Image by Flickr user Raúl (CC)

21 Years, 21 Stories #gamersonwatch

Image by Flickr user Raúl (CC)
Image by Flickr user Raúl (CC)

This year marks E3’s 21st anniversary, and what a road this event with humble beginnings has traveled! To celebrate how far games have come in a mere two decades, I’m running down a year-by-year list of my history with game news and events since 1995, the year of E3’s first show. (Hence the throwback to the Sega Saturn above, which gets first mention below.) The stories on my list didn’t necessarily break at E3, but rather were introduced during their given years. Keep in mind that a little cheekiness may seep in here and there, because game news is still “news” after all, and not all of it matters all the time. :) So join me on this little trip through time, and be sure to let us know some of your favorite news stories of the past and present, either in the comments here, or as a post of your own to join our June writing challenge. #gamersonwatch

1995: Sega Saturn hits the North American shelves
The Sega Saturn was not the first CD-ROM game console, but it was the first one I ever saw in use. And once I did, I was toats jealous, and I needed to have one. The only problem was that it couldn’t play Super Metroid. And by the time I was done thinking about that, I had gotten a Nintendo 64, and the Saturn became but a memory.

1996: Duke Nukem 3D gets in trouble
Still riding the years-old high of DOOM, DOOM II, and a strong yearning for Quake, when I first heard about Duke Nukem 3D, I was excited. Only then the word came out that it was extremely graphic…and then I became even more excited! Haha, okay, not really. But I was…shall we say, immensely curious. Alas, despite this, the modern Duke and I never crossed paths.

1997: What the heck is PaRappa the Rapper?
I played the game, and I still don’t understand it. But once the game came out late in 1997, everyone I knew suddenly had the game and was head-over-heels in love with it. Rhythm games weren’t a thing then, plus the game had a totally funky fresh animation style, which was more than enough to make it stand out. So even if I didn’t understand it, watching people play it was captivating enough.

1998: The Year of Grand Theft Auto
Okay, so GTA was actually released in late 1997, December of that year if we’re counting the wide release of it on the PlayStation, which we are. But I’m sticking this in 1998 because that’s the year I remember first reading reviews of this crazy game. Maybe they weren’t the most favorable of reviews, but who knew then it was going to turn into the juggernaut of a franchise is it today?

1999: EverQuest is released
I had absolutely no idea of what EverQuest was, but when I first saw its box in the local electronics store, I had never before wanted to buy something so badly. Throughout much of the latter half of 1999, it seemed a new EverQuest-related story popped up each week in the game news circuits. By Christmas, a number of folks I knew were completely hooked on it. Not me. As an MMO foreigner I stayed on the sidelines, ever watchful and curious.

2000: First Dreamcast Championships held
I never had a Dreamcast, but boy oh boy, did I ever wish that I could have attended the Dreamcast Championships! In late 1999, Sega dropped the Dreamcast into the heady waters of the North American video game market; and it was a shark compared to the aging PlayStation and Nintendo 64. So fast was its rise to stardom that only a few months after it was released, Sega announced the Dreamcast Championships. Held in Las Vegas in February 2000, it was something of a big deal with $15,000 (!) at stake for the winner. Unfortunately, the Dreamcast’s star fell as quickly as it rose. Only two championships were held (2000 and 2001) before the console was discontinued, and Dreamcast fans everywhere started wearing their perma-frowns.

2001: Sony acquires Naughty Dog
And woohoo! For that, yeah? Today Naughty Dog’s a household name when it comes to games, but back then, it was a small company producing great games. Naughty Dog “crashed” onto the game scene in 1996 with Crash Bandicoot, an action-packed 3D platformer starring, umm…a bandicoot named Crash. That game became a huge success, which they followed up with the now famous duo of Jax & Daxter. In 2001, Sony, which had published many of Naughty Dog’s games, acquired the independent company.  Since then, Naughty Dog’s fame as grown by leaps and bounds in all ways good. Can we all just say Uncharted 4?!

