As gaming continues to evolve at a blistering pace, we’re going to be taking a look at how this has come about and the extent to how gaming and consoles have penetrated the market. This week has seen the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the popular gaming computer, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, so we’ll be taking a brief look at the history of gaming in all its incarnations.
The ZX Spectrum wasn’t the first games console, strictly speaking, and back then wasn’t even referred to or known as a console, according to ex-Sinclair employee Rupert Goodwins, who is now ZDNet UK’s editor.
“I started off working on the Spectrum 128. My first job was to take the original Spectrum ROM — the source code — and make it work again, because it had stopped working. It was a stop-gap product, as Sinclair was having trouble with money after the launch of the QL and the C5, lots of money had been spent on products that weren’t making any money, so Sinclair was getting a bit nervous,” Goodwins told ZDNet’s Luke Westaway.
However, it seems that the Spectrum didn’t help as such on the money making front; 25% of the machines had problems that proved costly to the company in repairs and replacements. The Spectrum did prove hugely popular though, as it was the first computer games machine on the market that could be snapped up for a mere £125 (around $200) when it first launched in the UK.
The very first console was the ‘brown box’(1967), which as the name implies was a brown device with two knobs that allowed gamers to chase each other as square icons on the screen. This was invented by German-born Ralph Baer and eventually added a light gun and 12 games to the fun.
Pong introduced the sports game to the console, although it had very little in common with sport in the real world. Tennis was a firm favorite and as you can see from the image, graphically, things have improved quite a lot over the course of the past 40 years.
These games really introduced the idea of social gaming via an electronic device to the world; a concept that as we now know would grow to become and remain hugely popular the world over …and has now evolved to include numerous platforms for gaming; Xbox, PS3, mobile apps and gaming, TV and PC gaming as well as various handheld devices such as the DS.
The gaming market doesn’t look to be slowing down any time in the future even and many people now use platforms such as Facebook for games, although the actual social aspect to this form of gaming is negligible! The name social gaming in this case really just refers to the social networking platform as players rarely play each other or meet face-to-face.
Gaming really began life in amusement arcades in earnest and this had a decidedly social aspect to it. Not only could arcade visitors meet and compare scores at these places, they could also indulge in the more physical social games such as air hockey and football tables.
Games where players looked into each other’s faces and tried to read each other’s intentions as they played competitively, not at a computer screen.
The Wii and Xbox Kinect have gone a long way towards combining the physical aspects with the electronic and can certainly give something of a workout to the players, depending on the game selected.
Sports such as cricket and boxing can be played on the above consoles as multiplayer games, something that along with the handheld controllers and physical aspect gave a new dimension to gaming consoles.
However, they come up short against a true sporting experience: they don’t provide you with the ability to gauge an opponent’s mood or their next move. After all you can’t read their body language when you’re looking at the flat screen, instead of them.
Watch this space for a new product coming onto the market later this year that is sure to herald a new beginning in social gaming!