Back in the early 1970s, when gaming became part of popular culture, arcades started to feature games such as Pong and Space Invaders. While both of these were innovative experiences that provided a portal out of daily life, gaming had a long journey to travel before it reached the peak of today.
The journey of video games has been a long and arduous one; games are occasionally the target of media attacks, and on top of that, there have been crashes in the market that have seen tumultuous times. If things had gone slightly differently, we may not have any of the franchises we hold dear to us, such as Mario, Zelda, and many others. Back in 1982, the premier gaming company Atari released E.T., a franchise that was expected to sell millions of copies due to the popularity of the film – it did not. E.T. was rushed out of the studio in just five weeks, leading to a shoddy product hitting the shelves, and ultimately, a fan backlash ensued, where the video games market would almost bottom out – Atari went bust, and no retailers would touch a video game system with a bargepole.
Fast forward two years to 1985, when Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short. They had to repackage the console as an ‘entertainment system’ because the video games franchise was still reeling from E.T., and Nintendo had to include ROB the Robot and a blaster gun as part of the package to really sell it to consumers in the United States. After seeing lots of success with the arcade game Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. among others, Nintendo decided to spread out and see if they could follow the (initial) success of Atari. What they did was revolutionary and changed the way we play games today.
Soon after the launch of the NES, Nintendo released Super Mario Bros., which took the country and the world by storm. Unlike previous games such released by Atari, Nintendo had focused their games on playing as a single character, instead of a nameless paddle or spaceship. Super Mario Bros. specifically worked on this, and playing as either Mario or Luigi, you would go through the level and save the princess. This was a revolutionary process and gamers couldn’t get enough. The industry had been saved.
The reason this was so successful was because the player was now in control of a character that had a face. It made you feel more for Mario than you would playing Space Invaders, and even though the latter did invoke emotions, it was at a considerably lower level to those who were now stuck to their screens playing their NES. To put the difference in effectiveness into perspective, Atari’s best selling game was Pacman, which totalled roughly seven million sales, compared to Super Mario Bros., which sold over 40 million copies.
As the industry evolved, so did the stories that went with the games. With Nintendo’s major franchises Mario and Zelda, where the aim was to simply save the princess, over the next decade, we would see the storytelling aspect of video games grow exponentially. RPGs such as Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and the Final Fantasy series would bring the emphasis on the story to a whole new level. On top of that, characters were eventually given the ability to evolve via skill points and dialogue choices.
Those games were a foundation for what is now the most successful entertainment industry in the world. There is a solid reason as to why video games have surpassed movies as the number one grossing sector, and that is because of how we relate to them. Don’t get me wrong, movies are fantastic, but like many others, being the character in that movie is a whole other experience. It’s typically why crossovers between the two franchises don’t work; why would you watch a movie that has a previous form in a successful video game? Instead of actually playing through it, you’re now just sitting there and watching as somebody else takes the journey for you. It’s just not as appealing.
On top of that, with the evolution of technology, the graphics make video games look almost real. The player can see the emotion that their character is going through, whether it be joy or despair. Going through an incredibly emotional journey with your character can lead you to getting completely immersed in it yourself. For those of you who have played Until Dawn, you will know the terror that each character goes through is evident, and as the character goes through things, so will you. It’s like being able to control what happens in a movie – to an extent.
Future technological advances will only further how we experience video games. The new idea is virtual reality. It’s one that has been tried before but lead to little success due to awful graphics and poor ideas, but today, playing on a VR headset will be like you are living it. That’s what’s happening right now; can you imagine 10-20 years into the future? Considering that 20 years ago, games like Super Mario 64 were considered to have cutting edge graphics, and were considered revolutionary because the player could move towards the camera, 20 years ahead could bring endless possibilities. It’s highly unlikely that in 1996 people envisioned how stunningly beautiful video games would look today.
But let’s not focus too much energy on talking about single player games, whereas actually, multiplayer games may be where you see the most emotion from any person. Even the most casual gamers in the world have played games such as Call Of Duty and FIFA, which has ultimately lead to the destruction of controllers everywhere. Humans are competitive by nature, and they want to be the best. Of course, not everybody can be a professional footballer, so FIFA is an easy access way of feeling the emotions of a football game in your hands. However, when a team concedes a goal against a lesser team in real life, they don’t have anything they can immediately throw against the wall.
Then you have a game like Mario Kart. All too often, a few friends will be hanging around, just chilling, and suggest a little race. Mario Kart is not a racing game, however – it’s a way to ruin lives. Never have I seen a group of friends go from being chilled out to baying for each other’s blood so quickly, and all because of a little blue shell.
Speaking about competitive nature, esports has risen to prominence over the past few years, with anything such as League Of Legends to Street Fighter being played in front of thousands of people in a massive stadium. The level to which gaming has risen in popular culture is astounding and will only continue to grow, until the point where a FIFA tournament is getting as many numbers as a game at Old Trafford. That may be going a little far, but you get my point. Seeing the crowd react to every little thing that each player does shows how important it can be, even to those who are not playing.
Ultimately, the industry is just going to continue to grow. Not only do we have current games that absolutely blow our minds, but there are games from the 80s/90s/00s that take us back to our childhood, which gives us that warm, nostalgic feeling. Everybody at Vexoid has a soft spot for games in the mid-2000s, because that was when we were at school and had the most time to sit down and play for hours on end, so games like F-Zero GX, PES 6 and Timesplitters 2 resonate with us deeply.
What video games bring up emotions from within you?