Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Technological Periods and Medial Paradigms of Computer Games

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Technological Periods and Medial Paradigms of Computer Games

Article excerpt

Introduction

The brief history of video games, barely exceeding half a century, is divided into epochs by most authors, where the appearance of gaming machines or programs using the latest technologies always marks a frontier in this periodization. Just as with definitions, we have several types of periodizations, but most authors agree about that the emergence of the various console generations, the gaining and then losing ground of amusement arcade machines, the large-scale spread of PCs (Personal Computers) datable from 1993, and the rise to a dominant position in the 2000s of the real three-dimensional (3D) graphics are all important milestones in the periodization of computer games (Beregi 2010, p. 12). The historicaltheoretical summarizing work (Wolf 2008) edited by Mark J.P. Wolf is similar to Beregi's creation, except that its periodization is not entirely congruent with that of its Hungarian counterpart. In the book edited by Wolf, the period between the first mainframe computers and the 1983 crash of the video game industry, the consolidation period of 1985-1994 - which we might as well call the age of the 'second canonization' -, and, finally, the period starting from 1995 and lasting until 2008 (the year of the book's publication) - a period launched by the slow shift from the fourth- to fifth-generation video game consoles (at the time of the publication, the author considered this period had not yet come to an end) - are all treated as separate units.

Steve Rabin's volume, not only addressing game historians but also the game designer profession, provides a comprehensive outlook on both the important, epoch-making video games - that he discusses in chronological order, broken down into two categories (games designed for PCs and for consoles) - and on famous game designers and game design trends dominating the various ages, while giving a compilation of big design and publishing studios as well as classifying video games into genres (Rabin 2010, pp. 3-42).

The volume written by the Straubhaar-LaRose-Davenport trio generates much sympathy, constructing their periodization of the gamer world (Straubhaar-LaRose-Davenport 2012, pp. 378-389.) around the console generations, the different types of PCs (IBM PC, Commodore 64, Apple Macintosh, etc.), and the paradigmchanging games.

Paradigms of the virtual wolrds

In our approach, video games' technical means of storage, their medium in the sense of Innis, is secondary despite knowing that gaming experience, the quality of immersive experience is often determined to a greater extent by the technical interface as opposed to the storyline moving through the game's world. A typical example of this is the Nintendo Wii Console, which is primarily designed for sports games with simple storylines and which actually requires the player's en- tire body to get involved in the game (Herman 2008, pp. 170-171). The Microsoft Kinect sensor module, an input device for gesture - and speech - based humanmachine interaction, has a similar function and it can be connected to Microsoft Xbox 360 and to PCs running on Microsoft Windows operation system1. Thus, seventhand eighth-generation consoles allow players to take part in the gameplay with the movements of their entire body - unfortunately, however, only highly pronounced movements are recognized as yet -, the most popular being sports and dance simulations.

On the other hand, we may also look upon this type of consoles equipped with gesture/ motion sensors as devices providing more realistic possibilities of interaction and in fact anticipating PC-control practices that do not involve the physical touch of interfaces. This way, computers will probably be provided with faster and more intuitive management systems - for those who can still remember the primitive computers running on Microsoft DOS and controlled via tasks written in the command prompt, this kind of interface might as well seem taken straight out of science-fiction, but, witnessing the unexpected popularity of the Nintendo Wii, it may be that these motion sensors experimented with and tested on games will be used in offices as well, just like in the case of Microsoft Kinect. …

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