Saturday, June 23, 2012

E3 Eccentricity and the Rise of the Gaming Machine

"It seems astounding to me now that the video games are perhaps as important as the movies themselves. And people will spend 2 or 3 years obsessing about the video game in exactly the same way that they'd be obsessing about the movie if they were working on that."
       -John Cleese

Photo courtesy of the Internet.

 I'll admit it.  I'm 24 and I still play video games.  I got my first Gameboy at age 8, and since then it's been a constant "console war" between my twin brother and I.  I had my time when I was younger where my friends and I spent nights competing against each other in various tournaments (Goldeneye 64 being one of my favorites).  Albeit I don't play nearly like I did when I was younger, playing them still allows me to connect with family members and feel nostalgic for the days of my youth.  There are far too many important career objectives I have to strive for now that remove the idle time that was once dedicated to "gaming."  Video games today are basically still the same.  Sure, graphics, storylines, features, etc. have all changed, but in reality you can get the same sense of accomplishment from beating Angry Birds Space than you can from beating Halo or winning in Fifa.  The "I'm better than you at this game" taunt has been used now for close to 35 years with the gaming environment taking a huge upswing in the past 20 years.  What caused this near obsession and birth of such an industry?

17 years ago, born out of the Consumer Electronics show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 held its first conference from May 11-13, 1995.  Its creation  as its own standalone showcase for video games cemented video games' viability in the world, while becoming ingrained into our childhoods.  Regardless of what system they pledged allegiance to (Nintendo, Sony, Sega), almost all children of the 80s and 90s have had some kind of experience involving video games.  Whether it was that weekend Madden Tournament, NBA Jam on Sega Genesis, or the Duck Hunt/Super Mario combo pack cartridge (that always needed that extra blow to get the dust out), video games attracted our attention and made us more involved then we ever could be with a standard movie or cartoon. It allowed us to explore new worlds, 8 bit by 8 bit space, and participate in the adventure of living out fantasies that we, in real life, would never be able to accomplish.  They've come a long way.

The introduction of the E3 in 1995 was not only important in that it showcased the latest gaming technology the world had to offer, but it also became the debut of a whole new sector of marketing that would have a profound effect on the psyche of us as youths, consumers, and our connection with the environment around us.

The first E3 was an eclectic mix of models, flashy signs, and "revolutionary" products for the mid-1990s. Ground-breaking games and company-defining franchises were born in the late 80s and 90s that are still re-invented to this day.  What started as an innocent foray into the imaginative world of invented characters and environments suddenly became more and more violent and divided as technology progressed. (Click here for a nostalgic look back)

In the late 1970s and 1980s, arcade video gaming was the only method to cure the addiction (Major Magics, anyone?).  Quarters, nickels, and businesses thrived around younger kids and teenagers flocking to the buildings and spending their hard earned money on food, drinks, and watching their friends beat their highest score in Pong.  The  arcades brought people together, made for a rather "safe" way to compete in something between your friends and yourself whilst "stimulating the economy."

The late 1980s, the 1990s, and probably right up until 2010, home console and PC gaming dominated the scene, with money being poured into the market to develop the next generation console with better graphics, sleeker design, and obscenely ridiculous lines of people waiting for one. 

What started out in 1952 as a simple series of dots as a tennis emulator on a radar screen (seriously) has now become a multi-billion dollar industry, that has been mediocrely adapted into the film market and been marred with the never-ending controversy over the psychological effects of violent video games on young adolescents during development (although shooting games have come a long way).

Fast forward to present day, where Anders Behring Breivik is being tried for a horrific massacre of at least 87 people in Norway, utilizing skills, ideologies, and concepts he drew from popular video games.  Breivik self-described his methods, planning out his attack and utilizing popular first-person shooter games while detaching himself from human contact by playing Blizzard's World Of Warcraft full-time for a year, and then using it as a cover for the following 2 years to plan his assault.  

Has video gaming gone too far?

The video gaming industry has grown with its main consumer base, advertising to the age group of the children that grew up in the 1980s/1990s, knowing that they're the ones that are most likely to continually keep supporting consoles in an increasingly digitalized world.  The evidence is in their advertisements:

As newer, more inexpensive developers enter the market (tablet & Smartphone gaming) the big console-laden developers fight to maintain relevance by introducing innovative ways to play games while holding on to the age group that put grew up with them.  Most recently, Nintendo introduced its next example of innovation: the Wii U
            There is no debating that the computational revolution that we are currently going through (1980s-present) has drastically altered how we interact with and experience and interpret the world around us.  These perceptions, enhanced through video gaming, will continually expand and thrive as long as we support and seek to utilize video gaming as means to escape.  

Symphonies, films, physical gatherings, and other events have all translated somewhat positively from the virtual to the physical, elevating video gaming to something much more than cartridges.  They're available as learning aids to help teach our children basic morality, math, and science skills. There are even religious video games for those looking to explore their faith much more than  ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A Select Start.

What started as a simple idea has turned into a worldwide phenomenon and permanent staple of our society.  Through good and bad, the video game industry will continue on its exponential growth, changing and morphing to keep up with the times and hopefully making our lives a little better in the process .  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

People assume games are mere entertainment, when Orson Scott Card was more clued in than Reagan. They didn't come from television, Which grew out of radio. Games, which are far more like books came from science. Big business and marketing ruin the world every time. Gamings great works of art happen despite this, but dont make money. OKAMI is one such example. If someone embarked on a killing spree and says he learned from a game, best believe someone wanted him to. International news may have clues but some freak has the real story. Trust me on this one. Bill Clinton and colombine come to mind. Downloaded FF8 last night. This one is the best of the series. Its been over 10 years at least. Works of art are important when everythings made by a market. We have to demand art and science. Passionate people are assholes. No one makes the products we want, but we've never been wrong. Whats eccentric? A guy like me in a good mood. Thanks a lot. You forgot select -start. Happy fourth.