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About the Author

My name is Xavier Satoshi, an IT specialist whose field covers computer troubleshooting, networking, programming and web development. I loved video games as a kid and I just would like to share with you my journey to the evolution of digital games since the 80s.

Journey to the Evolution of Digital Games

As a Xennial, I had the privilege to play the earliest gaming console which is the Atari 2600 and I just want to share how the digital gaming era evolved during our days. Atari 2600 was later followed by the Nintendo Entertainment System and its cheaper counterpart which is the Family Computer. Some of the most popular games at that time were Super Mario Bros, Contra, Punch-Out and Rockman. The 8-bit consoles were eventually replaced by the newer 16-bit consoles which are the SNES, Super Famicom and Sega Megadrive. Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II were the most popular games back then.

The introduction of 3D games came when the 32-bit consoles were released. The most dominant in the arena was Sony PlayStation. Tekken 3 was the most popular game during that time but I also enjoyed playing Street Fighter EX & Metal Slug. Nintendo released the N64 which is a 64-bit console but didn’t get very popular because it was too expensive and its games are still cartridge-based instead of CD which made it more costly.

PC Network Games Era

The PC network games era was slowly creeping in when games like Red Alert, Warcraft II and Age of Empires came out. Console gaming rentals started closing one by one when the popularity of Starcraft and Counter-strike dominated in the late 90s. Computer rentals started springing up one by one during this era because of the demand for network games. Our slow dial-up modem allowed me to play Starcraft with my friends remotely by establishing a connection through our phone lines. That’s the closest we had to an online game.

Blizzard later released the highly anticipated Warcraft III. It was an experiment because it’s a combination of RPG (Role-playing Game) and RTS (Role-time Strategy). Blizzard referred to it as an RPS (Role-playing Strategy). Unlike Starcraft, Warcraft III didn’t get much attention and popularity. Counter-strike dominated during that time and older strategy games like Battle Realms and Red Alert 2 had more attention. Perhaps managing several heroes’ items, skills and upgrades while controlling a large and diverse army was too much to handle.

MOBA Era

Blizzard’s experiment of Warcraft III may seem like a failure but a game modifier with the alias IceFrog had a brilliant idea that helped boost the sales of Warcraft III. He created a custom map with simpler game mechanics. Unlike the convoluted Warcraft III, the player’s focus in this game is on one hero only. The player just needs to make sure that the hero levels up faster and gets the best items to have a better chance of beating the enemies and destroying their base. 

Unlike the newer MOBAs now, the classification of the characters he gave back then are Strength, Agility and Intelligence only. No one was complaining that they need a tank, support, fighter, marksman or mage back then. Everyone just picks whoever character they know but this eventually changed as the players became more adept and gave feedback. He called the map DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) and it became very popular globally. People were buying Warcraft III just to play his custom map.  Games like Heroes of Newerth, League of Legends and DOTA 2 followed later.

Some may think that DOTA is the father of all MOBAs but IceFrog’s first MOBA mod map is actually Starcraft: Aeon of Strife. It didn’t become popular like DOTA but it had the same MOBA concept with three lanes and single hero control. Perhaps the lack of hero special abilities, diverse items and level upgrades made it less interesting.

Mobile Gaming Evolution

A year later, SEGA released a colored handheld console called Game Gear. On top of playing mobile games, it lets you watch TV as well using its TV tuner accessory. Nintendo has no choice but to come up with a colored version of Game Boy which was released in 1998 to compete with SEGA. Nintendo dominated the market because their handheld consoles and cartridges are cheaper. They eventually released Game Boy Advance in 2001 which is like the SNES version of Game Boy. The Nintendo DS series followed and now, Nintendo Switch is their latest. The graphics of the Nintendo Switch is at par with most PCs because it’s using an NVIDIA GeForce graphics card.

Mobile Phone Gaming

Back in 2000, Nokia released the 3310 phone model with the built-in game Space Impact. Its quality is similar to a Game Boy game. In the same year, they also released their first color mobile phone which is the Nokia 9210 Communicator. The quality of the games on this phone can be compared to SNES or Game Boy Advance. Before IOS and Android, the popular mobile software platform back then is the Symbian OS. Symbian games dominated the era but started to decline when Apple’s first iPhone model was released in 2007 and the first Android phone by HTC in 2008.