Twenty years ago Grand Theft Auto III, Halo: Combat Evolved and Super Smash Bros. Melee were three of the biggest games of the year. The platforms to play them on were PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube and if you wanted to play against your friends you had to get an extra controller and go split-screen.
In the two decades that have since passed the gaming world has changed beyond recognition thanks to the relentless progress of technology. In this article we take a look at how technological advancements have revolutionised everything from fantasy football to large scale first-person shooters.
Data Driven Gaming
In 2001 when the latest Madden and FIFA games were released there wasn’t an awful lot of nuance in the player ratings. Kevin Long of the Tennessee Titans was a 79 rated player with poor speed and good strength.
Likewise, there wasn’t much by the way of statistics to show players why Francesco Totti was so highly-rated at 93 in FIFA 2001. Now however, video games and games in general are completely awash with statistics and data.
Every player on FIFA and Madden have a huge list of accurately plotted attributes and on games like Football Manager users can find out a players preferred personnel, his weak foot rating and intangible qualities like bravery and teamwork.
The introduction of more data into video gaming appears to have come from the growth of fantasy sports and in particular football, which boasts over 60 million fans in the USA. Companies who specialise in games like fantasy football have normalised the use of huge swathes of data and statistics that gamers now take for granted.
(Games like Football Manager have brought the use of statistics in gaming to the next level.)
In 2001 the idea of online gaming wasn’t an alien concept. In fact at that point gamers viewed it much in the same way that we would view virtual reality – something that has been tried and tried but never really worked.
In the mid-90s Sega, Nintento and Atari all made ill-fated attempts to kick start online gaming. Bizarrely it was the commercially catastrophic Sega Dreamcast that had the biggest impact on the evolution of online gaming than any other console.
Released with its own net-centric modem, the Dreamcast showed that online gaming could become a possibility when internet technology improved. Xbox and PlayStation took note and ensured their next consoles had high internet capability.
Over the next decade or so online gaming rapidly grew in popularity. Now, in 2021 there are an 1.23 billion online gamers, something that would not have been possible without advancements in internet capability and the pioneering work of the Sega Dreamcast.
(Graphics, connection speeds and game modes have come on a long way in just over a decade.)
For this technological advancement we have the late Steve Jobs to thank. In 2007, the then CEO of Apple announced to the world that his company would be releasing a phone that was a phone, a music player and an internet communicator all in one.
The release of the iPhone, the world’s first true smartphone, would have a huge impact on a number of industries – gaming being one. In the 14 years since the release of that device, mobile gaming has gone on to become a multi-billion dollar industry.
In the first half of 2021 for example, Apple’s mobile games brought in revenues of $44 billion, an increase on the previous year. It was the same story for Google too who boasted similarly encouraging revenue figures for the first half of the year.
Without Steve Jobs’ and Apple’s innovative work with the iPhone in 2007 it’s quite likely that we wouldn’t even be discussing mobile gaming now.
(An announcement that would change the gaming world.)
Twenty years ago gaming graphics weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either. If you were a sports fan you had to be content with vibrant colour schemes and players that looked nothing like the real-life people they were based on.
Fast forward to 2021 and game graphics have become so immersive that at first glance, you can confuse a game with real life footage. Frame rates are higher than ever before, motion blurring has been implemented seamlessly to add realism and physical rendering has augmented photorealism.
Large Scale Game Modes
When online gaming really began to take off at the end of the noughties the largest scale games that you could play usually involved no more than 20 players in a 10v10 format. Now however, if you want to test your mettle against 150 other players you can thanks to advancements in game modes.
In 2017 it was the success of free-to-play game Fortnite that really popularised the Battle Royale game mode in which huge numbers of players battle it out on a large-scale map to be crowned last team/player standing.
In the years since the format has become widespread across the gaming world with the most popular and well-known version Warzone being released in March of 2020 – just at the time when billions of people were forced indoors.
Who knows what the future of gaming holds in store? Perhaps in twenty years’ time there will be articles poking fun at how quaint gaming was in 2021. Until then, all we can do is enjoy the benefits that technology has brought to our spare time.