The 5 Greatest Gaming Moments Of All Time
2) 1973: Maze War Ushers In The First Person Shooter
Once upon a time, nearly every new game was designed as a one-off, built from the ground up on a hard-coded set of rules that would not be used again once that game was complete. Developers had to not only design content, but also the rules by which the content functions, every single time they set out to make a game. This caused long development time tables, (among other problems) and is a key reason that the difference between a game from 1974 and one from 1984 are far fewer than between a game from 2003 and one from 2009.
What changed is the rise of games built on a set of development tools + reusable software components that work as a set of world rules around which people can design vastly different games; also known as a game engine. Game Engines make it possible for larger developers to streamline the process of sequel iterations or new IP, provide additional revenue from licensing (which still funds new IP and not just massive cocaine habits!). They also allow game development teams to have specialized jobs, a crucial factor in the astonishing changes that sweep the gaming world on what feels like a monthly basis.
And as it turns out, we have First Person Shooters to thank for this. Though they weren’t referred to as engines at the time – the term didn’t pop up until the 90s – from the beginning of the FPS genre, developers built on the technology they used in previous games. And the beginning, as it turns out, is older than you think. The first FPS game is a vector graphics antique released in 1973 called Maze War. Simple and ugly, yes, but that there is the first attempt at a 3D(ish) environment in which players moved around shooting things.
New iterations of Maze War were pumped out even into the 80s, each one much better looking than the last but essentially the same concept, improved. In other words, a precursor to the engine-based development of modern times. Though the game itself is nothing more than an obscure footnote, we have it to thank for Bulletstorm. And, yes, for annoying trolls playing Call of Duty. But we’ll concentrate on Bulletstorm.
1) 2011: Video Games Are Declared Art
In 2005, the California Legislature passed AB 1179, a law that banned the sale of violent video games to anyone under 18. It was based on sponsor State Senator (and child psychologist) Leeland Yee’s crackpot assertion that there is a link between violent video games and real-life violence. (That kind of junk science has been discredited again and again.)
The law would have gone into effect in 2006; however, the Entertainment Software Association and the Video Software Dealers Association (Now the Entertainment Merchants Association) filed a joint suit attacking the law’s constitutionality, and got an injunction blocking the law while the case proceeded through US courts. The case, Brown v. EMA finally reached the US Supreme Court, with oral arguments beginning in summer 2010.
Maddeningly, the court took nearly a year to reach a decision in the case. While the gaming world waited, the National Endowment for the Arts stepped in. In May of this year, they announced that starting in 2012, the NEA definition of art would be changed to include the following:
“Projects may include high profile multi-part or single television and radio programs (documentaries and dramatic narratives); media created for theatrical release; performance programs; artistic segments for use within an existing series; multi-part webisodes; installations; and interactive games.”
Granted, this is only for the purposes of getting NEA funding and support, and has no other legal bearing. Fortunately, less than a month after the NEA’s announcement, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that not only struck the idiotic law down, it had this to say about the status of video games, culturally:
Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary
devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, “esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature . . . are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.
So there you have it. For better or for worse, video games have been granted official recognition as valid cultural products on par with film, literature and works of fine art. As exciting as this is, we can’t help but laugh at the fact that this might be the first time in history a bunch of old people got together and voted in favor of that new crazy thing those damn kids like so much. Good job, SCOTUS, and thanks.