7 Wonders of The Videogame World Print E-mail
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Written by Fareed "TurboGoat" Guyot   
Tuesday, 10 July 2007

[OpEd] 

7-7-2007 had significance for many people for many reasons.  For brides and grooms a marriage on this date was to bring karma to their new lives together.  Al Gore hoped this day would be a watershed moment for Mother Earth, imploring humans to reverse behavior that likely is causing the poles to shed ice.

For Swiss business man Bernard Weber, the day was the culmination of a quest to name the 7 NEW Wonders of the World.  Through online voting, 7 “modern” man-made wonders built before 2000 were named, although some keepers of the only remaining ancient wonder were a little miffed at the usurping election.

For me, Saturday was just a date on the calendar.  I spent half the day giving a flight lesson and the other half recovering from mild heat stroke (It has been hot, here, in the Midwest).  But maybe it was all that matrimonial karma, or my frustration with Taiwanese computer hardware that led me to think:  What are the 7 Video Game Wonders of the World?

CigDangle, who felt I needed Karma after helping me with a month long and almost unsolvable computer enigma, was only happy to change gears and help me determine 7 wonders that make gaming what it is today.

 Coin-Operated Video Games: Where do you go to play video games?  In the olden days we had to go to arcades or the convenience store to play.  Galaxy Game (1971) was the first coin-operated game with Computer Space (1971) a version of Spacewar! (An early video game from 1961) being the first coin-operated game meant for commercial use. Coin-operated video games showed entrepreneurs that money could be made through video game development.  These devices helped spawn the mammoth video game industry that exists today. 


 The Video Game Console: From the Magnavox Odyssey to the Nintendo Wii, there have been seven generations of game consoles which makes it fit nicely with the theme of this column.  The more concrete reason consoles are a wonder is because they brought gaming into the home.  Now one’s gaming pleasure was not necessarily limited by how many coins they carried with them that day.  Now a gamer could spend hours mastering a game, limited only by blisters and supplies of caffeine.  Of course, the console spawned the hollow, overused excuse of lazy kids everywhere, “But mom, I’m developing my hand-eye coordination!” 

 Portable System: The first portable systems were really not systems but handheld games.  Who can forget Merlin or one of the many “handhelds” from Mattel like Football, Baseball, and Flash Gordon?  Mattel even had a handheld that had piano keys called Bee Gees Rhythm Machine.  The tradition continues with Nintendo DS and PSP which moved on from moving dots and dashes to visual displays.

The current generation is a true portable system that allows the gamer to play multiple games on one device.  What a way to fight boredom on those long car trips, but with a portable system.  Parents nowadays probably have an easier time allowing portable consoles in the car since they come with headphones!  I’m sure the incessant beeping of the earlier handhelds, with their seldom used earplug jacks, caused one or two of those devices to be launched from a moving car by a parent who then directed his child to ‘look out the window at something!’ 

 The Optical Disc: Physical storage of data on hardware devices has come a long way however, the advent of optical disc storage allowed gaming to grow exponentially.  Games on early consoles were stored on the internal hardware or on cartridges containing expensive ROM chips.  While cartridges meant that a game could load instantly, the technology of the day and the cost of chips limited the size of the game that could be stored.

 In 1985, the CD-ROM was introduced which offered the greatly needed, vastly increased storage capacity.  This allowed the complexity of games to explode.  PC games were the first to benefit from the optical disc.  Now developers could not only offer better games but at a lower cost since the optical disc was easy and inexpensive to reproduce and distribute.  Every console maker save for Nintendo made the switch to optical based game storage and Nintendo’s intransigence left them flat-footed in the race for market share as the fifth generation of consoles hit the market. 

 Graphics Processing Unit: GPUs in their primitive form were used in the early 1980s in applications such as computer-aided drafting (CAD).  Through the 1980s, CPUs performed all the graphical functions required of a PC.  Of exception was the Commodore Amiga, the first mass-produced PC to offer a blitter, or GPU, in its video hardware.

The tasking of graphics rendering to a separate processor was key in increasing the complexity of the visual presentation and speed of gaming.  Graphics cards offered graphics acceleration first in 2D and now the industry standard 3D form.  To support today’s fast paced games many cards have onboard RAM and their own cooling fans allowing a GPU to operate at speeds that would make the Millennium Falcon blush. 

 Online/LAN Multiplayer Gaming: What is the purpose of a game with out a little competition?  According to Wikipedia, the first Multiplayer game was Spacewar! (1962). Competing against the game software gets old after a while as the dominant form of multiplayer gaming was limited to the one or two player option on a PC or console.  Playing against another computer and by extension a new opponent grew in popularity as computer networking matured.  LAN parties formed first at computer centers and then at private homes as PCs proliferated.  Doom and WarCraft were early popular LAN games that flourished online as well.  As the internet evolved to the point of being able to offer the data transfer speed that closed network LANs boasted; video gaming could now offer the player unlimited opponents.

This wonder is not without a major caveat that may threaten the very foundations of society.  Online gaming just gives many an excuse to never interact with anyone in-person.  They intentionally or not color their view of the world and human interactivity through the lens of fantasy competition that rarely exists in real life.  To reprise the Dead Ale Wives, “I am Galstaff, Sorcerer of Light!” 

 Motion Control: The Wii, in the US at least, is eight months old and people are still learning to adapt to a game controller that allows the player to fully immerse their whole physical being in the game.  Through the use of accelerometers and infrared light bars, the Wii Remote is the vanguard of the era of total gaming interactivity.  Now, instead of holding down button A and pressing the right-side of the control pad to throw a sinking slider down and away, one must make the pitching motion yourself.  

Of course we have all heard about how some people have gotten too immersed in the game and broken their TV when they let go of that “baseball”.  But the accomplishment is clear: Nintendo has perfected a controller that has changed the way we play video games; allowing us to basically do what we have always wanted to do…be in the game.

 Sony for it’s PlayStation 3 tried to play catch-up by offering the SIXAIXS controller which sensed rotational movement and acceleration to enhance the performance of the three-axis controller.  However development and legal issues have bogged down Sony’s motion control offering as it continues to be overshadowed by Nintendo.

To some the structural beauty of the Roman Colosseum brings thoughts of wonder, for others it would be a stand-up Space Invaders arcade game in the back corner of a biker bar.  In this world wonders never cease.  As I look at the Pyramid at Chichen Itza I swear I can see Q*bert hopping about its steps; being chased by angry Mayans.  Now that would be a wonderful game.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 12 October 2007 )

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