After perusing a few more articles on coming devices and software for gaming, it occurred to me that slowly, quietly, the nature of gaming has been changing. In the distant past anyone passionate about video games had to confine themselves to the arcade. Sure, there were home consoles (starting with the ancient but loved Atari 2600) but for quite some time nothing else compared to the arcade experience. The shift happened unheralded around the time of the PC explosion- at some point it became possible to buy or build a console or PC that was capable of matching (if not outright surpassing) what the arcade offered. My first revelation was via my high school best friend’s Atarti ST playing Speedball and Lemmings. Home gaming offered experiences that the arcade at the time couldn’t. No longer tied to a joystick and a couple buttons and the need to garner quarters, game makers were free to explore new formats: from the first person shooter to strategy; the side scroller had seen the end of it’s domination.
The true death of the arcade was twofold- a rapid increase in the power of processors, and a dramatic drop in the cost of computer components. As Moore’s Law predicted, home computing (and the gaming it made possible) improved exponentially while dropping in price in a surprisingly short time. The early Nintendo consoles gave way to the Playstation, then to be joined by the other current console titan X Box. The gaming PC has always reigned supreme (even if quietly in the background) however- while consoles made it possible to homogenize game development by offering a static hardware platform, they never provided the latest and greatest available. Gaming PCs can vary almost infinitely from owner to owner; from a store bought tower that barely meets a game’s minimum requirements to a home built rig with enough power to run a decent sized corporation.
Now we have entered a new era of gaming- the mobile revolution. The advent of small, mobile devices like the iPhone and dedicated devices like the various Nintendo and Sony handhelds have allowed consumers to enjoy their gaming wherever they like. These small devices have even surpassed some of the not-so-old premium PCs of yesteryear; my current iPhone 5 sports a better processor, more RAM, more hard drive space, and better graphics than my first Windows 98-powered PC (and possibly the first PC I built that ran Windows XP as well). The latest XBox and Playstation consoles provide processor and gaming power that I couldn’t even have dreamt of when I was first playing Doom and MDK.
Now, with the pending release of updated iOS devices and new consoles, I wonder if we’ve reached a new plateau. There will always be games a gamers that want the newest and best in graphics and gameplay, but is that really necessary for everyone? After stumbling across GOG.com and rediscovering some of the older games I had loved a decade ago (like Nox and Total Annihilation Kingdoms) it struck me that computers have reached a point of power that everyday devices like laptops without dedicated graphics cards or handheld devices provide plenty of oomph to meet the demands of some very fun software.
Whether it’s older games or newer, there is a wealth of titles out there that you can enjoy on just about any device. Some fantastic and inventive software has been developed over the past few years, like World of Goo, Limbo, Infinity Blade, Braid, and Pyschonauts. Many of them are available on multiple platforms. The popularity of handheld devices has spurred the creation of the casual gaming category, further circumventing the need for cutting edge power to satiate you gaming appetite. While the portable device ecosystem is being slowly introduced to immersive gaming (such as Infinity Blade II or The Drowning) there is so much more to the gaming experience.
Whether you’ve never played Angry Birds or remember Castle Wolfenstein 3D, there’s something for you in gaming. The availability of hardware and software has never been better, and the breadth of titles offers something for just about any taste. If you’re not already eating up some of those spare minutes with a game, give the iTunes App Store, the OSX App Store, Steam, GOG.com, or your portal of choice a look- I’m willing to bet that you’ll find something that fits your tastes (and wallet) perfectly. Life’s too short not to enjoy gaming!
- NVIDIA SHIELD Console Review (androidcommunity.com)
- The Difference Between Hand & Home (stickitinyourpocket.com)
- PC gaming is the dark horse of E3 2013 (reviews.cnet.com)
- Four big reasons Xbox One, not PS4, will win over the masses (betanews.com)