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In the video game industry, success is highly reliant on innovation. This is especially true when it comes to hardware. For games, there are plenty of successful sequels that do nothing new. However, when making a new console or other piece of hardware, if it is to be successful, it needs to bring something new to the table.
There have been some incredible innovations in the world of video games over the years. Video games are a relatively new medium, and to think how far they have come in such a short time is actually quite staggering. After all, it was not that long ago that the only way to play a decent video game was to venture out to an arcade.
I feel like some of the biggest video game innovations are taken for granted. We boot up our console and do not really think twice about the years of research that went into making it. With that said, I would like to honor some of my favorite innovations in video game hardware.
The Home Console
This one is a no brainer. None of the evolution in video games would be possible if not for the invention of the home console. Of course, there would always be PC gaming, but the fact is, PC gaming always remained a niche activity. Home consoles brought video games to the masses. It is hard to imagine a world where we do not have an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 ready when we want them.
The first home console does not get the credit it deserves. In fact, I would venture to guess that most people have never even heard of it. The Magnavox Odyssey broke on the scene three full years before Atari’s Pong. Therefore, Magnavox Odyssey, I thank you for getting the ball rolling on the consoles we all know and love.
Online gaming is responsible for giving a video game an infinite lifespan. Before you could play online, only so much fun could come from a game, before you managed to accomplish everything. With online play, you can literally play the same game for years, and have it be new and exciting every time.
Online play has also made games a social experience. No more do children need to be told go to out and see their friends. Now, they can communicate with their friends while playing their favorite video games. Unreal Tournament, Halo, Counter Strike, Call of Duty and so many other games would be nothing special if not for the ability to play online.
For their time, a D-pad was just fine. However, as games moved into 3D spaces, they just did not offer the range of motion and precision that gamers needed. Thankfully, the analog stick was invented to rectify the situation. No longer were gamers restricted by D-pads. We could move freely in any direction. When I purchased an analog stick controller for my PlayStation, I remember feeling liberated.
The analog stick is one of those innovations we take for granted. Could you imagine trying to play Halo or Call of Duty with a D-pad? I cannot, and quite frankly, I do not want to. Next time you pick up your Xbox or PlayStation controller, take a moment to thank your analog sticks for all the precision they provide you.
Do you remember when you went somewhere and had to stand in line with nothing to keep you entertained? Do you remember hopping on an airplane without a video game to pass the time? Unbelievably, there was actually a time when video games were not portable. Thankfully, those days are long behind us, and we all have smartphones and portable gaming devices to keep us happy.
Technically, the first portable video game was Mattel’s Auto Race, but Nintendo brought handheld gaming to prominence with the release of the Game Boy. Unlike the Mattel games, this console allowed you to play multiple games on one device. Since then, Portable systems have evolved and morphed into something truly amazing. You have Nintendo’s glasses-free 3D, Sony’s ultra powerful Vita and mobile phones capable of playing games that are just as good as a full gaming system. They certainly have come a long way, and it is all thanks to those first innovations.
It is sad how many awesome inventions we take for granted. Every day we play a game on our cell phone, shoot some people in Call of Duty or turn on a console and we do not even think twice about it. Without these video game innovations, video games would not be anywhere near the level they are today.
What are your favorite innovations in video games? Let us know in the comments!