a strong selection of launch titles. In order to maintain resonable profits, Sony decided to retail the PS3 in the UK at a staggering £425. The seemingly unreasonable stunted sales of the PS3 in North America and the UK causing the PS3 to fall behind in the console wars. Sony justified their pricing by referencing the built-in blu-ray player. Ironically, the PS2 continues to outsell the PS3.
Meanwhile Nintendo released the Wii, and instead of deciding to focus on the consoles technical capabilities it focused on gameplay innovation and marketing. Nintendo's previous console, the Gamecube, appealed to younger gamers and a more family-orientated market. Nintendo took this cue and decided to focus their marketing strategies on families with children. This proved successful and Nintendo sold more consoles than the competition and contiues to be the best selling console.

Throughout the past few years a number of gaming franchises have developed and escaladed into big sellers. An example of this is the Call of Duty series which contiues to sell exceedingly well with each iteration and has accumliated a large fan base. However, statistics tell us that game developers are losing more and more money every year. An ex-Sony representitive claims that as much as 70% of all games released lose money. Could this be due to the increased budgets for video games and sales being unable to match them, or maybe that consumers just arent interested enough in certain games anymore? Either way the future of the video games industry is an uncertain one.