It’s no secret that video games have come a long, long way since Pong first broke into arcades in 1972. Back then, monochrome titles like Space Invaders and Asteroids were played in massive upright machines full of coins, a young company called Atari still made video game consoles like the Atari 2600, and the visual special effects of blockbuster Star Wars were still wowing audiences. Nobody expected to be in such accurate control of graphics and visual effects far greater than the works of George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg a mere 40 years later – but a journey through several generations of gaming speaks volumes.
That’s why we at Liberty Games decided to do just that. We took our top 20 favourite gaming franchises, from across all platforms – from the lesser-known MSX2, to the multimedia powerhouses of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4* – and looked at just how far video gaming has come since its humble beginnings. See for yourself!
We’ve seen the pioneering of brand new genres in The Legend of Zelda and Grand Theft Auto. We’ve experienced startling realism from Gran Turismo and International Superstar Soccer. Franchises have completely changed tack and blown the industry wide open in the case of World of Warcraft. We’ve even witnessed the taboos of virtual violence take over politics, the mainstream media and the conversations of ordinary people thanks to the likes of Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat.
Throughout all of this, gamers have grown up, new gamers have been born, and games have evolved into the incredible multimedia leviathan we see today. Valve Corporation’s Steam now distributes games to over 125 million users worldwide. World of Warcraft is played by 7.1 million players. Revenue in the video gaming industry now outstrips film box office sales by nearly 150%. Over 45% of gamers are women. It’s been decades now since video gaming was considered a “waste of time” pastime for geeky teenagers in a 1980s arcade, or battle-hardened FPS recluses in 1990s basements. Today, video gaming is considered by many a spectator sport on par with national athletic competitions, with professional gamers like Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel paving the way for a great multitude of other gamers to transform their passion into a profession – such as the inimitable Jerry “Tycho” Holkins and Mike “Gabe” Krahulik of Penny Arcade, hilariously dry-humoured comic writer and video game journalist Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, “Let’s Play” content creator PewDiePie, and officially Capcom-endorsed Teacher, Rapper, Hero Mega Ran.
The graphics are killer, the storylines are epic, the orchestral music scores are atmospheric and even some of the actors are Shakespearean. The budgets may have gotten bigger and the market more lucrative, but two things are certain – gameplay is still king, and video games can only get bigger.
From 1972 to 2015, and into the future: long live gamers, and long live video games.
*We know that the PC is often far more powerful and far more intuitive – especially with Steam – but let the console fans have this one. Bless ‘em.