Technology and The Gaming Connection
Within the last century, the power and ease of access of modern technology has grown exponentially. Over this time period, technology in all industries has become less expensive, more efficient, and widely produced. Thanks to this, the computing power of an average smartphone packs more power than a whole server room from a few decades ago. This has far reaching benefits and has impacted all areas of life.
Gaming has gone hand-in-hand with technological growth over the years, as gaming helps to push technology and vice versa. Gaming has evolved from simple mechanical toys to high-definition, virtual reality experiences. The first gaming device, an electromechanical device called Nimatron, was invented by nuclear physicist Edward Condon in 1940 for the New York World’s Fair. It was played by over 100,000 people, with the winner being presented a stamped token inscribed with ‘Nim Champ’.
While the Nimatron sparked an interest in gaming for many of those at the fair, gaming didn’t make its way into the consumer’s home until the early 1970s. Advances in technology made this happen.
There were challenges in the beginning because the technology of the era was limited, cumbersome, and expensive. The Nimatron was more of a carnival novelty game, which was too large and expensive to easily recreate. It would take about 30 years from gaming technology to develop into something practical for the average consumer.
Ralph Baer and his team developed the first home game system -- dubbed ‘Brown Box’ -- and released the prototype in 1967. The device used a vacuum tube circuit which was connected to a television. The game allowed users to control a cube and chase each other on the screen. It could be programmed to play other games including four sports games, checkers, and ping pong. Additional accessories such as an attachment for a golf putting game or a light gun for a shooting game were included, and were rather advanced for the time period.
Magnavox bought the licensing rights for Brown Box and released its gaming system, the Magnavox Odyssey, in 1972. This release came a few months before the legendary gaming company Atari burst onto the scene. Since then, gaming companies and systems have constantly sought the best technology for the most advanced features.
Since crossing into the mainstream in the early 1970’s, gaming has seen amazing technological advances that guarantee the future of gaming is even brighter. Some of this tech is new, and what’s older is being constantly improved. Here are a few examples.
Colorful, High Definition Graphics
We’ve come a long way visually from the days of basic 8-bit graphics and dimly lit projectors. Cutting edge technology allows games to produce stunning visual experiences. Many games are fully rendered inside of photo-realistic worlds, supported by high definition and even 4k resolution. This technology has become increasingly affordable, making anything less seem substandard. The high image quality improves the user experience and makes you feel like you are inside the game.
The beginning of gaming was limited to the machine in front of you. Games were single player, usually having a board for each user to record their high score. Attempts to share information between gaming systems using telephones was an early attempt at what now would be considered multi-player gaming. For example, Atari unveiled a modem transfer technology that allowed users to download games and software directly to their consoles. At the time, the device didn’t really catch on, failing to gain the attention of leading game makers in the market.
Modern internet capabilities have improved exponentially in the time between Atari’s first attempt at online gaming and now. The birth of MMO gaming (massively multiplayer online) saw thousands of users now able to interact and play, trade, and compete with others. This coincided with the boom of console gaming system that included such systems as the Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube. Improved technology allowed gamers to connect with others, in large groups, instantly and from anywhere in the world.
With smartphones and their respective app stores, the gaming experience has left the living room and now goes with you in your pocket. Gaming has been brought into the mainstream unlike any time before, and mobile technology has changed the way many people see and play games. Social media and web forums have formed, building communities around fans of individual games, gaming systems, and another gaming tech. Mobile games come in all types, like single player puzzle games, word and board games to share with friends, or even online games with a huge number of players.
One of the newest and fastest growing areas of gaming involves virtual reality technology. Virtual reality uses a headset to immerse the user in a visual world. This would allow one to move around this space, interacting with the environment and other users, and providing literally a whole world at their fingertips. Oculus, the leading virtual reality company, was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Oculus’ headset has worked well closely the video game industry and continues to improve. Combined with ever-improving voice recognition software, virtual reality may soon take on a whole new meaning.
If these advancements have taught us anything, it’s that gaming might look vastly different in 2027 than 2017. As the technology available has evolved, trends have come and gone, all adding something memorable. We can be sure the next technological gaming advancement will do the same.