Video Games: An Historical Timeline

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Epilogue – to one person’s attempt at a compilation of unique and historically significant video games

By the turn of the 21st Century the internet was well established in the home and Game Maker software, in its various forms, had become an accessible tool for budding game designers.  Even colleges and vocational programs began offering formal courses in Game Development and, coinciding with the ultimate distribution platform that is the internet the independent game development scene began to emerge in unprecedented waves.  It didn’t take long for a strong community to develop and organize around toolkits, coding forums and ‘game jams’ such as Ludum Dare and the like.  In the period roughly book-ended by 2005 to 2008 experimental game design had reached a critical mass on par with the adoption of gaming as an increasingly mainstream hobby.  With guarded acceptance of independent game channels by those in control of traditionally closed ecosystems, and growing recognition among both traditional and casual gamers (helped in no small part by the rapid adoption of tablet computing) the sea of innovation and sheer number of titles emerging from the indie scene has reached nearly epic proportions.

For any historian or cultural anthropologist to keep pace, without specializing (or having other interests in life) rapidly approaches impossible.  I should like to comment at this point that keeping any hobby in its place, and focusing always foremost on the important things in life, is a far better way to live.

The inevitable conclusion to this new paradigm is that even the most dedicated chronicle of gaming innovation must acknowledge that they can only parse out bits and pieces, smaller currents reflecting changes to the landscape and, with careful observation, a few or more emerging trends.  With considerable attention one might keep his or her finger on the pulse of the game industry, but no more, and by no means in the way of being able to experience personally every new innovative title to come down the line.

For those with an interest in history and the evolution of game design from the dawn of the home console I leave my own* nearly half-a-lifetime of experience as a roadmap, with many paths that may branch and extend away from it.  But from this moment in history it is my view that to really see how things evolve from here, the astute observer, the passionate gamer and would-be historian, would be better served to pay attention not only to credible curators (1) (2), but also to the output from the handful of established coding events of the Ludum Dare variety.  It is these that feed into the many Independent titles that feed ever again, although not always, into the larger production houses that, true-to-form, co-opt ideas into one or more key game mechanics of their big-budget would-be blockbuster titles.

*Those with ‘completionist’ tendencies (you know who you are) should by no means attempt an endeavor of this sort.  You’ll be much more content teasing out every nook and cranny from a small handful of carefully chosen titles.  I sincerely believe one could choose that style of play, or broader study… but not both.

It’s not the end.  Video games are still a part of my life… until they fade away.  This has happened with other interests and I find it more pleasant to allow these changes to occur naturally.  I’ll still maintain the Most Memorable Games list so long as I continue to maintain this blog.  I’m glad to say, even at this stage of my life, that I’ve not lost the passion for discovering and enjoying a well-crafted video game, especially if it’s fresh and innovative.  But I also realize that it’s more enjoyable to occasionally delve at length into a single game, rather than splitting my limited attention merely for the sake of conquering an impossible task.

If one were to take the time to study it they might find this timeline speaks about many different things.  Whether or not it continues to expand it will always be a pleasure to be able to step back every now and then to observe the shape of the journey.

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From the homepage of this blog the timeline can always be found to the right (→) under the Single Page Lists category behind the simple heading “Video Games.”

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Published in: on February 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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