To design the computer games of the future, you need to understand the games of the present. And the games of the present are rooted in the games of the past. To this end we will give a brief overview of the most important developments in computer games over the past fifty years. Of course we cannot be complete. There are a number of books that are completely devoted to the history of computer games and some websites if you want to learn more about them. The changes over the past fifty years can globally be categorized in a number of different types, which all influenced each other: Changes in the hardware for playing games.
These developments had a huge effect on what was possible in computer games and, hence, enabled the game designers to make different and more fascinating games. We went from devices with minimal computing power, memory, and graphics to the consoles of today with special 3D graphics cards, DVD disks to store game data, and Internet connectivity. Changes in interaction devices. Over the years the devices we use to control the games have also changed.
Early game consoles had special rotating knobs or simple joysticks and a few buttons. Nowadays game controllers have multiple joysticks, and lots of buttons. And in recent years this has been extended with devices that measure movement, like the Wii controllers of Nintendo or the Kinect system of Microsoft. Obviously these had a strong impact on the game play. Changes in the software tools available. Initially game developers wrote every line of code themselves (often in assembly language) and drew every pixel of the artwork. Nowadays extensive game engines and other middleware packages are available allowing for much more sophisticated games. And artist, animators, and level designers use advanced tools that help them to create complicated artwork efficiently. Changes in the game business. Game companies have considerably changed over the past fifty years. While initially games were developed primarily by individuals, nowadays there are huge teams of specialists working on a single game.
Development budgets have grown from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars per game. Also educational programs have appeared to train the professionals needed by the game industry. Changed in the demographics of the players. While initially games were primarily played by young males, this has considerably changed in recent years. The number of female players is 2 close to the number of male players, and the age of player’s ranges from 4 to 100. This has led to new genres of games. Diversification. Initially, computer games were primarily played on arcade machines. Over the years the variety of platforms increased considerably. Nowadays we play games on consoles, personal computers, handheld devices, telephones, TV set-top boxes, etc. Also the type of players has diversified, as has the ways people like to play (for example casual, online, or hardcore). All of these devices and ways of play come with their own business models and development budgets. Changes in the design of games. All these changes have in turn led to considerable changes in the design of games. Game designers used the new hardware and interaction devices to create new forms of immersive gameplay. They created games that attracted different demographics. And they started to better understand better what makes an interesting game.