PC games didn’t even start on PC. Personal Computers were meant for work, spreadsheets, word processors, number crunching, but not games.
For that, before home game consoles came to be, there were the video arcades. Large stuffy halls filled with big noise boxes into which you could push a coin and play a game, usually standing up, at least till racing games made an entrance with driver cockpits and sometimes hydraulics to simulate braking and turns.
But then PCs became cheaper, and started making their ways into homes and not just offices. And after the small tv-connected computers that preceded them, it was quite a difference.
At the beginning, with the early 8088 and 8086 CPUs, they were pretty weak, and of course, display technology was very very expensive, so there were only black and white displays (Monochrome, which were somewhat sharper thanks to it), or for the more fortunate or rich, the CGA displays which allowed up to 4 shades of grey, green, or purple – depending which monitor you picked.
I had that monitor connected to my first PC. Later, EGA entered the scene, and while being very expensive (about 1000 USD), it opened the world to dazzling 8 or 16 colors on the screen at once!
That was a completely different story, and all those dim looking graphics took a whole new meaning. From there it was VGA (640*480 up to 1024*768 resolutions), SVGA, and after that it was onto super high resolutions from the world of TVs and cinema – HD ready, and Full HD and all that’s in between.
The advance of this colourful technology got people hungry for more complex and beautiful imagery and animation (graphics) as well as plots and game mechanics.
It’s what drove the PC technology to where it is today, levels of performance that belonged to room-sized computers mere 5-6 decades ago. And it still drives the industry today in much the same way. Some say that today the games over-focus on the looks rather than the plot.
It’s not untrue. If you look at the shelf (virtual or real) of a computer game store, you’ll see plenty of sequels and many eye-popping graphics-rich first person shooters that mostly seems to be clones of one another.
But not all. There are always gems that pop up now and then. The independent game industry is one of the driving forces today that helps keep the big wig game producing companies such as EA in check.
Another is the audience itself. You simply can’t keep running on franchises forever, especially as those franchises are usually Big dollar budgets and are expected to keep becoming bigger, better, and more challenging every new reiteration that comes out.
Today, there is also the big (and quite recent) advantage of crowd funding. Through web sites such as Kickstarter, and Indiegogo, family operations, private people, or game developers who tired with the corporate world can go to their target audience directly and ask them to take a leap of faith and put money on the game that a big company would simply refuse to back up – for pure financial reasons.
How does the future looks like? With multi-core processing and new technologies being absorbed into the consumer market (such as previously exotic HUD eye assisted control, camera electric and sonic gesture tracking), as well as AI that goes further than before with natural voice recognition and more intelligent character reactions and plot lines, not to mention the ever evolving graphics, the holy grail of realistic (some say ultra-realistic) looking computer games is not that far away any more.
I think that within 10 years, the world of gaming will look like some of the Science fiction series we watched and loved as kids, and the distance between a computer game and a professional simulation and actual action (flight,driving or any other) will be smaller than ever before.