How Gaming Has Evolved Over Time

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How Gaming Has Evolved Over Time
There is now an estimated two billion gamers worldwide, but how did gaming evolve to what it is today?Photo Credit: PxHere / CC0 1.0

Once thought of as an activity reserved for only a slice of the population, gaming was a niche that appealed mostly to teenagers. Looking at the figures now, it’s clear that gaming has gone mainstream. According to Newzoo, the global market is now worth over $100 billion. 

Around half of the two billion gamers on the planet come from the Asia-Pacific area, but there are around 301 million players in the Middle East. Even more promising, Qatar will also host the Middle East’s first esports tournament, the Wega World Cup, a sign that they are fast catching on to the huge demand. 

Indeed, gaming has been around for a long time, with ancient artifacts have been found dating back thousands of years from cultures such as Egypt. Computer games, of course, didn’t develop until much later. We needed machines to play them on first. Here we look back at the evolution of computer gaming and how it has changed over time. 


The Early Days

 Here is Pong, an early Atari game.Photo Credit: Wikimedia / CC0 1.0

Ralph Baer invented the first gaming console in the 1950s, though his “Brown Box” prototype didn’t take off for a couple of decades. It later released as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. While technically a console, in that you plugged it into your TV and played games on it, the Odyssey comprised of little more than spots of light on the television and required overlay sheets of plastic to see.

Other than that, scientists mostly used computer games as instructional tools for the purpose of academic training or demonstrate simple AI products, as was the case with early Tic-Tac-Toe games. 

Atari was the first household games console company, and the initial popular console was the Atari 2600, which took plug-in games cartridges. Pong was the second game ever released on Atari and was a huge success. A few years later, Space Invaders came out and became one of the many cult classics that are still loved today.

At a similar time, early PC computer gaming was also evolving, with developers focusing on writing games for the Apple and TRS-80 computers. The 1980s brought the Commodore 64, a programmable home computer with thousands of games available on floppy disk as well as Nintendo consoles that would soon start to take a bigger share of the market. 

Modern Console Gaming

Nintendo stormed the market with several highly successful and innovative consoles throughout the mid-1980s to late 1990s. That began with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, and then the handheld marvel Gameboy, with games like Tetris capturing the hearts and minds of nations. The 1990s brought the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and Nintendo 64 (N64), along with developments from rival companies. The PlayStation (PS) arrived on the scene in 1994, a direct competitor of the N64. 

PC gaming also had a bit of a revolution at around this time. The first-person shooter Doom came out in 1993, followed by games of the same genre. The “deathmatch” mode gained popularity, paving the way for competitive and later online gaming. 

Consoles continued to give gamers more power and action, and the next generation came out in the early 2000s. The PlayStation 2 (PS2) competed with the Xbox and Game Cube, all of which had some manner of internet capabilities, though the Xbox Live platform got a head start over the PS network. Halo was perhaps the game that we should remember as taking online multiplayer gameplay to the next level. 

Internet and Mobile Gaming

The League of Legends World Championships. Photo Credit: Wikimedia / CC BY 2.0

The internet officially launched in 1983, but it couldn’t become popular without more people first gaining access. Online gaming started in the 1990s as local area network or LAN parties, but the whole setup was awkward and not at all accessible for the average person looking for entertainment. 

As mentioned, the early 2000s wave of consoles like the PS2 and Xbox did have internet capabilities, but with limited online gaming. The PlayStation 3 (PS3) and Xbox One offered much more refined online gaming experiences, as do the most recent consoles — the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U, all of which have online features and gameplay for almost all games released. 

With regards to PC gaming, online play became possible as soon as the internet became mainstream. Players could enjoy web browser games, apps and downloadable games. Casinos, too, went online, and as technology developed, they started streaming live casino games to players across the world. 

PC gaming has perhaps evolved the most due to the internet and online gaming. League of Legends (LoL), released in 2009, is now the most played PC game in the world, and LoL esports tournaments attract thousands of participants and millions of viewers. Though a free-to-play game, LoL took $1.6 billion in micro-transactions alone in 2015, without considering revenue raised from competitions and merchandise. 

While offline PC and console gaming remained popular and continued to become more powerful, there was also another powerful force coming into play: mobile gaming. It all started back in 1997 with simple mobile games like Snake. Since then, mobile gaming has gone from strength to strength. 

The release of the iPhone in 2007 was a massive game changer, and the app store opened a huge market. Game developers like Zynga began to produce Facebook and mobile games, and the whole world seemed mad for them, shown by the immense popularity of games like Angry Birds, released in 2009. Since 2015, mobile gaming has accounted for more revenue than console gaming, and this is a trend that looks to continue. 

Qatar is embracing the gaming landscape. There’s the 1UP Gaming Centre in Doha, and a Virtuocity has become a major attraction in the country, touted as a gateway to competitive esports gaming. And as more residents of Qatar adopt smartphones and gain internet access, online gaming is sure to gain even more popularity in the region.