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6 Sept 2013

Computer and Video Games: From One Line to Mutant Super Mario

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Smash that creepy monster with whatever you have in your hands! Steal that car, which is in front of you! Kill as many WWII enemies as you can! No no, wait, do not do that in real life.

However, all those characters look incredibly realistic, when you play a computer game, right?! Probably, some of you spend some time in front of the console playing "Diablo III" or waiting for "GTA V". All right, youngsters, keep playing, keep waiting. But, we bet, there are some of you who feel the emptiness and remember those evenings in front of TV with a Nintendo.

Computer Graphics. Computer What?

It is almost 55 years since the day when the first video game – “Tennis for Two” has been created in 1958 and 61 years since the time when the first computer game – “Tic Tac Toe” appeared. "Tennis for Two" was a prototype to the first successfully widespread arcade video game, called "Pong".

Computer and Video Games: From One Line to Mutant Super Mario 1

Later, in 1962 Steve Russell presented a game called "Spacewar!". If you look at that game from nowadays perspective, you would probably think that it is some kind of sonar radar or something like that. The game screen was round and plain simple. "Spacewar!" was the first widely available and influential computer game. It is said that creating this game was really important to programmers, because it taught "how to talk to a computer so that it answers back".

Computer and Video Games: From One Line to Mutant Super Mario 2

The first commercial home video game console was "Magnavox Odyssey". It was released in 1972. However, the honeymoon of video games ended in 1977. The first video games crash occurred when companies were forced to sell their obsolete systems flooding the market. The crash was largely caused by the numerous cloning of "Pong".

What was next, you ask? Well, there was such a huge thing as arcade game rooms. Despite the fact, that "Computer Space" was the first commercially sold coin-operated video game (1971), the trend of arcade games emerged when "Space Invaders" showed up in 1978. Atari was a major name in arcade game, in about 1972-1983.

On the other hand, this company rose high with the help of popularity of their video game console "Atari 2600". It was like "PlayStation" or "Xbox" nowadays - every kid on the block wanted to get it for Christmas. During that time, Atari had created a lot of groundbreaking arcade games, including “Battlezone”.

It was the original first-person 3D shooter, which later was brought to home users in 1983. 30 years later, this July the franchise was bought from the "Atari" bankruptcy proceedings. Crazy fact: on August 30, 1985 David Palmer scored a world record high score in this game - 23 000 000 points. It took him 23 hours of playing to do that.

Late 1970s - early 1980s was not only a golden era of arcade games, but also the childhood of video game consoles. I think that then it could have been just a wild guess how promising, broad and expandable the niche of home entertainment is.

Its introductory price was $199. That would be about $785 in 2013. Would you pay so much money for an Xbox? Huh? Two times more expensive than Xbox 360 with an 8-bit 2D graphics. Amazing. Atari sold 40 million of this market-changing console. It seems that playing computer games brought incredible amount of excitement. In this video you can see gamers who are almost crazy because of video games.

Of course, it is only commercials, but the hype was real.

And then - bam! Another North American video game crash in 1983, that practically destroyed Atari in two years. This time the crash was even bigger. Here what has happened. Video games business had revived and started to generate just ridiculously tremendous income. At the peak, revenue of US arcade and home video games was about $11.8 billion (buying power of about $22.8 billion in 2013).

This amount far surpassed American movie and music industries combined. But suddenly the whole market suffered a crash - profits fell by shocking 97 per cent. Game console industry that once was worth $3 billion on its own, had fallen to a scurvy $100 million.

Why did this crash happen? Atari's game developers had realized that games which they had created, bring about 60% of profits to Atari. So, they decided to make their own company - the first third-party games' developing company Activision. Then more similar companies had been established. Unfortunately, the hurriedly created games from increasing number of game developing companies flooded the market. That was one of the main factors that caused the crash.

And again, as Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty". This crisis was an amazing opportunity for the third generation of consoles to emerge. And you know, which one that was: NES - Nintendo Entertainment System. The first console, called Famicom (stands for "Family Computer") showed up in 1983 in Japan. After two years it reached USA, with an altered design, different name (NES) and branding which was made avoiding the word 'game'.

First of all, Nintendo's stuff had thoughts to create a 16-bit computer with keyboard and floppy-drive, but this idea was rejected by the company's CEO, who was thinking about more simple and cheaper console. As we can see now, he was right. New then-spectacular games saved the US video games market.

Ah, yes, Nintendo and those 8-bit games. "Bomberman”, “Battle City”, "The Legend of Zelda". Just a few of them. 1983 – "Mario Bros". 1985 – "Super Mario Bros". Enough said? Simple and brilliant. It was not those "dark screen games" which were used to be played earlier anymore.

