How Old Are Your Favorite Video Game Genres ?

by riky 25. January 2018 10:15

"More Arcade Games" (CC BY 2.0) by Sam Howzit

If you are just about old enough to buy a pint of beer or a lottery ticket, the chances are you’ll have no idea about the weird and wonderful history of some of your favorite video game genres. Video gaming has certainly come a long way since the early 1970s when arcades were alive with the sound of Pong and Computer Space.

Today, the video gaming industry in the United States alone was valued at an eye-watering $18.4 billion, with consumer spending on video gaming reaching more than $30 billion in 2016 and rising. But yes, there was a time when three-dimensional graphics and high-definition quality audio was simply a myth! If you’ve always wondered about the humble beginnings of your favorite video game genres, read on to discover how these small acorns grew into rock-solid oaks.

Football management sims

The perfect marriage between computer games and football fanatics, football management sims have given supporters the ability to take charge of their favorite team or country and lead them to glory by doing things their way. Football management sims have evolved from football video games where players take control of the footballers themselves and get involved in the action on the pitch. These games have been modelled on professional footballers for some time now, with the glitz and glamor of the Premier League - formed in 1992 - being one of the main reasons for the seamless transition from real-life football to digital action. The very first football management sim arrived in 1982 on the Spectrum 48k, called Football Manager. It was written in BASIC language by programmer Kevin Toms.

As time elapsed, it was then a battle for supremacy between Premier Manager and Championship Manager. The former prided itself on its graphics to demonstrate highlights of each game, while the latter was more stats-based, playing into the hands of hardcore football fans. It was Championship Manager that eventually became the global phenomenon, evolving into what tens of thousands of people play today, Football Manager. It’s so life-like that some professional football clubs use their player databases for scouting.

Open-ended city-building games

For the last 50 years, video games have featured city building and management in some shape or form. Computer programmer Doug Dyment was the brains behind the first city-building game called The Summer Game in 1968. It wasn’t until the late 1980s when the true concept of open-world city-building games would come to fruition, thanks to the innovation of Will Wright. After failing to secure a publisher deal for his idea, he eventually self-published SimCity in 1989 for the Mac and Amiga, followed by Super Nintendo two years later.

SimCity was everything you’d hope for in a city-building game: the chance to "play god" and develop whole new urban environments from large empty landscapes; all whilst balancing the city’s budgets and citizen happiness. There are no real end goals as such with SimCity, but to this very day it still remains a great way of understanding the urban environments we live in around the world. The continued success of SimCity saw a number of spin-off Sim games, notably The Sims which gives players complete control over the lives of virtual humans and remains one of the best-selling video games of all time.

Beat ’em up games

Undoubtedly the most popular arcade game of the late 1980s, beat 'em up video games were all-conquering titles that pandered brilliantly to the needs of pick-up-and-play, casual gamers. The success of Super Mario Bros. in 1983 saw many video game designers try to use this winning formula to create new ways of combating with enemies rather than simply jumping on their heads Mario style!

"Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix 8" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by gamerscoreblog

It wasn’t until 1986 when the first beat 'em up title was released. Renegade is widely considered to be the beginning of this genre, where players fought against a vicious gang of hoodlums to keep the inner-city streets safe. Its sequel, Double Dragon, did not quite scale the same heights but, as the 1990s loomed large, Capcom’s Final Fight series led perfectly into the Street Fighter franchise, which would be huge on the Super Nintendo. On the Sega Genesis, Streets of Rage reigned supreme, with its trilogy of video games helping to rid an inner city of a mafia mob, much like the storyline of Renegade. In the post-millennium gaming era, there has been a clutch of "hack and slash" titles such as Devil May Cry, God of War and Heavenly Sword. Meanwhile the award-winning Grand Theft Auto series has also featured elements of the beat 'em up style.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are one of the newest genres on the video gaming block. They – quite obviously – didn’t arrive until the internet boom, when internet usage became more affordable, allowing gamers to play graphical MMORPGs with other registered players in real time. Ultima Online was the first true MMORPG best-seller, inspired by the likes of Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft which were the original single-player role-playing games (RPGs) to hit our computer screens. Nevertheless, all of the above titles wouldn't have seen the light of day had it not been for the global success of table-top role-playing board games such as Dungeons and Dragons which developed a cult following in the late 1970s but is experiencing something of a revival in the post-Millennium era.

