Sunday, 30 October 2011

A history of computer games, part two: 1980s - 1990s

The Golden age of games! In 1978 many different manufacturers entered the arcade market as the release of Space Invaders by Taito became very successful. The box like machines could be found everywhere, places like shopping malls, convenience stores, restaurants and traditional storefronts would become filled with youngsters due to the popularity of arcades. by 1982, Space Invaders had generated a revenue equivalent to $4.6 billion in 2011. The arcade video game industry revenue in North America would go on to reach $2.8 billion by 1980. Colour arcade games were also developed between 1979 and 1980 with the release of Pac-Man. Within a year it generated of more than $1 billion (in quarters) and is estimated in total to have grossed over $2.5 billion during the 20th century ($3.4 billion in 2011). 1982 was the peak of arcade video games; generating equivalent to over $18.5 billion in 2011, surpassing pop music and Hollywood combined at time.
In the early 1980's publishing houses appeared such as Electronic Arts and while some games were simple clones of existing arcade titles, unique ideas and concepts as well as low publishing costs lead to genre innovation.The Legend of Zelda (1986 - Action and adventure), Donkey Kong (1981 - Platform games), Metal Gear (1987 - Stealth games), just a few of many iconic titles of the decade. What is significant through this time period is the video game crash of 1983, bankruptcy of several companies that produced games as well as consoles meant the end to what was considered the second generation of console video gaming.  

Due to the crash of the video game industry the computer gaming market took over as they offered equal ability, they also were simply designed which made them nearly as easy to game on. The commodore 64 took the stage in 1982 with impressive graphic and sound capabilities for its time, significantly it utilized the same game controller ports as the Atari 2600 (console); this allowed gamers to plug in their old joysticks into the computer. At this point in time Apple were also climbing the ladder as a computer manufacturer, the Apple II had seen great success first seen in 1977 as a 8-bit home computer, it became one of the most recognisable and successful computers during the 1980's and early 1990's

The Third Generation! Nintendo bring the video games market to life with the release of the NES (Famicom) 8-bit console, dominating until the early 1990's. The third generation would put an end to joysticks, joypads, paddles and keypads of the past with the invention of the gamepad that consisted of a D-pad and 2 or more action buttons. Nintendo released many iconic, almost historical titles from Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda and the Final Fantasy series (which went on to become the most successful RPG franchise. 1987 saw the birth of stealth games and I briefly mentioned before with Metal Gear which was originally released on the MSX2 computer, but shortly was ported to the NES.

I think this was one of the most important decades considering the evolution of games, the youth of the 80's were lucky enough to see the shift from arcade gaming mostly based on a point score system, a turn at a time for some pocket change to the invention of genres, level & character development alongside actual consoles with variety and preference. It was a very interesting time, a great reference point for character concepts or a sense of uniqueness. Pop culture was also huge with a touch of androgynous style, the icons of pop music were also taking over the world from Prince's Purple Rain to the first time Michael Jackson moon walked on Motown 25 following the release of Thriller.