****This is a Research paper that I typed up for my college English course. I think its decent but I figured I would get some other opinions on it. Always looking for some conversations, especially on good topics.****
The Evolution of Gaming
By Cory Marko
Games have gone through some drastic changes over the past few decades. They have been called the king of entertainment, when others have called them tools of destruction. They have grown from the fond memory of 8-bit Atari graphics to the stunning DirectX 10 that borderlines photorealism. It has evolved into a form of entertainment that almost anyone can sit down and enjoy. Sadly, video gaming is still in its late childhood stages and with every new step we take towards bigger and better games, a new wave of obstacles follows quickly behind.
Some terms may be used in this essay that may not be understood without a moderate knowledge of computers and video gaming. Terms such as, DirectX 10 and GPU, will be used often. “DirectX 10 is the latest version of the DirectX suite of multimedia application programming interfaces (APIs), puts gamers and multimedia buffs on the leading edge of PC graphics performance.” (Vista, 2007) A GPU is a Graphics Processing Unit, the processor within a video card that deals with the graphics and calculations and forms together what you see on the monitor. A Wii-mote is the advanced controller for the new gen console known as the Wii which utilizes motion capture in a 3D playing field. The SixAxis is the controller for Sony’s next-gen console known as the Play Station 3, it utilizes “sensors designed to read when a player angles, tilts, thrusts, or pulls, the SIXAXIS controller allows game play to become a natural extension of the player’s body.” (Sony, 2007) The term RAM means random access memory, RAM is used by the computer to organize and run programs. Many terms such as; DDR 1,2, and 3, DIMM, and VRAM are used in association with RAM. DDR stands for Double Data Rate, DDR2 is the second evolution of DDR RAM, and DDR3 is the third. DIMM stands for Dynamic In-line Memory Module which is the port that tells the RAM what to do. VRAM is Video RAM, which is RAM located on and utilized by the video card itself.
Video game consoles are amazing tools for entertainment. The first unofficial video game console was released in 1961 and was know at the PDP-1. Although, technically considered a computer for its time, the PDP-1 would later be released as the first stand-alone video game machine. In 1972, Magnavox unveiled the Odyssey 100 video game machine, which was to be the first official console. Shortly after that the Fairchild Video Entertainment System, otherwise known as the Fairchild Channel F, was released. It featured a better graphics engine and several more games than the systems before it’s time. The Channel F had 26 official cartridge games including a Pong clone, Hockey, Sonar Search, and a Space Invaders clone. In 1983, the Famicom was released by Nintendo in Japan. The Famicon was later released in the United States under the name, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). “It supported high-resolution, full color, tiled backgrounds, and high-resolution sprites. This allowed Famicom games to be longer and have more detailed graphics.” (Classic, 2007) The fourth generation of consoles, also known as the 16-bit era, began in 1987. The 16-bit era’s famous consoles were the Sega Genesis in 1989 and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991. The 32/64-bit era swept in with a big bang. The Sony Playstation and the Nintendo 64, the first consoles capable of rendering fully 3D video games, stoked the flames of change as the gaming industry moved its focus from side-scrolling and rail-style games to the new world of 3D gaming.
Graphics in video games have made significant achievements throughout the last several decades, more specifically the last two decades. The days of playing Asteroids, Centipede, and Gravitar on our classic 16-bit Atari 7800’s isn’t that far behind us. Yet, we are quickly approaching graphics quality of photorealism. One of the most impressive achievements in gaming is the leap from the two dimensional (2-D) graphics style to the three dimensional (3-D) graphics style. The first example of this advancement on the Personal Computer (PC), prior to the introduction of Microsoft Windows, is called Spasim. Spasim, which was short for space simulation, graced the market in 1974. “Spasim was a 32-player 3D networked game involving four planetary systems with up to eight players per planetary system, flying around a space in which the players appeared to each other as wire-frame space ships and updated their positions about every second.” (Spasim, 2001) The big change came with the fifth generation of systems with the Playstation in 1994, Sega Saturn in 1994, and the Nintendo 64 in 1996. These three systems crossed video gaming over into 32-bit/64-bit era which gave rise to fully 3D console games. Super Mario 64 and Tomb Raider have been marketed as two of the first fully 3D console games. With the focus on the new 3D games, the gaming industry strayed away from side-scrolling and rail-style game play and into a style with much more freedom. Game play and graphics continued to evolve along with the continuation of the Nintendo and Playstation series’. Computer gaming also continued to evolve at the same rate as the console evolution.
During the beginning of the Sixth Generation, around the time of the release of Sony’s Playstation 2, Nintendo’s GameCube, and Microsoft’s Xbox, there was a massive surge in computer gaming. The introduction of Windows XP in October of 2001, gave way to a whole new world of computer customization and thus opened new gateways for gaming. PC crowds divided into several factions; the media enthusiasts, the gaming enthusiasts, hardware enthusiasts, which is closely tied to the gaming faction, and the casual user. Microsoft recognized this and released three versions of Windows XP; XP Home for the casual user, XP Professional for gaming and hardware enthusiasts, and XP Media Center Edition for media enthusiasts. With the new Windows XP operating system, came new features, such as “plug and play”, that made customization and updating much easier. The separation of the video card from the motherboard opened a whole new market for gaming and hardware enthusiasts. For the first time a user could purchase after market video cards that were far more powerful than the onboard video cards of the previous era. More and more performance/enthusiast based companies emerged and PC customization skyrocketed. Companies such as OCZ and Geil began manufacturing performance RAM built for enthusiast systems, which are more powerful than Mushkin or Kingston Memory, which are directed toward the average user. ATI and NVida provide users with a source of performance video cards and Intel and AMD provide users with a source for performance processors.
Video gaming has evolved into one of the most power tools of entertainment imaginable. Although it still faces problems around every corner, it manages to provide users with activity that stimulates the mind and improves hand-eye coordination, among other things. From fast paced first person shooters like Counter Strike and Half Life or massively multiplayer online role playing games such as Lord of the Rings Online and EVE Online, users can find games to suit any taste. Once the gaming industry breaks free from its remaining shackles it can become recognized as an extremely useful tool and possibly one day even as a sport, like it is in so many other countries read