Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by James Hart


Blog: The State of Play (PT.1)

Firstly, let me introduce myself. I’m James (or more informally, Bryn). You will mostly see blogs and news from me related to PC or gaming and the industry in general, hopefully giving a slightly different element to the community. I hope you enjoy my contributions.

Please be aware the following article is based on my personal experiences and my perceptions of the gaming industry formed from that. Please enjoy it as such and with an open mind.

I initially got into gaming back in the days of ZX Spectrum, with my interest in computing also following from my first Intel based PC. My gaming has generally been mainly on PC, but I have in the past owned a Dreamcast and xbox. My interests then shifted towards the convenience of console gaming when the 360 came along. It had everything PC offered without the hassle of upgrading every couple of years. However, in the last couple of years I have started to shift back towards PC gaming and now it is my only platform. So, with that said, I’d like to talk about the state of gaming, now that quite a lot is changing.

The Past

Firstly, let’s have some history. Back when I was a little lad obsessed with Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and in primary school, NES and Master System were starting a new boom of home gaming. In turn, the SNES and Mega Drive provided an evolution and expansion of everything their predecessors created. Although gaming was clearly popular before this point, icons such as Mario and Sonic were Β born and increased the level of conversation between friends and social activity of the platforms that spawned them, both in a big way. They provided escapism, excitement and allowed people’s imaginations to run wild.

Then came Playstation. By the time this was in its height of popularity, I was a teenager in comprehensive school, but it evoked the same memories as the machines 5 to 10 years prior. It gave the same social interaction, excitement, pleasure and everything Sega and Nintendo did but on an even larger scale and also provided an added element of somewhat more mature gaming. Clearly 3D was the primary technological reason for this, but that on its own has no meaning, it allowed for greater immersion and diversity in the software. It also created its own well known products, such as Lara Croft, Wipeout and Final Fantasy.

Overlapping both the 4th and 5th generations of consoles, PC was making equally large contributions to the industry. Games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Age of Empires, Civilisation and many others. Then it was 1998 and a company created only 2 years earlier by former Microsoft employees released their first game.

It’s funny, because a friend brought Half Life into school and I remember looking at the back of the case and saying along the lines of “That looks rubbish, what’s it about?”. The phrase never judge a book by its cover has never been more apt then or since. I never owned any of the consoles described above but I was engrossed in the cultures they created and did have an interest from Spectrum and Pentium PC games.Β I borrowed Half Life from that friend, played it and loved it, but didn’t really know why or think anything about it aside from that it was really cool. Without realising at the time, I had played one of the best games made and games became ingrained into my lifestyle.

Only a couple of years later when I became excited by Dreamcast, Xbox, visiting game shops that I realised the impact games had made on me. Although lots of other games were giving me great pleasure, I believe it was Half Life that kicked it all off. It did things that very few games had done before and did some thing that no others had. The sound, environments, characters, script, story, gameplay, all flowed into a cohesive whole to form a game that was incredibly immersive and very much comparable to why we love movies and other entertainment media. As I said, other games like Mario had captured a certain idea in people’s minds, but no game did it all together in such a smooth and good way as Half Life.

Fast forwarding slightly, PS2 obviously came along and was a very good machine, but like the Mega Drive and SNES, was an evolution of its predecessor that did very much provide some superb games, but in terms of defining moments in gaming, wasn’t on the scale of NES, Master System, PS1 and Half Life. The next big moment was Half Life 2. Now you may start to think that I’m sounding like a bit of a Valve obsessive and am overlooking other obvious aspects of gaming. To an extent, you’re right, I am a complete Valve fanboy, but I truly believe these were the iconic moments until this time. Although Half Life 2 essentially built on what the first game introduced, it did it so well, that’s why it made such an impact. Environments were larger and beautiful, the script was movie-like, the characters were completely believable and had a human connection and so much more. It did this as a natural occurrence of its time, with better hardware came better graphics, bigger scale and so on, but it also revolutionised certain things like animation (facial animations were unbelievable), physics (the gravity gun, enough said) as well as superb voice acting, engaging story and so on. Half Life 2 and its episodes are THE best games of all time, the only ones to better Half Life 1 and if nothing else, should put Valve up there as one of if not the most revolutionary entity in gaming.

