Its all about you.

After reading some of the articles on 'New Games Journalism' ( A phrase coined by Kieron Gillen in his 'NGJ manifesto'.) I have to say I wasn't really getting it...I couldn't see the problem. Let's say I've just been paid and after paying rent and astronomical energy bills, I have £50 left over. Now this £50 has a lot of value to me and I want to spend it in what I consider a worthwhile way, buying games. Where do I turn to help me make my decision? Well amongst others, the gaming press. I hope to gain from them a detailed view of what the games like and whether or not I might like it, and indeed should buy it. Then in a mild moment of realization I thought what an impossible task that was. So I re-read the NGJ manifesto and started to understand. Whilst an objective ranking system might help separate game A from game B, what does it actually tell us? Game A got 10/10 for game play whilst Game B only got 5/10. So is A's game play twice a fast as B's? Or twice as big? The trouble is its trying to rank abstract concepts such as fun and enjoyment. Whats fun for one person might be sheer hell for another. This is true for all forms of art and entertainment I guess. One man's Jackson Pollock is another mans spillage. A much more sensible approach, as suggested in the NGJ manifesto, would be to write about games in a very personal way. Explaining how they made you feel, what you gain from the experience. Then let the audience decide if they'd maybe like to experience similar things.

All this being said, I have been known to spend aforementioned £50 based on the pretty picture on the case.......

Developing pressure

The 21st century has seen an enormous amount of development within the entertainment industry. Games have played a leading role in this.

Within the last decade game releases have been rivaling movies in terms of revenue, games such as Halo selling tens of millions of copies. The movie industry has not been unaware of this success and many popular games have been turned into full blow motion pictures. An odd twist on the usual movie based game, cash-in bonanza. (“you've watched the film! Now play the game!”).

However, with this new found success come a new host of problems. Many games developers are now owned by big multinational corporations who demand quick returns for their substantial investments. According to BBC News, the average PS3 game costs nearly $15 million to make -- and that's before any marketing. Not only does this ensure our store shelves will be stocked with sequel after buyer-recognizable sequel, but it's also bad for developers, who could go belly up after one unsuccessful title. As time goes on and the technology and consoles get more advanced,gamers are increasingly going too expect more from their games, so costs are only set to rise.

All this pressure will surely have a negative effect for gamers. Developers will be less willing to experiment and risk huge sums of money on ideas that might not pan out. Resulting in less choice and the worrying possibility of a reverse of the video game crash of 1983 which was caused by there being too many games on the market.

So all in all the future of the games industry relies on finding a delicate balance between creative freedom and financial risk. I for one sincerely hope that balance is found.

Acceptable in the eighties?

John Lennon is assassinated, the Falklands war erupts and the Berlin wall comes down.....the 80's were turbulent times, and the fledgling games industry was no exception. 
Throughout the decade publishing house's rose and fell and consoles came and went. Some of these failings were more self inflicted than others. These include the production of poorly conceived games such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600. Companies were producing cynical money grabbing cash ins of popular films, with little thought put into the actual game itself. As a result, so many E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial cartridges were left unsold that Atari buried thousands of cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico. In another somewhat hilarious cock up it was discovered that more Pac-Man cartridges were manufactured than there were systems made. However for all the mistakes there were also successes. It was during this time that Electronic Arts first formed and has since never really gone away. 
The Commodore 64, Apple II and the Atari 800 were all big players in the early part of the decade. The made use of vector graphics and could produce 3D-ish games, the first being Battlezone. Dungeons of Daggorath saw the first uses of health monitors, sophisticated sound effects and various weapons and monsters. 1
985 welcomed the release of Nintendo's Famicom (or NES to those who aren't Japanese.) It introduced The game pad, an 8 direction Directional-pad (or D-pad for short) with 2 or more action buttons. It also introduced the world to a fat little plumber named Mario, a heroic elf named link and an ironically titled series' Final Fantasy'.The NES dominated the North American and the Japanese market until the rise of the next generation of consoles in the early 1990s.
Towards the end of the eighties dial up Internet had become more widely available. Which allowed the more adventurous gamer a chance to go 'online'.This allowed different users to interact with each other for the first time. Fantasy role playing games known as 'MUD's or multi-user-dungeons became popular, these would eventually evolve into what we now call MMORPG's. 

Not just UFO's and Hemp...

OK so its 1952 your studding at Cambridge and you need something to write your PhD on. With it being the 50's, you and every everyone else is sure that in ten years time you'll all be jetting round in flying cars and taking holidays to the moon. You decide to do you PhD on something called Human-Computer interaction and use a EDSAC vacuum-tube computer to programme the first graphical computer game - a version of Tic-Tac-Toe. Mr A.S. Douglas if only you knew what you had started, if only you knew.

By 1958 a Mr William Higinbotham had created 'tennis for two'! The game was displayed on an oscilloscope, featuring a basic, 2D tennis court. It did however have to be played on a Brookhaven National Laboratory oscilloscope, not exactly 'mass market'. Not yet.

So its now the 60's and it appears not everyone is sitting in fields listening to music, doing drugs and fornicating. Well at least Steve Russell isn't, nope he's doing something far more 'entertaining'.....

In 1962 he created the excitingly titled SpaceWar! He used a rather large MTI PDP-1 mainframe computer to design his game. A game that featured simplistic controls and a more modern set of gaming goals. Many would later credit it as the first true computer game, so congratulations Steve.

It would take until 1967 for games to make the leap away from colossal main frames and onto television sets. A military electrician of all people, called Ralph Baer, created the first home based entertainment game called “Chase”. He later went on to develop the first games console call the Odyssey. 

As the 60's ended and the 70's began a few familiar names arrived on the video game scene. 1972 saw the creation of Atari Computers, which went on to release arcade classics, Pong and Space Invaders. This marked the beginning of the mass appeal of games, games that were designed from the outset to be fun. I'd like to speculate this shift of focus towards 'fun' might in some small part, be due to Nolan Bushnell's (co founder of Atari) previous work in the entertainment industry as well as his high-school job in an amusement park.

There we are, two decades of experimentation, development, success and failure condensed in (roughly) 300 words. Must of it should be fairly accurate, although probably not all that interesting.

First and foremost.

Ok, so this is blog entry number one. My very first blog ever entry in fact and I have to say its abit daunting. I’m not entirely sure how to write for it, let alone what too write. I’ve never had the urge to start a blog before. They seemed to me to be a place for self indulgent star trek fans to argue over who was the best captain. Or frustrated middle management types to whine about their lives and rehash old Dilbert strips They never really seem to offer anything us full or interesting, but the internet has given everyone a voice so I guess its up to them how they use it. I'm also aware of the hypocracy in that statement, as I'm about to do more or less the very same thing (minus the star trek debate). Oh well.

Its odd I feel like I’m writing a speech that’s going to be broadcast, which I suppose isn’t too far from the truth. That is if anyone actually reads it I suppose.

I'd like this blog to be in some way entertaining for the reader, but I'm not sure how to go about this. I guess the best way is to keep at it and see how it goes. I'd like to say I'm going to update weekly but know me that will be hard to maintain, as I tend to find slightly more frivolous things to do...

I have just spent an absurd amount of time looking through Dilbert archives.........