Wednesday, 18 September 2013

WK2 - Atari Shock & Early History of the Japanese Game Industry

The History of Videogames (Herman et. al.) provides a rich primer to the history of the industry. A sequential list of the important milestones fill in the blanks for people interested in how video games came about. It encompasses 19th century card gaming, to fledging electronics companies to arcade cabinets to home consoles and beyond. From the first tennis-game on oscilloscope, to Atari, Gameboy, to eventually the Dreamcast at the turn of the century, this timeline helps track the development of classic gaming.

The Wiki's on Nintendo (translated as 'leave luck to heaven) and the history of Nintendo, illuminate the background of this company from its humble beginning. They started out making playing cards, moving on to a wide variety of unsuccessful ventures, to making toy products, electronics and finally to its success in creating the video games I grew up with.

Shigeru Miyamoto's interview is a fascinating look into the design process of Japan's most ubiquitous and widely recognized characters, Mario. I had known some of these facts (detailed in a future blog post) but I didn't know how playful Miyamoto was. He describes the joys of discovery, creating games he would himself play and he just sounds like a fun guy to hang around with. One thing the jumped out at me was his decision to make the Mario character appear on numerous games, similar to how Hitchcock makes a cameo in all his movies. This confirms a fan theory positing that all the Mario stable of characters are simply actors performing roles, whether the game involves racing, platform action, party melee fighting or role-playing.1 The interview was conducted by Satoru Iwata, a partner of Miyamoto. It links to another brilliant discussion of theirs regarding the definition of an idea.2

The Short Guide to Japan Bashing offers an honest, objective look at the unfortunate practise of deriding another nation. From pre to post WWII, Japan has been a whipping boy for the West's tendency to fear and mock what it doesn't understand. It doesn't shy away from Japan's own history of colonial atrocities. It touches on economics and the manufacturing powerhouse Japan had become, and their importing habits. "The gap between what Japan consumers wanted and what American industries wanted Japan to want continued."

Chapter 2 in Newman's Videogames focuses on defining what a video game is, and notes that we cannot see them as simply extension of other mediums such as books, plays or film. There is complexity even in the mode of delivery, how and where a game is played i.e. arcade cabinets vs home consoles. He discusses types of games, rules & limitations, and levels of interactivity. Chapter 3 discusses design and development practices, from gameplay types necessitated by hardware limitations (i.e. the side scroller) to development studio and the roles team members perform. It ends with an obligatory section addressing the business aspects of selling videogames, from QA (quality assurance), financing and managing risk.

Works Cited

1 6 Insane Video Game Fan Theories that make total sense #5

2 Iwata - Defining the Idea

Herman et. al. "The History of Video Games", The History of Videogames

Iwata, "Iwata Asks", Interview with Miyamoto, Interview with Miyamoto

Newman. Videogames. Chapters 2 & 3.

Wikipedia, "Nintendo" and "History of Nintendo", Wiki - Nintendo and Wiki - History_of_nintendo

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