5 Historic Video Game Innovations
Sony Corporation has announced that they are ending production of PlayStation 2 consoles and retiring the DualShock controller design—major innovations both. To commemorate these two fallen heroes of couch potatoes everywhere, here are 5 video game innovations that helped shape gaming culture as we know it today.
1) Game & Watch
The veritable grand daddy of handheld gaming, the Game & Watch was created by the late Gunpei Yokoi, a Nintendo employee who, in 1979, was inspired when he witnessed a bored businessman play around with his LCD calculator. Working with this technology, Yokoi and his team created the first standalone Game & Watch in 1980 entitled Ball: a simplistic juggling game. From there the number of titles—and Nintendo’s worldwide reputation—grew, adding games such as Donkey Kong and Mario’s Bombs Away. Thanks to the Game and Watch series, Nintendo saw that there was viable market in handheld gaming.
2) Mode 7
It may have had aggressive competition bearing down on it from every conceivable side, but the Super Nintendo was hands down the quintessential 16-bit video game system of the ‘90s for plenty of reasons. Chief among them was Nintendo’s use of the revolutionary graphics mode dubbed “Mode 7.” Though most of the games in the Super Nintendo library were primarily 2D, Mode 7 allowed developers to scale and rotate the background layer, giving the impression of a 3D environment that seemed to scroll on forever—ideal for racing games and sprawling world maps. Though actual 3D graphics were years away, this was no doubt a giant step in the right direction.
3) The Analog Stick
Before the release of the Nintendo 64, most game controllers relied on a cross-like directional pad (D-pad for short) to allow characters and such to move on-screen. This control scheme was perfect for 2D games, but proved to be stiff and clunky in a three-dimensional environment, Nintendo’s team of designers added an analog stick to the N64’s controller, starting a trend that continues to this day. No longer restricted to four directions, players were now able to move in upwards of eight. The rival PlayStation saw the difference an analog stick made and added not one, but two to their DualShock controller. Sony just had to steal Nintendo’s thunder, didn’t they?
4) Memory Cards
Imagine a time in video games when—perish the thought—the ability to save one’s game progress wasn’t a possibility. Though battery-backed save features were eventually built into more game cartridges, your hours of hard work were at the mercy of younger siblings or complete klutzes that, whether intentionally or on purpose, could erase them with the accidental push of the wrong button. When memory cards were introduced, gamers everywhere rejoiced with the knowledge that they could now save the progress of nearly all their games in one handy plastic card and hide it away from the aforementioned forces of destruction you call family and friends.
5) Online Console Gaming
During online gaming’s prehistoric days, the very notion of playing with your chums both local and abroad with a game console was an absurd one since, at the time, such a privilege was reserved solely for those with computers and the necessary network access to do so. Like a ray of light piercing through the darkness and slapping that pompous smile off the collective faces of naysayers, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network at last provided console gamers the opportunity to go head-to-head with others via a pan-regional network. The end result was a massive global village of avid video game aficionados and proof that gaming consoles can give computers a run for their money in the multiplayer department. Doom, eat your heart out!
What do you think was the greatest video game innovation of the last decade?