2002: Haptic technology makes headlines in patent infringement case
You know any list is going to be the most fun list ever when it mentions about lawsuits! And patent infringement lawsuits at that! But seriously…and seriously, this is serious…2002 saw a major case that taught me all about “haptic technology,” which I had never heard of before but blindly knew about like everyone else in the world. (Touchpads, for example, feature haptics.) A haptic tech company called Immersion Corporation filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft and Sony for the use of haptics (i.e. the rumble feature) in the XBox controller and the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 controllers. While Microsoft settled out of court, paying $26 million in exchange for licensing rights, Sony fought back, and unfortunately, lost. In 2004, Sony was ruled to pay $82 million to use Immersion’s haptics in the Dualshock controllers.  (By the way, if you’re wondering why Nintendo wasn’t called also called to task — remember those attachable Rumble Paks? — well, they held patents for their own similar technology that pre-dated Immersion’s patents.  Smart move.)

2003: Nintendo goes backward compatible with the Gamecube’s successor
At the time, no announcement could have made me happier. I was then closely following Nintendo, and it was exciting to know that whatever was coming next down its console pipeline would maintain the joy of the Gamecube. If there’s one thing I’m all about, it’s backwards compatibility.

2004: EA releases Catwoman, a game based on, yes, that movie
All I can really say here is HA! But I did want to play this game when it came out. I was on my way to starting grad school and figured that a blow-out session of bad games might be the perfect send off. Never happened. If you played this game, please tell me, was it “bad” good, “bad” bad, or simply unplayable?

2005: Resident Evil 4 is released 
Among the handful of Gamecube games that remain in my home stash is Resident Evil 4. Though I was far removed from the horror genre when the game first came out, it was simply a must-buy for that console. This game was hyped to the gills after being in development limbo for several years. RE4 offered a “true” survival horror experience with danger around just about every corner and limited resources.  I can barely bring myself to even think of playing the game now, but I also can’t get rid of it. I can’t. It won’t let me.

2006: Nintendo DS Lite is going to be a thing
There’s plenty I don’t understand about the game industry, but I do understand the desire to slim down game consoles…except this one time in 2006 when the Nintendo DS Lite was launched. I had a regular Nintendo DS as was quite happy with it, and neverminding what all the commercials promised, I honestly didn’t see any point in “upgrading” to a slightly smaller, less weighty handheld. Yes, the DS Lite’s screen was a little bigger, and yes, the innards were a little faster, and yes, the Lite’s battery life was better, and …huh. Maybe I should have upgraded. But I was cheap. There, I said it. You happy now? (But don’t even get me started on the DS XL…)

2007: Windows Vista is released
Why bother mentioning this vile stain upon the fabric of Microsoft operating systems in a game-centric list? Because Vista was the first OS Microsoft introduced since the release of XP in 2001 (the king is dead, long live the king), and it was a big deal. Supposedly, or so I had read, Vista machines were promised to be pretty good for gaming, and the OS’s graphics were touted, so when it was time for me to get a new laptop a few years back, which was not at all in line with a vain attempt to somehow get back into PC gaming, I went with a Vista machine. The graphics did make games look and run a little better but the OS had numerous compatibility issues and sometimes ran like molasses in winter. I did not play many games on that laptop.

2008: Drooling over Spore
Maybe I was little more excited for its soundtrack by Brian Eno, but Spore was a game that captured a ton of my attention in 2008. It introduced me to “procedural generation” and made me hope against hope that my Vista laptop would magically transform into an all-powerful gaming PC upon the game’s release. It wasn’t even that I cared so much about playing an oddball space adventure game, I just wanted to create aliens. Lots of aliens. MILLIONZ OF AL1ENZ! So, yeah. Aliens.

