Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by James Hart8
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.
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 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. 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.