As this is going to be a very lengthy blog in its entirety, I will stop here, with parts 2 and 3 to follow soon to discuss the present and future.

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About the Author

I have an interest in music, movies, technology and games. Enjoy football, gigs, cycling and swimming. I'm a Java developer and trying to learn Android. I'm 29 and Welsh. I've been interested in games since ZX Spectrum 128K. I've owned a Dreamcast, Xbox, Xbox 360 and PS3 but PC has been my main passion. I am a huge advocate of Steam and believe Valve are one of, if not the most progressive games companies there is.

8 Responses to Blog: The State of Play (PT.1)

  1. Alex Norris says:

    A great blog post I could not agree more with your points on Half Life and Half Life 2 πŸ™‚ Half Life is the game that really got me into gaming and I think I’ve spent more time playing that than any other game. The world, the way the story is told and the game play all caught me imagination unlike any other game around the time I first started gaming and made me a complete Half Life and valve fan. Half Life will always remain an outstanding game to me.

    The only game for me thats been as good since is Half Life 2 and the following episodes, an amazing game that really expanded the world and everything that Half Life did, a proper sequel. The whole series of games (even the expansion packs Opposing force and Blue shift) all hold the best game ever position in my book, I can’t choose just one though:)

    • James Hart says:

      Good point, opposing force was amazing. The episodes were class, had really engaging characters and story. It’s just a shame we don’t know when Half Life 3 is going to turn up to finish the massive cliffhanger at the end of Ep2!

      In some ways, Portal 2 has pushed the Half Life series for the top spot as it’s very cinematic. That’s in part 2 of my ramblings though πŸ˜‰

  2. Alex Porter says:

    Nice post! I do love the Half-Life games but I can’t say they’re my favourites, but they’re high up on my list of awesome games! πŸ™‚ I grew up on a steady diet of Serious Sam, Unreal Tournament and Metal Gear Solid but I can’t wait for the next Half-Life game!

    I personally bounce between the 360 and PC, I usually play most games on the xbox then replay them on the PC when they appear for like Β£5 on Steam or something πŸ˜› I also prioritise my time with the occasional PC exclusive like Diablo 3 but the 360 is just more convenient for me. I’m hoping to upgrade to a new desktop when funds and space become available πŸ™‚

    When’s the next post up?

    • James Hart says:

      UT and Quake were bonkers! I had UT3 a few years ago but it was all bots, no one played it after a while. I did have a 360 since 2006 but sold it a few months ago. Rock Band was amazing and is in my top 3 games ever, but I just never used it so got rid and bought a 24″ IPS monitor πŸ™‚

      The other thing for me is I have everything on my PC, physical and digital (games, music, bluray, videos), as well as good enough hardware for current games and connected to both my monitor and my TV, so with all that it’s a complete system and don’t need anything else. Plus games are way cheaper on it! I’ve got many brand new games for less than 20 quid.

      Part 2 is written and waiting to be published, so be up to read soon hopefully. Ends on a bit of a downer though, probably setting the scene for an indifferent tone in part 3!

      • Alex Porter says:

        That’s how I want my desktop set up, connected to a decent HDTV and a monitor for when I’m not gaming! Most of my friends are only on the 360 though so going primarily PC would significantly reduce my playing/talking time with them especially as they can’t afford or don’t want to go PC. πŸ™

        I think I’ve found a nice balance though, just need a PC upgrade. My laptop is about 4 or 5 years old now so I can’t run more recent games beyond the medium settings these days and with over 300 Steam games, about 250 of which are unplayed ;), I really need to clear the backlog πŸ˜›

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