Video Game History Month 2010

Celebrate Video Game History Month with a sampling of the people, hardware, and events that made the industry what it is today.

by

Letter From the Editor

As you've probably noticed, it has been a surprisingly busy start to the year. One of the things we've been doing in these parts is thinking about doing some bigger stuff like what's kicking off today: Video Game History Month. What is it? Well, as of right now, it's going to be a weekly sampling of highlights and lowlights in video game history. It's surreal to think that video games are almost 40 years old--if you count back from 1972 when Pong debuted. The medium has gone through an incredibly fast evolution in these past decades--from simple pixels to the photo-realistic visuals that people have now come to expect.

So, we all got to thinking that we should find some time once a year to start looking back, which brings us to this idea of Video Game History Month. Every Thursday of this month, we'll be putting up video pieces that look back at some key games, people, events, and hardware from the history of games. Each Friday this month, we'll have a photo feature that looks at some fun moments in game history. While this isn't going to be a chronological run through history--it's more of a random sampling of stuff we think is notable and interesting--there's actually a reason for that: We've got much bigger plans for this idea in the years to come, and this is just the kickoff.

Why do it? A few reasons, really. Initially, it all had to do with preserving this unique interactive art form (sorry, Roger Ebert!) and highlighting the ways it has affected people who play games, as well as popular culture as a whole. There are now several generations of people out there who have found a connection with games. It's also pretty incredible to think that our little hobby now spans the entire globe. With such a monumental task ahead of us, we're just starting to highlight the full spectrum of games and how they've grown.

To be honest, though, another motivating factor for us is to try to make this an educational experience. Most, if not all, of you reading this have a pretty good grasp on the history of video games, but we'd like to think you might discover a neat factoid or two by month's end. However, there's also a sizable group of people who are new to games--whether they're young, old, or somewhere in between. I'm hoping that the new folks will get an understanding of why games are special to us, but I'm also hoping that the more educated we become about games, the fewer generalizations we'll see about them. As a form of popular entertainment, like music, games are probably at the early rock-and-roll (think Elvis' then-scandalous dance moves) stage of acceptance: They're popular, there's a huge group of us who love them, but there are still those who don't understand their significance.

So there you go, Video Game History Month--it begins! Of course, we'd love to hear what you think. We all have our favorite memories of video games, and we're hoping you'll share your highlights, insights, and memories with us here in this blog, on the forums, and in the features themselves.

Ricardo Torres | Editor in Chief

Be Sure to Tune in for E3

Don't forget to check out our coverage of the biggest gaming event of the year. Find out how you can get comprehensive coverage of the press conferences and games of E3 right here on GameSpot!

The Hardware

From its humble beginnings on enormous mainframe computers in the 1950s to the online-equipped, visual powerhouses we have today, video game hardware has come a long way. In the early days, video game console hardware was limited, to say the least. Developers often had to compensate for lack of memory and visual fidelity by coming up with creative ways to bring their gameplay vision to fruition--as crude as it may have been at the time. But as the gaming market evolved, so did its hardware. Consoles and PCs became more powerful, giving developers the ability to create even more detailed and intricate gaming experiences. Control methods also changed along with these experiences. Single-button joysticks gradually changed into game pads with numerous buttons and were eventually equipped with analog sticks. As more people played games, a greater focus on multiplayer gaming also came to the forefront, establishing a need to bring gamers online to interact and play with each other in new ways. The PC established itself early as the primary platform in this regard, but console hardware slowly caught up and began offering online connectivity and, eventually, the online gaming services we have now. Where gaming hardware goes from here is anyone's guess, but it's time to pay tribute to the hardware that helped make the industry grow into the behemoth it is today.

In our final week, we look at the Game Boy--the handheld that changed the face of portable gaming.

The Hardware: 3DO

In this Video Game History Month update we look back at the 3DO--a console that had a promising future with major backing from Electronic Arts. But its $700 price tag put the system in a hole that it was never able to climb out of.

The Hardware: Sega Saturn

The follow-up to Sega's immenseley popular Genesis hardware didn't quite catch on, but it still had a great library of games and proved just how talented Sega's internal development teams were.

The Hardware: Atari 2600

It's arguably the platform that helped launch the industry as we know it today. We kick off our look back at the video game hardware of old with thoughts on the Atari 2600.

The People

In an industry so focused on games and hardware, it's easy to forget that there are countless people working behind the scenes to make it all happen. But within the annals of video game history, there are certain people whose contributions have been so important and groundbreaking that they helped shape and mold the video game market as we know it. These people range from the earliest pioneers who brought gaming to the masses to modern game designers whose ideas and philosophies started chain reactions of creativity that permeated throughout the industry. This month, we're honoring those people who have left an indelible mark on the video game landscape.

