The video game industry has been progressing tremendously over the past decades. When I was younger, I played on my family’s MS-DOS personal computer as well as a Nintendo Entertainment System clone . Then, video games ran on floppy diskettes and cartridges (Alone in the Dark itself required more than 15 floppy disks to run on my Windows 3.1). As my PC evolved from Windows 3.1 to 98 to XP, my list of favourite games grew (including console games): From Lemmings, Lode Runner, Super Mario Bros, Doom, Legend of Zelda to Quake (especially III), Diablo, Starcraft, Need for Speed, Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock and so on.
Video games have improved in terms of interactivity, graphics, artificial intelligence, physics, sound effects and storytelling techniques. Although the advances in technology has allowed video games to grow, the fundamentals of fun and innovation have never changed. For instance, storytelling techniques may have changed from simple 8-bit animations to fully 3D-animated cinematics, but many video games, old or new, have been evoking emotions in players. I regard Baldur’s Gate and Bioshock as two of my favourite role-playing games although they have been developed a decade apart.
Social experiences have also been associated with video gaming since Pong (arguably the first video game). The older video games were limited to two players. With the introduction of game consoles, the limit grew to 4~8; The existence of internet subsequently removed any limits to social gaming experiences, when multiplayer online games came along.
In my youths, I have enjoyed playing plenty of multiplayer online games. I have especially enjoyed massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) as they are a form of storytelling and imaginative gameplay besides being an interactive social experience. The online persistent world felt like an alternative reality for me to venture into, with my friends and other daring adventurers. Though I have never tried the games which popularized MMOGs (including EverQuest and Ultima Online), I had fond memories of playing many other MMOGs. I started off from free-to-play MUDs and browser games, to subscription-based games such as Dark Ages and Shattered Galaxy before moving on to AAA titles like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and Maple Story.
To me, MMOGs are entertaining mostly because of the communities that come with them. I had pleasant experiences socialising and playing with people I have never met, and competing against other players was definitely more exciting than against AI bots. These MMOGs provided more than just social interactions too. There are forms of progression in almost every MMOG, and these trigger the competitiveness in players. They provided the motivation for me to “grind” and “farm” my way to get the best gear or attain the highest level.
Since the days of NES and Doom, the video game industry has skyrocketed to become a multi-billion dollars industry, as one of the most profitable entertainment industry in the world. The sources of revenue from video games have been expanding from selling of game machines to distributing of floppy disks/compact disks, licensing of titles, collecting of subscription fees, adopting in-game advertising, selling of virtual items and retailing on virtual app stores. Many video games these days are even free to play.
The latest generation of video games seems to focus more on simple gameplay but complex marketing models, to maximize returns on investments (minimize production efforts and maximize revenue). Although the video games industry “giants” are building up on leading-edge graphics/AI/physics techniques and technologies such as autostereoscopic 3D and motion-tracking devices, the growth of “casual games” cannot be ignored. Many “casual games” or indie games bypass traditional distributors and publishers to market directly to customers, hence profits are maximized. With the proliferation of digital distribution channels, indie games are growing in number.
Regardless, indie games, MMOGs or any other forms of video games have to be innovative and fun. AAA game titles or casual mobile games both need to be innovative to attract players to play them (and perhaps spend some of their pocket money on them), and a fun element to keep the players with them.