World of Warcraft remains the most successful MMORPG to date, with over 10 million gamers registered and paying subscriptions to obtain enhancements to their gameplay. It is said that the cost of developing a commercial MMORPG can quickly escalate into the millions, but when you consider the rolling monthly subscriptions for a game such as World of Warcraft, it can quickly pay for itself.

Pinball games

Pinball machines were around in the amusement arcades long before the Beat 'em up genre arrived. Derived in the 19th century in France, the Bagatelle table was originally a hybrid of a billiard table, with players using cues to hit balls into pockets or slots surrounded by nails and pins. The first coin-operated pinball machine, called Whiffle Board, was produced in the early 1930s, followed by a similar game called Ballyhoo. It wasn't until 1936 when this type of tabletop game was eventually called pinball. Digital technologies have helped advance pinball over time, with the first digital scoring pinball machine going into use in 1966. Almost a decade later, the first solid-state electronic pinball machine was in operation, called Spirit of 76, and before the turn of the millennium, the first pinball machines with electronic video screens were developed. Today, although physical pinball machines still exist, many have been confined to the history books in favor of their software-based counterparts.

Slot games

The first physical slot machine was developed in the late 19th century by a man named Charles Fey in San Francisco, US, named the Liberty Bell. Players pulled a lever by the side of the machine to set the three spinning reels in motion. If the reels lined up all three Liberty Bells in a single spin, the player would scoop a 50 cents jackpot. The one-armed bandit style of slot machines was eventually replaced by electromechanical slot machines and then true electrical slots powered by microprocessors on TV screens. Manufactured by Kearny Mesa California, the first video slot game featured a 19-inch television as the display and was soon made available for play at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. Towards the back end of the 20th century, video slots went one stop further by introducing an additional bonus round, triggering the ability for players to scoop further bonus winnings risk-free. The internet boom certainly had a major impact on the casino industry, with the first online casino coming to fruition in 1994, developed by Microgaming. Today, the adoption of state-of-the-art 3D visuals and high-definition audio has seen video slots evolve into immersive experiences. They feature engaging storylines, interactive bonus rounds and various themes such as Microgaming's Jurassic World or Halloween. In fact, there are almost 5,000 online slot machines in existence, which can be daunting for new players. In order to make the choice easier, many of these are available to play for free with no download necessary, even though there isn’t any actual money on it.

Racing games

One of the longest-standing video game genres in the pack is the motor-racing genre. It’s got a long and illustrious history, with the first game, Gran Trak 10, designed for use on coin-operated arcade machines. It wasn’t until Namco’s Pole Position in 1982 that we started to see Formula 1 racing cars and color screens. Players negotiated their way around the circuits using side-to-side and forward motion on the keyboard and many video game historians consider that game to have laid the foundations for what arrived in the 1990s and 2000s. 1997 saw Sony launch Gran Turismo, which was labelled "The Real Driving Simulator". With an impressive focus on vehicle realism – both in terms of aesthetics and how each vehicle drove and could be tuned up – it was way ahead of its time. Xbox’s Forza Motorsport is the most celebrated racing game on any Microsoft console, while it’s almost impossible not to mention Super Mario Kart, which is still delighting fans around the world today with its light-hearted, pick-up-and-play style of racing offering fun for all the family.

Hopefully that’s given you a tiny insight into the evolution of your favorite video game genres. Next time you complain about the graphics or functionality of your latest purchase, just think yourself lucky to be gaming in a technological era where literally anything is possible!

Half-Life

by Writer 23. January 2018 09:33

Half-Life, the science fiction first person shooter game, was developed by Valve of Sierra Studios, and was released in 1998. As Valve’s first product, Half-Life performed exceedingly well, and while released toward the end of the 1990’s, it is still considered one of the best games of the Pre-2000s. Half-life differentiated itself from other games by the inclusion of all cutscenes, which gave players complete control of the main character, Dr. Gordon Freeman, for the entirety of the game.