Computer and Video Games: From One Line to Mutant Super Mario 3

Sega, a company which released their first console the very same day as Nintendo, had a war with rivals. Bully-type ads started to appear. "Genesis does what Nintendon't." Pretty insulting. 16-bit graphics - like two fully loaded revolvers against one in the hand of Nintendo. Later, in 1991 they introduced Sega CD - the add-on device to Sega Genesis video games console which was invented to expand the size of games.

"Hey! You still don't have a Sega CD? What are you waiting, Nintendo to make one?!" (1993). Bad boys of video games, those Sega, huh? However, everything, that is so pretty, sunny and easy, does not last an eternity. Once again, video game industry started to freeze. 1990s was the time of revolution: raster graphics which was used in game development was changed by 3D graphics.

Revolution will not be televized. Revolution is going to be on PC

Personal computer. A tool which is used for work, browsing the internet and, of course, games. Early 1990s was a marvelous time. Do you know where all those first-person shooters came from? Well, the most noticeable ancestor of them might be called Doom, created by id Software. I remember getting my first PC in 1997. Doom II was already installed in it. I had spent countless hours in front of the screen, playing it. All of my friends, who had a PC played it.

It was so popular that even Bill Gates digitally incorporated himself into the game during the presentation of "Windows 95". However, it also was highly controversial, because of the graphic violence - players could see, for example, blasted bodies of enemies after the rocket shot.

Computer and Video Games: From One Line to Mutant Super Mario 4

Such a joyful blessing of success inspired id Software team create an even better first-person shooter - Quake. This revolutionary game engine could accomplish full real-time 3D rendering. It was far easier to play Quake multiplayer online than Doom, because of various updates and software innovations. This game is considered as one of the most influential games of all time. Some experts say that Quake and 3D accelerators which were used by Quake engine, changed computer and video games forever.

Computer and Video Games: From One Line to Mutant Super Mario 5

To live a life virtually or to live a virtual life?

After the expansion of home computers, one threat emerged - gamers started to rip games, get illegal copies, download them illegally and so on. Yeah yeah, I know, it is so wrong! You spend a lot of hours learning how to use the software, creating something unique and a someone steals it. Fact: Piracy made a $42 billion loss to global video games industry from 2004 to 2009. Maybe you would not believe, but a lot of gamers still buy legal copies of games.

And the top 2 best-selling games actually are the first version and the sequel of the same game - The Sims. 36 million copies sold worldwide. Not so amazing if compared to the sale results of first games developed for consoles in 1980s, but still it is an impressive result. Girls were crazy about that game - creating life of their own, creating life which they would like to have - all those dreams of the princesses.

Virtual life became even more serious in 2003, when the whole artificial world was created while using 3D renderings. Project which was called Second Life had drawn a lot of attention. Well, enormous amount of attention, to be more precise. It is rumored that about 600 000 people still are active users of Second Life and are used to spend their spare time in virtual reality. A reality made of 3D renderings.

How would Super Mario look nowadays?

So, after 30 years, since Mario conquered our hearts, a lot had happened. That game was simple, but addictive. Guess, what is not so simple, but maybe even more brilliant than the original? The new look of our virtual buddies. 3D artist Jonathan Fletcher made a remarkable and impressive 3D model of Super Mario and Luigi. When the images of it appeared on the internet, the “WOW! effect” was so big, that everyone still cannot shut their mouths. Fans are still praying that any company that create computer games would make a game with that model.

Computer and Video Games: From One Line to Mutant Super Mario 6

It is 30 years after the year 1983 already, but – time is relative. Ask Einstein. Ask any specialist of fashion – time goes in circles. So, it is not bad to be addicted to the 80s or 90s - somehow it is still 2013.

Playing for bread, butter, cars, houses, jewels and fame

What is happenings in 2013? Global worth of video games industry reached breathtaking $78,5 billion in 2012. However, not only games' developing and consoles' creating companies earn money from games. I suppose, that you are are aware of that people spend more and more time playing computer games online. Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) are such a huge thing nowadays, than even the audience which is watching the grand finals is freakingly gigantic.

Computer and Video Games: From One Line to Mutant Super Mario 7

And, yes, no matter that these games are free-to-play, but the prize pools of main events are just ridiculously enormous. For example, the prize pool of one of the most popular MMORPG game's, Dota 2, final tournament was $2,8 million.

CG of these free-to-play games are simply astonishing. 3D graphics had evolved into something that could be called magic. As you already know, it is hard to tell, whether the view which we see in the screen is a pictured reality or a 3D model. What could we wait for in the future of computer games? I guess, a virtual reality which will be more real than the world which surrounds us in our real life.