What would Video Game History Month be without acknowledging one of the industry's best and most creative minds. This week, we celebrate the career of Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto.

The People: Will Wright

In our third entry in the people of Video Game History Month, we take a look at Will Wright--the creator of Sim City and its offspring, The Sims.

The People: Peter Molyneux

The follow-up to Sega's immenseley popular Genesis hardware didn't quite catch on, but it still had a great library of games and proved just how talented Sega's internal development teams were.

The People: Nolan Bushnell

Self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, Nolan Bushnell is widely regarded as the father of the modern console video gaming. As the founder of Atari, Bushnell introduced the Atari 2600 to the market and brought video games to a whole new audience.

The Games

Whether you started playing games on the Atari 2600 or just recently picked up a new console or handheld, we all share something in common--we like video games. And whether or not you're a fan of a particular genre, there's no denying that some games have had an enormous impact on our beloved hobby. This impact can be measured in a few different ways. For some games, it's about being a game-changer (for lack of a better phrase), something that fundamentally changes the focus of the industry and where developers place their focus. For others, it's about delivering a masterfully crafted experience--the kind that gives you an almost indescribable feeling and makes you light up every time you think about it. Of course, some games are just plain fun, but whatever the case may be, we're honoring games and gaming franchises that--whether you're a fan or not--have left their mark by pushing gaming into new and exciting territories.

We conclude our games of Video Game History Month by taking a trip to Hyrule. Since the release of the original on the Nintendo Entertainment System, The Legend of Zelda has kept its top spot as one of gaming's most beloved franchises thanks to its lush worlds and endearing cast of characters.

The Games: Starcraft

This week, we're looking at Starcraft--a game that carried the banner for real-time strategy games and became an international sensation.

The Games: Halo

It's relatively new in the grand scheme of video game history, but Halo's impact on console first-person shooters and gaming as a whole is undeniable.

The Games: Street Fighter

We begin our look back at the important games in our Video Game History Month feature by taking a look at Street Fighter--the fighting game series that not only revitalized arcades, but also built the foundation for fighting games that would follow.

The Events

We see it with movies. We see it with books. It happens with video games. Sure, big game releases and new consoles are a huge deal, but every once in a while, a game becomes so huge and garners so much attention--not just from avid gamers but from the mainstream populace--that it's practically impossible to avoid. As a result of this popularity, the rest of the corporate world wrings its hands while thinking of ways to capitalize on it. We're deluged by clothing, music, TV shows, and movies, and while these things often vary in quality (we're looking at you, video game movies), there's no denying that these phenomena mark important points in video game history.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo has become a staple of the video game landscape, giving fans and industry folk a chance to check out the latest and greatest games. But, whether it was a specific trailer or a new game announcement, the show has also provided some of the most memorable moments in video game history. Join us as we take a look at the extravaganza known as E3.

The Events: PlayStation 2 Launch

It doesn't get much bigger than this. After the success of the original PlayStation, fans were eagerly anticipating the arrival of its successor, the PlayStation 2. We're diving into the launch of the PlayStation 2 in North America as one of the most important events in video game history.

The Events: Tron

In our second update for the big events in video game history, we take a look at Tron--widely considered the first (and one of the best) movies to pay homage to computers and gaming.

The Events: Pac-Man Fever

Did you have it? The first big event in our Video Game History Month is the craze known as Pac-Man Fever.

Extras

Every Friday, our "Extras" section of Video Game History Month updates with photo galleries of the stuff that doesn't necessarily fall into any specific category. These galleries showcase a wide range of things related to gaming history, ranging from an array of controllers to mascots that didn't really live up to their billing. This week, we start with our look at gaming controllers--the good and not-so-good--of the past.

Collector's Editions

From cloth maps to night-vision goggles, we take a look back on some of the best and most outlandish collector's editions.

View images »

Video Game Movies

We're taking a look back at just a few of the video game movies that have caused fans to laugh, cry, or maybe even shout out in anger that we're all mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.

View images »

Forgotten Mascots

Sometimes they were cool. Sometimes they were downright awful. Join us as we take a look at some of the notable mascot characters that have been forgotten in the annals of video game history.

View images »

Controllers

Did you have a Power Glove? Glad to be rid of "The Duke"? Join us as we take a look at the controllers of the past and how their design influenced the controllers of today. View images »

Check back on May 21 for a new entry in our Video History Month: Extras section.

Discussion

Load Comments