Half-Life was incredibly well received by gamers and critics alike. The game received over 50 game of the year awards from various groups, and received a score of 96 out of 100 by respected reviewer Metacritic, one of the highest scores of all time. Half-Life sold almost $10 million dollars worth of games in its first year, and remained in the the charts for the next five years. In May 2007, GameSpot inducted Half-Life into their greatest old PC games of all-time list, and in 2004, GameSpy held a survey in which readers voted on what they thought was the greatest game of all time and Half-Life was the overall winner.

The Gameplay Experience

Gamers play as Dr. Gordon Freeman, a scientist who opens a portal to an alternate dimension after an experiment goes wrong. The lab is destroyed, and after talking to the survivors, the player learns that communications with the outside world have been cut, and that they must try getting to the surface and out of the lab. Players must then fight their way through the research facility, facing monsters from the opened portal, called the Xen, as well as marines which are sent to cover up the event.

Dr. Gordon learns that another science facility has a way of closing the portal, so the player must make their way through monster and marine infested areas until they reach the facility. On the way, Gordon faces great challenges, and the game truly tests the player. Eventually, the player makes their way into the Xen, and must battle multiple boss-type enemies in the quest to eventually close the portal.

Mods and Expansions

One of the reasons Half-Life became so popular was the ability for third party developers to expand the gameplay through independent modifications. Half-Life’s developers included level design tools in the old PC games software, and they also released a software development kit with the game. This gave way to almost endless possibilities for the game, and allowed Half-Life fans to create the game they wanted in addition to the already successful storyline.

In addition to modifications, Half-Life has served as the cornerstone for many different expansions. Half-Life expansions were not released by the original developer but rather by independent developers who were inspired by the game. These expansions have all shared success with Half-Life, and have received critical acclaim as well. Many modern developers credit Half-Life as being the inspiration for their own creations, the most popular among these being the Counter-Strike franchise.

Half-Life is not only one of the best PC games of the 1990s, but it is one of the best games of all time. It is the inspiration for many different modern games, and led to a very successful franchise. Players still enjoy Half-Life, and there could be more to come from the franchise in the future.

How Sport Has Influenced Gaming

by riky 23. January 2018 08:01

For many people sport and gaming goes hand in hand. A lot of people who play sports will also play sporty video games too. There have also been suggestions in the past that people who play video games, even ones based on sport, are overweight and unfit because they spend their time playing games. However, the reality is that sport has influenced gaming, and it is this gaming which also influences the person to play sports too. So that it is no wonder that games with a sport theme have continued to grow in popularity over the years.

Sport has influenced gaming for a number of years in its various different forms. Board games were once hugely popular and there were plenty of different sports based ones that hit the market, with a lot being focused on football. Video games are where it’s at though, especially when it comes to gaming; and these are the types of games where sport has played the biggest role in being the inspiration behind them.

There have been video games based on probably every kind of sport imaginable. A great example is the FIFA franchise. Football, or soccer as it’s known in other areas of the world, is one of the most popular sports around. People of all ages love playing it and it comes as no surprise that the FIFA video game series that has been running now for around 25 years is the most popular sports based video game on the planet. It’s also been a major factor in getting people back out playing football, as well as being a pioneer in eSports too.

Sports titles are always some of the most eagerly anticipated year after year and this shows just how popular sport is in general with people. We’ve seen games based on plenty of other sports too which include the likes of rugby, American football, basketball, cricket, tennis, athletics and many more.

For many watching sports or sporting events live, or even playing them with friends just isn’t enough; they want more and sports based video games give them that option. They could also go some way in developing one’s knowledge and skill in regard to a particular sport. The Football Manager series is a great example of this.

What has also started to become increasingly popular over time, is the inclusion of slot games at trusted online casino brands such as Unibet that also have a sporting influence too. Slot developers are always on the lookout for ways to engage gamers better and what better way is there than through sport. Slot games such as Football Star and Cricket Star are already proving popular with players who just love anything to do with sport.

While sports influence on video games for example, has been great and will continue to be so; the fact that video games based on various sports also influences people to go out and take part in these activities too, is just as good. It’s a win win situation for both the sporting and the gaming industries that have become so integral in modern day life.