In today’s world of high definition video games, internet connections and always-on devices, it’s hard to think of a time when you wouldn’t be able to simply get home, relax and enjoy a few games on your favourite console.
As strange as it may sound, such a dark age of home-based gaming did exist once upon a time, although how exactly did the home gaming industry progress past the era when games only existed in sticky-floored gaming arcades?
The first home video game console was the Magnavox Odyssey (pictured above). The console, which players connected to their existing television sets, featured a long row of switches on the box itself that allowed gamers to turn on and off various aspects of the console, different combinations of switches allowing gamers to play different games. This seems ridiculous compared to nowadays, but it perfectly fit the DIY feeling that characterized early computing.
From humble beginnings, the late seventies and early eighties were characterized by the introduction of cartridge-based systems such as the immensely popular Atari 2600 system that featured one of the first joysticks in gaming. Unfortunately these balmy times were jaded somewhat by the home console crash of 1977, where a glut of cheap, loss-making systems were released onto the market, undercutting a huge number of producers. This was followed by a much more severe crash in 1983, which was caused instead by a glut of absolutely terrible, overhyped games such as Atari’s baleful E.T.!
So Many Makes!
The third and fourth generations of consoles contained systems such as the NES and Sega Megadrive which featured excellent 16-bit games that really began to push the limits of the technology of the era. Any wizened gamer will tell you about titles such as Super Mario and Ecco the Dolphin and from that, you’ll likely get a grasp of how much of a step-change this gaming era signified.
Gaming Gets HUGE
PlayStations, N64s, Xboxes and, to a lesser extent, Dreamcasts all continued the spread of gaming amongst the public, riding high on a newfound gaming culture and acceptance of gaming in society. Getting a new game, firing it up and reading for hints in the in-game manual; these are the exciting thoughts that return to us when we think of this golden era of home gaming. Nowadays, if something goes wrong or we need help with a game we’ll just pop online and get the help and support we need there – the online gaming market has used this enormously to its favour in recent years. Just imagine the tedious tech support calls of yesteryear- it doesn’t bear mentioning!
Nowadays the home gaming market is in a huge state of flux, many pundits predicting the end of the home console market as PCs and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones take over the popular gaming market. Yes, we have beautiful graphical experiences via PS4 and Xbox One, but as technology progresses, ever smaller devices will be able to play ever more complex games, perhaps out-moding consoles.