on the evolution of video games

I’ve been playing video games since I started typing them into our Vic=20, from the pages of Compute! Magazine. ASCII-art games, in glorious 22-column resolution. Amazing. Console gaming for me started with Intellivision in 1980. One of my favorite games was Skiing, which was an incredible and exciting ski simulator.

It seemed more awesome at the time. Honest.

Compare with the latest ski simulator game, Steep, which is in open beta this weekend. I grabbed a copy (it’s free, so why not). And holy buckets.

A similar progression has happened in all other forms of video games. I’m a bit addicted to driving games. Intellivision’s Auto Racing looked something like this back in the day:

Auto Racing!

It was, at the time, at the forefront of computer graphics and free-roaming gameplay. Seriously. Compare with Forza 6, which came out last year:

Volumetrically modeled puddles to calculate drag and traction on a car as it passes through. Millimeter-accurate laser-scanned tracks. Cars that are accurate not just in appearance but in physics, response, and sound.

And it goes on and on. Flight simulators. First-person shooters. Everything has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. Compare Pitfall! with Lora Croft in Tombraider.

And, we’re in the beginning stages of another dramatic shift - immersive experiences with motion-tracking goggles 1, and new hand-held controllers or even passively sensing controllers that completely change how you interact with software.

Now, compare that level of dramatic change to the last couple of decades of educational software. Learning management systems. Even document editing. Some incremental changes. Nothing that so completely alters the experience such that it would have been literally unbelievable back in 1980.

For example. WebCT, from a decade ago - or even two decades ago - would look entirely normal in 2016 - as long as the fonts and stylesheets were tweaked. See, for example, the current interface of D2L

  1. I won’t call them VR because what’s being developed is not Virtual Reality - it’s just a video display that responds to the motion of your head. Incredible and immersive, but not Virtual Reality. ↩︎

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