The development of video gaming came about from the exploration of electronic and computing technology and the demonstration of its use. The few early noncommercial games are Nimrod and ‘Tennis for Two’ which were played with the bulkier electronics of the time. While Tennis for Two was created using specific electronic configurations, Nimrod was programmed on an early computer. The development of early computing was what all0wed complex systems of rules to be implemented to play games. Only later were games being made to market to a public audience, the introduction of this was first started by the game Computer Space which was the brainchild of Nolan Bushnell. This was adapted from the earlier game Spacewar! built at MIT labs. The game Computer Space was sadly a commercial failure, this was attributed to the games complexity in a market at its infancy. The next iteration was Pong from the same manufacturer, which while simpler became a huge market success due to its playability. Though Computer Space was a commercial failure, its DNA lives on in other games such as Atari’s Asteroids, as referenced in Matt Barton’s article. The stimulation of interest gave video gaming a firm foothold in the entertainment market and spurred innovation for electronic systems of play A big hindrance to early commercial gaming was the ability to fit competent hardware into a commercial product. Often the games used were quite simple by todays standards. The Magnavox Odyssey was one of the first home game consoles and supported multiple games using program chips and surface mounted TV displays, a huge achievement for video gaming.
Early video games were largely limited to either a two dimensional play environment or a none dimensional abstract rendering of am more classic game. The example of Spacewar! had players navigate in two dimensional space, but also had a rap around environment that gave the illusion of navigating the surface of a sphere. Pong also hosted a two dimensional environment, except it was limited to the area of a box court. The early competitive games all required the interaction of two players. These earlier video games share the idea of dedicated hardware as with many modern console games, though for earlier video games this was due to current restraints on flexibility as apposed to an appreciation of optimizing game performance. Many games still today make use of two dimensional space concepts in order to organize play, this is largely due to the ease of which a player can comprehend the structure of a two dimensional movement as apposed to any hardware limitation. Modern games are by and large much more capable of handling demanding game play, this is due to advances in computer technology with system components becoming smaller and more efficient and with computational elements being abstracted so that game designers can be more focus on the actual game construction. This allows for games with three dimensional environments or games that have many operating objects like real time strategy and economic games. This is not to say that earlier games couldn’t be as engaging as modern games, when playing Spacewar! and Pong in class I became very engaged in developing techniques and strategies for playing the game and had a lot of fun watching the tournament play out.
Early games such as Spacewar! and Pong were cabinet based given the size of the hardware used. To this end they were coin operated and placed in public spaces in order to generate revenue for the owner. Arcade cabinets are no longer sold as widely today given the convenience of home consoles and computer games. There are special interest groups that still do play arcade games, but such practice is far and few in between. There are still console games around though with dedicated hardware such as the Play Station and the Xbox, the ancestors to these being the Magnavox Odyssey and early Atari systems. Consoles still keep the minds of gaming enthusiast because it separates the entertainment device from work and business devices. As game systems developed they stopped looking like dedicated electronic systems and started to look more like dedicated computer systems that could extend there range of games and play. Thus leading to the variety of video games we have today, that both learn from their predecessors and improve off them.
Why do people play games? People play games for a variety of reasons: to socialize, for experience challenge, or just out of curiosity and interest. Over all I think people like to play games because its fun and they enjoy it, they don’t participate in a game with the same attitude they may do a chore or engage in a financial overview meeting at work. The primary function of game is to entertain the player, but the way the player finds joy in a game can vary. A player might like to play with others, as a means of spending time with their friends or to make new friends over a nice round of Sorry or Scrabble. Board games or social video games engage and embody special forms of social interaction that can take place while fitting in the medium of the game. It may be that a player enjoys the challenge of a game, and really likes competitive aspects of it. Pitting ones wits and skill against another in a no stakes environment can be a good way for someone to express a competitive ethic. For myself, I find games to be interesting as systems of action. I like looking at and playing with creative and intricate games embodying varieties of action that can be engaged in by the player.
My favorite non-video game growing up was probably Uno. For me it was a classic way to spend time with friends in high school, with my family and siblings, or just anyone for that matter. It was right at my level as far as fun and engagement was concerned. At the time I found the game to be fairly engaging and to be a safe form of group interaction. Pretty much everyone new how to play it so there was rarely a barrier to join and there where often house rules that certain groups would employ for their own purposes. Another game that I hold dear is Monopoly, simply because of the many rainy nights I would have played it with my siblings and family.
I believe the elements of an entertaining non-video game are challenge and amusement. A game needs to add challenge in ways that actively engage players to participate in the game, if a game lacks a certain degree of difficulty then a player might lose interest. On the other hand if a game is too difficult to understand then a player would be less incline to play it due to the comprehension barrier or degree of effort to play a game. Another important factor is amusement, as far as a game is able to amuse a player. I separate amusement from challenge because while challenge emphasizes overcoming, amusement emphasizes surprise and self generating novelty. When playing Settlers of Catan in class, I was surprised and delighted to find that despite my best laid plans and careful development I was overcome by the person who had refused to use their reserves until the very end. A game that is amusing is capable of surprising the player in unexpected ways, this can help prevent a game from just becoming a purely mechanical exercise if elements of chance and variance are introduced. Amusement can take the form of the unexpected consequences of a game mechanic and the unexpected consequences of a players decision or action. Though, a game that is all amusement and little challenge can also be disinteresting, because such would hardly be a game if there was no working objective for the players.
All games have some sort of aspect of play that ultimately makes then similar in one way or another. Board games and video games can be very similar in terms of playstyle and mechanics. A commonality between board games and video games is their compactness and clear visual components. The main difference between video games and board games is the range of activity and the mediums they work through. The board game necessitates the immediate presence of the players in most examples, making intimate social interaction a necessary element. In video games, the players can be in each others presence but not necessarily, as online video gaming becomes more ubiquitous. A board game usually works within the confines of its physical pieces and the sets that can fit on a coffee table; the games content is generated through the cooperation of the players and their adherence to the games rules. In a video game the content can be generated virtually in any number of different ways, in which the relevant game itself manages player interaction and enforcement of game rules. As we see from Alex Herns article, the difference between a board game and a video game isn’t always so cut and dry, with games borrowing and utilizing any concept that can be synthesized. Board games and video games are only superior and inferior as far as they satisfy what someone looks for in a game. Board games are superior in promoting intimate social interaction and developing management and self regulation skills, while also being heavily limited by their medium. A video can take on many playstyles even to the extent of simulating board games, but can have issues in terms of being isolating.