A black screen, a few white lines and a score. That’s all it took for Pong to take the world by storm in 1972, planting a seed that would rapidly grow for years to come.
Despite popular belief, Pong was not the first video game. That topic is still highly debated and can be traced back to 1947. Pong is, however, the founding father for modern video games.
Pong showed the there is a place in the home for video games.
Then in 1983, Japan burst onto the scene and took video games to the next level through Nintendo and its Nintendo Entertainment System. Along with the NES came Super Mario Bros. This was when the idea of what a video game should be began to take shape.
Super Mario Bros took the player to a different world full of unusual and strange creatures, all the while trying to rescue a princess. A far cry from the surplus of one-dimensional sports games that had flooded the market prior.
Video games really began to come into their own during the ‘90s. Games like Myst and Final Fantasy proved it was possible to tell an engrossing story through a medium such as video games.
Although these storytelling may have been on par with that of a movie or television, there was a disconnect with larger audiences that would last for years to come.
As technology continued to advance, so did gaming. In the late ‘90s and into the early 2000s, voice acting and full scripts became standard in video games.
Each generation of video games provided a tremendous leap in graphics, each looking more realistic than the last. The current generation has it nearly perfected. The skylines look like real skylines, the people look like real people and the gore is as disgusting and disturbing as real gore.
All of this culminates in recent games like “The Last of Us” from Naughty Dog and “Metal Gear Solid” from Kojima Productions, both of which have emotionally-driven stories and fantastic acting that allows them to compete with anything in Hollywood.
Even Nintendo games, which are more cartoonish, have a Pixar-esque charm to them.
The tools are there for video games to be made as art, which is exactly what Thatgamecompany did with their game “Journey.” It takes a step back, removing the voice and the guidance, leaving the entire game open to interpretation.
Storytelling in video games has taken players back any amount of years and taught about history, such as World War I, as seen in “Valiant Hearts: The Great War,” by Ubisoft Montpellier.
Or if you are curious to see what it was like to lead an army during the 16th century in medieval Japan, “Total War: Shogun 2” by Creative Assembly makes the experience possible.
Video games also cater to the “what-if ” mentality. What if the Cold War turned into more than just a scare? The Fallout series answers this. What if technology and science goes too far? Then check out the futuristic dystopia of Deus Ex.
What started as a black screen, a few white lines and a score has evolved into something more. In video games today, the only limitation is your own imagination.