The development of a medium: “From Tennis for Two” to “Wii u”

We live in good times. Times where most of the world doesnt starve to death. Times where only parts of the world are still controlled and killed by religious fanatism. Times where, if you get lucky, you yourself can build up a fortune and live the high life. We live in a time where the Blu-ray delivers picture and sound quality paralleled only to theaters and where gaming is finding more and more acceptance. But how the hell did we get there?

I remember the 3rd of June 1995. I remember it because it was then when I got my mother so far as to buy me a Super NES including a Super GameBoy. I had a GameBoy with a few games already and I owned a NES, so my mother was hesistant in buying a new console already after five years.

Those were different times. It was a time without the Internet. A time where you bought a TV that lasted thirty years or more. It was a time of VHS, where the DVD barely sold, at least in Europe. The concept of buying a new gaming system every four to five years was atrocius back then. Backwards compatibility was unheard of. Upon hearing that none of my NES games worked on a Super NES, my mother rolled her eyes. So the Super GameBoy was a nice addition, since you didn’t have to re-buy new games.

Fast forward two years to the release of the N64. I remember begging my mother to get me one. She declined, noting that she just bought me a Super Nintendo a few months ago (yes, parents back then already downplayed time and importance) and she refused to spend roughly two thousand five hundret Schilling (the equivalent to roughly 220 Euros or 275 US Dollars) for just another videogame system. Until she saw the TV ad for Super Mario 64. Then she understood and got me an N64 for christmas. I was happy.

Lots of things changed since then. The Wii u is upon us. Skyward Sword too, and Ocarina of Time 3D is already out. I mean, REAL 3D gaming, without glasses, including motion controls. I can buy my own consoles now, buy alot of games, I create games myself, I write, make music, do this blog and even have a girl of my own. Times have changed, that’s for sure. But not just for me. For gaming aswell.

Most people don’t know this, but the very first videogame was called “Tennis for Two”. It was developed in 1958 on an oscilloscope by William Higinbotham. That was 53 years ago.
53 years of gaming. Of course, home console gaming wasn’t made popular until the 80ys. And frankly, they did not really develop a soul of their own until the 80ys. One could say that the 80ies were the most important time in the history of videogames. That would leave alot of room for speculation, but it’s up to yourself to fill in this blank space. Just remember to include E.T. for the Atari in there somewhere. Now THAT was something.

After the great videogame crash of the mid 80ies (thanks Atari btw.) gaming was over. If it weren’t fror Nintendo, we wouldn’t really have the gaming culture we have nowadays. It was Nintendo who single handely revived the video game market in 1985-86 with the NES. They were later followed by Sega and duked it out back then for decades. The NES and the Master System. Good Times.

The 90ies brought us 16 bit gaming. That basically meant more colors, bigger sprites, better sound, more controler buttons. The standard fare today, but it was revolutionary back then. Then came Nintendos fallout with Sony. The Nintendo PlayStation became the Sony PlayStation. The N64 was born. Then came the Dreamcast and Sega quit the console buisness. The PS2 was born and Nintendo countered with the GameCube. The X-Box came, followed by the 360. Nintendo had a Revolution with the Wii and Sony overpriced the PS3. And 3D became mainstream with the 3DS. And all that happened within twenty years. What film accomplished in sixty, gaming did in twenty. What Rock music did in fourty, gaming did in twenty. Movies began as short sequences of movement in black and white, without sound. It took movies twenty five years to develop a real sound experience and another twenty five to deliver colors. TV wasn’t even invented until after World War 2. And color TV was also not invented until a few years later. And by now, we have 3D Television sets.

So after all the development we came through, isn’t it strange to think that we may be at a point in time where we cannot go any further, only expand? Think about it. Graphical fidelity is at a saturation point. So is sound quality and input method. We have it all. Touch sensitive, no controler at all, motion controls, heck, researchers can already map brainwaves and eye movements to game controls for a session of Unreal. How fare can we go?

Tennis for Two was played by two people on one huge machine. Nowadays, we can play with people all over the world through a handheld device. We surely live in good times. All that is left for us to do is broaden the appeal of games even further. And enjoy what we created. 

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