Sure, the new GTA is always going to break sales records, and if Half-Life 3 was ever announced every gamer with internet access would literally burst into flames and die out of sheer hype – but there are some things that gaming as a whole will always have as a part of the scene.
There may be improvements, and there may be console innovation, but the roots of these things will always cling to those origins, those foundations set down in the past. Something fundamental about those gaming staples will always hold us captive, always have us coming back for more. Always have us strolling down memory lane with our rose-tinted lenses on and tripping over the tangible nostalgia we have associated with memories of standing at a gaming cabinet, eyes fixed on the screen, joysticks in hand, killing some goddamned space invaders. So here we go.
1. Space Invaders
Released in 1987, Space Invaders is a shooting game developed by Tomohiro Nishikado for Taito. Created during the golden age of arcade games, Space Invaders was incredibly successful, and that success only increased when it was re-released for the Atari 2600 in 1980. When the Atari 2600 version started selling, the console’s own sales doubled and then doubled again, making Space Invaders the very first instance of what has been dubbed in the modern age a “killer app”.
Space Invaders was so popular that it created an entire genre – shoot ’em up games. A genre which exists to this day, in a greater capacity than Nishikado likely could have dreamed of.
A name probably only recognizable to enthusiasts, or those who grew up in the 80s, Zork (release in 1980) was one of the original text-based adventure games. Though it wasn’t the absolute first, it set itself apart with incredibly rich storytelling and massively improved text-parsing, recognizing much more complicated language such as commands that used prepositions.
Set in the described “ancient ruins” of an ancient underground empire, the goal of Zork was to descend into the ruins and collect all the required items and relics. Though you may not see many text-only adventures nowadays, the genre that Zork helped spawn – interactive fiction – still thrives, with the many choose-you-own-adventure games being a sub-genre of this.
I know what you’re thinking – poker isn’t a video game. And you’re right, it wasn’t. Until it was.
Due to the advent of the internet, casinos made the move to cyber-space, and you can now play poker online, play slots online, and play every other casino game you can think of online.
Here, I’m really using poker as a stand-in for the entire genre of casino games. It would be a mistake to talk about genres of gaming that have survived to the modern age and not mention casino gaming, when it has the longest history of all. Betting and gambling are so ingrained in society’s collective nature that casino games in general are the most likely genre of games to survive until the heat death of the universe, and possibly even past it.
Poker didn’t give birth to its genre, and it isn’t even the most popular game in actual casinos – that would be slots. It’s no argument, however, that poker is the most iconic game of its category. It carries a weight that few other games do, standing on its extensive, storied history, and will without doubt outlive us all.