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When confronted with fantastic technology, the first impulse a person has is usually to figure out a way to waste hours of their time doing something nonproductive with it. The very first video game was the Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device developed in 1947, though most people consider the 1972 game, Pong, to be the first traditional video game. The public has had a long and checkered past with video games, sometimes treating them as toys for children, and other times welcoming them as a hobby for adults. According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the average age of a gamer is currently 34 years old, and the average gamer has spent 12 years gaming.

The 1970s: Motown, Bell Bottoms and the Atari
Video gaming emerged as a true industry in the 1970s. Although arcades were extremely popular throughout this decade, home video game consoles were also introduced. There were a multitude of different consoles, but only one would end up standing head and shoulders above the rest: Atari. The Atari Video Computer System retailed at $199 and according to Video Game Console Library, there were a total of 418 games released for the platform. At this time, video games were mostly the domain of children and teenagers.

The 1980s: Big Hair, Legwarmers and Mario
Arcades grew tremendously in popularity throughout the 1980s–often known as the Golden Age for Arcade Games. At the same time, IBM PC compatible computer games were being developed, and home computers were starting to become more accessible. The Nintendo Entertainment System was also released in 1983, and quickly became the most popular console on the market. According to Examiner, the popularity of the NES system skyrocketed due to a single Italian plumber named Mario.

The 1990s: Dot-com, Beanie Babies and Shareware
The decade of the 1990s was marked by a release of many portable gaming systems, as well as an increase in the overall home computer market for video games. Shareware played a huge part in this, because it enabled home computer users to download, play, and release video games into the community. Sega managed to break into the console industry with Sonic the Hedgehog, though Nintendo still captured a large amount of market share. Meanwhile, iD’s 1996 FPS Quake completely revolutionized the video game industry and ushered in a new model of Internet-based gaming.

The 2000s: High School Musical, Freedom Fries and Counter Strike
The 2000s saw console and online gaming becoming rapidly more popular among adults. As laptops for the classroom, office and even home use became more popular, a shift towards casual games that required less powerful systems also developed. A simple casual game called The Sims dominated market share and opened the door for more female gamers. CNN reported that The Sims was the best-selling PC game from 2000 to 2003, and has now sold more than 125 million copies. At the same time, the market stabilized to show a total of three major video game systems: the Sony PlayStation, the Microsoft Xbox and the Nintendo Wii.

The 2010s: Zumba, Dog Shaming and the Next Generation
The next generation of video game consoles are being eagerly awaited, including the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Video games are pushing forward with motion-based and voice-based technology, which is leading to far more inventive methods of playing. Independent developers are also attempting to break into the game business, such as the Ouya, which is an Android-based video game console. The games on the Ouya are intended to be completely free, as noted on the Ouya website. The market has shifted towards more casual and accessible games, especially among the female demographic.

This guest post was written by Jessica Lyman, a freelance reporter who covers the gaming industry.