2009: The PSP Go comes and goes
If you blinked in 2009, you might have missed the PSP Go, a version of the ol’ PlayStation Portable that only played downloadable games. Yep, no mini-disks, cartridges, or other means of getting a game on the system – just you, your PSP Go, and the online PlayStation store. As a one-time “co-proprietor” of a PSP, the PSP Go actually sounded like a cool idea — no more lugging around a handheld and its games. Problem was, we saw it once in the stores around Christmas 2009, thought it might be a good “on sale, maybe” purchase, and then never saw it again. Guess the PSP Go never really went.

2010: PAX East, PAX East, PAX EAST!!
Alright, so…I’ve never been to a con. I’m not really one for crowds or ridiculousness or…crowds. But when the Penny Arcade Expo (or PAX, which started in Washington State in the early 2000s) announced that they were going to be expanding to the East coast, well, my heart might have skipped a beat or three. I had been following from afar the fun of PAX and all the stuff that came out of it for several years, and it was awesome knowing that I, an East Coast-er, could revel in all that fun in person! Now, there was no way I was going to travel to Boston for it…but the point is that I could have.

2011: I don’t play The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword because I am stupid, and forgetful
For years I eagerly followed the development of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, because it looked awesome, and plus, it was a Zelda game. That was enough for me. But when I finally got the game in late 2011, I somehow missed that I needed an extra thingamajig – the Wii MotionPlus – for my Wiimote in order to play. When I went looking to obtain said thingamajig, apparently everyone else in the world needed one too, and I had no success actually obtaining one. TL;DR the game sat on my shelves for weeks because I refused to shell out extra money for the Wii MotionPlus, partly on principle, partly because I barely used the dang Wii anymore at that point. I eventually forgot all about these trials and tribulations and lent the game out. I’ve actually no idea where it remains to this day.

2012: That Mass Effect 3 ending
I doubt I need to rehash the story here, but I actually don’t know if anything else happened in the world during the Spring of 2012 because of what occurred over the ending of Mass Effect 3. I do remember avoiding as much of the mess as I could because I hadn’t yet played the game. Also, how all the angst and anger resulted in Bioware offering up an altered ending. It’s something that, for better or worse, forever affected the landscape of the gaming community.

2013: Atari files for bankruptcy
Plenty of game companies have filed for bankruptcy, but Atari going under was upsetting. It was like a part of my childhood was somehow going bankrupt; or worse, was somehow being expelled from existence. Then again, I was also a little surprised to know that the company was still in business in some manner or another.

2014: Facebook acquires Oculus VR for two billion dollars; Amazon acquires Twitch for nearly one billion dollars
It’s one thing to consider that the video game industry has, in just several decades, become a billion dollar industry. It’s another to consider that game-related companies, such as Twitch and Oculus, have reached the same stature in a mere fraction of that time. While my cynical side tends towards thoughts that we may be reaching a dangerous point of over-saturation, my idealistic side can’t help but think “it’s an amazing time to be a gamer.”

2015 (so far)
I’ve already covered my favorite game news story of the first part of 2015, that of Batman: Arkham Knight and it’s “M” rating,” and I’d like to think that my most anticipated stories of the last half of 2015 will be the announcement of the releases of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3. But so far, no story is no story there. I will say that, out of E3 2015, the one thing that’s got my interest is the return of DOOM. Not that I necessarily want to play the new masterpiece from Bethesda, because it’s not really “my” game anymore. And I mean that in a good way. The new DOOM seems to place emphasis on speed and demons. I’m more than down with demons, but not speed. Because, if the original DOOM meant anything to me, it was because I was able to be slow with it. I loved being haunted (and hunted) by its very atmosphere, from the visceral levels to the horrible, far-away sounds of monsters’ cries. None of that came across in the new game – it was all about blasting your way through the hordes, which is perfectly fine and dandy. There is zero doubt in my mind that the game is going to be a huge seller, and for that, I’m thrilled. Seeing the new DOOM cemented my current place with games – slower, less gory, quirkier — and it’s a place that I like. I’m glad to be able to say that within a community that allows everyone to play.

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