Top 10 gaming innovations

13 Nov 2010

A look back at the innovations that have marked gaming throughout the years.

10. Haptic Technology

I know what you’re thinking, why is Justin Beiber so popular, but you’re probably also thinking what the hell is Haptic Technology?  To answer the latter, Haptic Technology is a force feedback technology which interacts with the user by jolts, shocks or vibrations. The technology was first introduced by Nintendo for the N64 in the form of Rumble Pak (a battery-powered plug into the controller) and later by the Sony PlayStation Dual Shock Controller. The technology broke down the fourth wall between the game and gamers and the technology is still used in both the Xbox 360 and PS3 controllers, and let me tell you, taking the decisive penalty in FIFA while the controller is jolting like mad completely adds to the gaming experience. Oh, and Justin Beiber is popular due to over publicity and good management.

9. Wolfestein 3D

It is scarce that a game can find it’s way on to a list such as this, but few have started a trend quite like Wolfestein 3D. Wolfestein 3D introduced the gaming community to 2.5D, which used innovative pixel structuring to give the impression of full 3D gaming, something which would later evolve with The Sega Saturn, N64 and PlayStation. Wolfestein also introduced the world to the first-person shooter, the gaming genre which to this day still out-sells every other by quite a substantial amount. Imagine a world without Doom, Quake, Half Life, Halo and Call of Duty. Having put yourself through that torture, you can thank Wolfestein 3D for its efforts.

8. Sega Mega-CD

The Sega Mega-CD? The chunky box that effectively crippled Sega’s market share in console gaming? Yes, the very same. It is not so much the console itself which is deserving of a place on this list, but the gaming technology it introduced. Sega was the first to recognise the need for optical media in gaming, realising that cartridges could no longer keep up with modern gaming demands. The Mega-CD set the trend from which the Saturn and PlayStation could grow on and inspired the next three generations of consoles.

7. The analog stick

Bit of an odd choice, I must admit (then I look at the rest of the list and think otherwise). The analog stick on controllers was essential for gaming to evolve into what we have today. Traditional D-Pads were restricted to 16 directions and as Nintendo took massive strides towards full 3D gaming, it was essential the user was given full 360-degree control. Step forward the N64 controller, the first mass produced control pad for console gaming that utilised the analog stick, which has been adopted by every games console since.

6. Open World (Sandbox Gaming)

Up until the early 2000s, games had a responsibility to have a large number of levels to keep the users entertained. Levels were merely road blocks between you and the end of the game. But what if there was no end? and what if you could do a quest whichever way you wanted? Welcome to the concept of Open World gaming. First to be accredited with exploring the genre to its potential was Grand Theft Auto 3, which featured a massive interactive map, a large number of support characters and endless hours of game play where the user wasn’t required to be doing a mission all the time. In Open World game play the user is free to explore the game’s world in any way they chose, theoretically meaning the game could never end.

5. Sim (Simulation) Games

I can’t imagine how the conversation for this games concept happened. “You know what people would love? A game where they try and live the same life virtually as they do in real life.” People would think you were bonkers. However, the Simulation Game genre has taken off in the last 20 years and no one has capitalised on it more than the Sims franchise of SimCity and The Sims fame. This might seem like too small a niche to earn a place at No 5 on this list, but the genre has spilled into nearly every other genre of gaming imaginable. Most games now require the user to take full control of their character’s well being, customise their clothing/attributes and interact with other characters.

4. XBox Live

Would you invite a complete stranger in to your house to play a game with you? I know thousands who wouldn’t! But Microsoft broke boundaries with the introduction of the XBox Live service. It created an online gaming community that spans the world and allows players to team up or battle head to head in their favourite games. While XBoxLive was not the first to introduce this concept, it is forever expanding with downloadable content for games, new game demos and now TV and Movie viewing. While Nintendo and Sony struggle to keep up, the XBox Live is still the No 1 player in the online market place.

3. Nintendo Gameboy

And now I feel old. Remember the old Tiger LCD handheld games? Playing the same game over and over again on long trips. Nintendo revolutionised the handheld market with the introduction of the Gameboy in 1989, the first portable console to have changeable games cartridges. The Gameboy lasted the onslaught of competitors for nearly 20 years before finally being put to pasture to make way for the Nintendo DS. Still, in its lifespan, the Gameboy, together with the Gameboy Colour, sold an incredible 119 million units.

2. The Atari 2600

The younger members of the audience are going “the what?”, while slightly older members just got a nice smack from nostalgia on the back of the head. Yes, the Atari 2600, boasting a massive 128bytes of RAM, was the first true home gaming console. It finally took the gaming experience out of the arcade and into the home. Changeable games and no coin slots ensured hours of sitting in front of the screen at home and thus the gaming era of mankind was finally born.

1. Motion-sensor gaming

One can understand why it has taken so long for this idea to blossom. Gaming was the escape from everything. An opportunity to indent a human shaped groove in the couch. Nintendo once again shifted the trend by encouraging gamers to get off the couch and fully interact with the console when they introduced the Wii onto the market late in 2006. The Wii uses wireless controllers and motion-sensor technology to track the player’s movements. Hardcore gamers have scoffed at the graphics limitations and having to get off the couch, but with Wii sales topping 76 million units in less than years and Sony and Microsoft both scrambling to get their own motion sensor devices to market, one thing is clear: Motion sensor is the most valuable property in gaming today.

Adam Renardson

Comments: @ARenardson