Montageman: A dude who writes

March 11, 2007

Interest in Videogames: Consoles & Synergy

Filed under: affect, videogames — montageman @ 9:41 pm

When the Nintendo Entertainment System was released, Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt were packaged with the console. Nintendo was so radically different from its competitors that giving consumers a couple games to pique their interest made sense because interest is one of the primary affects. I remember opening the my Nintendo along with with Tag Team Wrestling (Data East, 1983) and being immediately enamored with the idea of playing these games. A similar feeling accompanied my purchase (or receipt) of the Sega Genesis, Sony Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, etc. Console gaming begins with interest in the hardware. From the beginning of home gaming, the need to upgrade has always been one of the main driving forces of the industry.

When a console is released, an immediate following is born. Regardless of whether it is big or small, all consoles have early adopters who then will either advocate the system or abandon it. Essentially, the hardware, software, and accessories come together in a sort of synergistic fashion creating a new world of gaming possibilities. In 1985 when I opened the Nintendo on Christmas, I had no idea about the ramifications of that event. Sure, we had an Atari at my house and I had played Coleco-Vision at my uncle’s, but the NES was something special.

Before we can talk about why the Nintendo Entertainment System was so special, it might be helpful to take a l0ok the historical underpinnings of videogames.  The International Arcade Museum (http://www.arcade-museum.com) includes all coin operated machines in its extensive list.  The most important part of their list for my purpose is the listing of games under the type “arcade”.  Penny Arcades, which surfaced and became popular in the 1930s (http://www.pinballhistory.com), included all types of mechanical, interactive machines like pinball as well as games like Basketball Champ (http://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?letter=B&game_id=890).  Basketball Champ has a simple premise – shoot the ball over the defender into the basket.  As simple as this may be, the game offers players a chance to master a skill that they may otherwise be unable to do (shooting a basketball through the hoop), but also there is the possibility of competition always present.  While this is theoretically a one player game, it is possible to have one player take 15 shots followed by another player thus leading to a tournament of sorts well beyond the scope of simplicity a mere picture of the game may show.   This speaks to the public nature of games in the beginning, even early fortune teller games were more fun when fortunes could be compared.

I remember going to Frankenmuth (http://www.frankenmuth.com) years ago and being excited to go into the penny arcade.  Being a young kid interested in games, it seemed crazy to me that people actually had fun playing games like Basketball Champ, especially because my historical knowledge of games lacked immensely at that point.  However, whenever I would go into the arcade I would find myself completely enmeshed in these games, or as enmeshed as someone could become in such a game.  The dichotomy presented by these mechanical “action games” versus videogames is an interesting one.  The simple instructions of early games makes them endearing, much in the same way Ms. Pac-man is endearing.  Simplicity allows for immersion, or forgetting that a game is being played.  This is not to say that the player imagines he is a yellow face chomping dots but rather that the avatar on screen is an extension of the player via the joystick.

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