Humans have enjoyed games for thousands of years, from the very first board games played millenniums ago to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 console games played around the world today. The nature of gaming is constantly evolving and is now changing faster than ever before due to new technological advances.
Let’s take a closer look at the evolution of games and how technology has affected this.
Board games are the earliest type of games and have been around for thousands of years. One of the oldest on record is the ancient Egyptian game called Senet, which has origins dating back to 3100 BC and is so old that no one knows for sure how it was played. While this game has fallen out of use, some of the other oldest board games are still popular today, such as backgammon, draughts and the Chinese game, Go.
The earliest predecessors of chess can be traced all the way back to the 7th century, but the modern rules came into place in the 1800s. Chess remains the world’s most popular board game and is played by millions around the world. The World Chess Championship takes place every two years and the 2018 edition had a €1 million prize fund, so it’s big business.
As the centuries progressed, board games have transformed into the popular themed titles we have today like Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble. While older board games mostly focus on the tactical elements, these games are more family-friendly and are generally played just for fun.
Card and Casino Games
Card games have played a huge role in the evolution of gaming and are as popular today as they have been for hundreds of years. The very first playing cards appeared all the way back in the 9th century in ancient China, though they didn’t make their way to Europe until the late 1300s. While many variants featuring different designs were used over the years, playing cards as we know them today—diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades—were introduced in France in the 15th century and went on to shape the development of modern card games.
Today’s most popular card games—poker, blackjack and baccarat—all evolved gradually over several hundred years into the games we know today. While these games are often played just for fun, they’re best-known as casino games. The two other most popular casino games, roulette and slots, were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively and are also played by millions of people today in the booming casino industry.
While these games are still played at land-based casinos, recent technological advances have transformed the way people enjoy them. The first online casino was launched in 1994 and now fans can enjoy many variations of online slots, roulette and blackjack games, either as animated random-number-generator versions or as live dealer games broadcast through live streams.
Playing video games on games consoles is by far one of the most popular and recognisable forms of gaming in the world today. The very earliest example of a gaming machine dates back to 1940, when a scientist unveiled a computer that played the maths game Nim. However, video gaming didn’t really take off until the 1970s, when arcade games were introduced and gained popularity. Home gaming then achieved mainstream success when Atari launched the Atari 2600 console in 1977.
Since then, the video gaming industry has undergone rapid growth. Nintendo launched the first Game Boy in 1989 and would go on to dominate the handheld market. Nintendo still reigns supreme today, having introduced online and 3D gaming in the 2000s and 2010s. The Nintendo Switch, a hybrid console that can be used as both a stationary and portable device, is the latest instalment.
When it comes to home gaming, Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox are by far today’s most recognisable range of consoles, the first of which were launched in 1994 and 2001 respectively. The technological superiority, choice of popular games and ever improving graphics led to these consoles dominating the market.
Another huge step was the introduction of online gaming. The Xbox Live and PlayStation Network online platforms dramatically changed the face of video games by transforming the way people saw gaming. Whereas campaign modes had thus far been the dominant form of gaming, the online platforms let players face off against other players from across the globe at any time in multiplayer game modes. These platforms also let players buy games online and chat with each other through online chat systems and headsets. The online platform of many major games now takes precedence over the offline game modes.
PC and Mobile Gaming
PC gaming is also hugely popular and has been since the 80s. While many popular games are available both for PC and games consoles, PC gaming has become particularly popular with fans of strategy games like League of Legends and massively multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft, which offer a different gaming experience to what you get with consoles. Many PCs designed specifically for gaming are now worth thousands of pounds.
Even mobile phone gaming has grown into a significant industry in its own right thanks to the rise of the iPhone and other smartphone models. In fact, mobile gaming is now the biggest category in the gaming sector, and accounts for nearly 50% of global gaming revenue according to Newzoo. This equates to just under $135 billion, and the industry is set to continue growing. Like with PCs, gaming suitability is now a major factor for many smartphone buyers.
The huge mainstream success of video gaming has given rise to esports, in which video games—mostly for PC—are played like in competitive, professional settings. Titles like Overwatch, Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive have become huge esports due to the emphasis these games place on strategy, tactics and teamwork. The esports has seen massive growth in recent years, with tournaments like the Intel Extreme Masters and the Dota 2 International attracting millions of spectators and offering huge sums in prize money.
Virtual reality (VR) is the next step in the evolution of games. That’s not to say that it’s a new concept, though. In 1962, a cinematographer named Morton Heigg patented a machine called the Sensorama, which was designed to stimulate all the senses, rather than just sight and sound, and is considered to be one of the earliest VR systems.
VR technology has come a long way since then. Sega released a VR headset for arcade games in 1991, which was the starting point for the VR gaming we see today. Fast forward to 2010 and we have the first prototype of the Oculus Rift, which was subsequently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion. This was the first of three next generation VR headsets released in 2016, followed by the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. These headsets offered players a new way of gaming, by opening up an immersive 3D space in which players could interact with the gaming environment. The headsets and accompanying controllers feature motion tracking technology, meaning players’ movements are replicated in the virtual gaming space.
This is only the beginning of VR gaming. The Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest headsets were released on 21 May 2019, while HTC announced the Vive Cosmos in January. With other major companies like Google and Microsoft working on VR products, we’re sure to see more and more innovations in the near future.
So there we have it – the evolution of games. While technology may reign supreme today, traditional classics like Chess are still going strong. If one thing is for sure, it’s that the gaming industry will only continue to grow, with global games market revenue expected to top $180 billion by 2021. When the first Atari launched in the 70s, people wouldn’t have even been able to imagine the gaming possibilities available today, and with the next iteration of PlayStation and Xbox consoles currently in the works, gaming will continue to evolve over the coming years.
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