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International Video Games Day

Posted by THEPOGG on Sep 13, 2019

International Video Games Day takes place on Thursday the 12th of September and is, I would imagine, exactly what you think it is. In case you’re completely at loss I can explain that on the 12th of September there is an expectation amongst those who come up with days in which we commemorate something to take the time to apricate video games past and present that have had a significant impact on your life.

Don’t get me wrong, other equally notable events have occurred on this date in history that might form the basis of something else that you feel needs honoured more than your favourite computer game (there’s also always the highly unlikely possibility that you don’t have a favourite computer game).

September 12th in History

For example, in 1624 King James I tested the world’s first submarine. In 1755, history’s most famous womaniser, Casanova, was sentenced to 5 years in prison for his public affront to religion and not a progressive 18th century #metoo movement. In 1919 Adolf Hitler joined the Workers’ Party, the beginning of political career that would cast a defining shadow over the 20th century. In 1958 the US Supreme Court ordered the governor of Arkansas to allow the integration of 9 black students into Little Rock High School after a standoff (now known as the Little Rock Crisis) involving the National Guard had prevented the students from entering the school, a dispute that lasted roughly a year. In 1974, in a coup d’état, the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie was overthrown, a moment in Ethiopian history now known as Ethiopia Day.

In other words if you want to commemorate staggering technological progress, a stand against religious tyranny, a moment that would shape the 20th century’s darkest days and victory over racial and political oppression then by all means do so. However, here at ThePogg we will be celebrate every procrastinator’s best and worst enemy, the video game.

But how exactly did we get here? To the point where video games sales dwarf the Hollywood Walk of Fame and laughs in the face of record labels. In the off chance you don’t know I will now chart the key moments in the history and development of video games. From their humble beginnings in labs surrounded by people in white coats to the number one source of entertainment in world today. We’re building a timeline:

Timeline

1962 –Spacewar! – The first computer game, developed by beardy nerds at MIT. The computer on this thing is reported to have been bigger than a car, highlighting the lengths that would have to be taken before consoles could enter the market.

1972 – Pong – The first arcade game, developed by the inventors of the Atari console (coming up soon) is arguably the first computer game that was released to the masses and signalled the beginning of mainstream gaming.

1973 – Maze War – Hot on the tail of Pong comes Maze War. Essentially just a few green lines to help create the impression that you can move through corridors. It might seem pretty unremarkable but this was beginning of all those first person shooters and RPG games there were to come.

1975 – Pong – Yes, I’ve not gone mad. Pong makes is back onto the list as the first home computer game.

1977 – Atari – The first ever home console, Atari will be forever remembered as trailblazers, giving us a joystick, game cartridges, games in colour and difficulty settings. The world may not have been completely ready for the home console but hats of to those pioneers at Atari for chiselling out their own nugget of history.

1978 – Space Invaders hits, the Japanese enter the market and the age of the arcade begins.

1979 – As the decade that birthed video games comes to a close a new console was released by Mattel. The Intellivision was an improvement on the Atari and sold over 3 million units but it still wasn’t revolution that many had anticipated.

1980 – Pac Man lifts the mantel for arcade games, picking up where Space Invaders took off. Later that year Pac Man also found a home on the Atari, becoming the first arcade game to make it through our front doors.

1981 – Donkey Kong simultaneously cements the age of the arcade whilst also sewing the seeds of a renaissance in home gaming with the introduction of a diminutive Italian plumber with a gift for jumping.

1982 – The release of the Commodore 64 saw the first big console battle with Atari and Commodore duking it out in a dying market. Tape or cartridge?

1984 – Tetris is developed in the Soviet Union, a full 4 years before it would become a staple of handheld gaming.

1985 – The Japanese revolution takes full effect with the release of Nintendo’s first console, breathing new life into a market that had been struggling to find its audience. Things were taking off for the new console on the block, but their meteoric rise wouldn’t kick in until the Super Mario Bros joined the gang later on that year.

1986 – Enter the Master System and the beginnings of the second great rivalry in video game consoles. Sega may have released the SG-1000 in 1983, but it was the Master System and then the Megadrive that really put them on the map. There would be no significant newcomers on the scene now for nearly a decade.

1987 – Nintendo release Zeldaand with that the RPG hits the big time.

1988 – If we don’t count Pong as sports game then the first one of real significance would have to be the original John Madden Football.

1989 – The Gameboy might not have been the first handheld console but it was the most loved and arguably the most important. Not only that but in Tetris it handed to the rest of the world in one of the Soviet Union’s most loved exports.

1990 – This is a good point to stop for a second and breath because as of now and awful lot of things will happen that some people will deem significant that I don’t include. I will not mention every game that was released from here on in and inevitably I will miss things that some consider important. However, I will mention all the significant developments in hardware and in the way that games could be played.

1991 – Mario was already kicking about by this point and what he needed was a rival. Ultimately what Sega needed was a champion so they could properly start competing with Nintendo. In 1991 Sonic the Hedgehog made his way onto the Megadrive and into the hearts and very quick fingers of those who would go on to chose Sega as their console of choice.

1991 – Civilization is released and real time strategy games come of age.

1993 – The term beat ‘em up was along established gaming vernacular by now but the violence hit a brand-new level with the release of Mortal Combat. This was the point where parents began to worry about violence in computer games.

1994 – This was the year that a new kid hit the gaming block. Cartridges were out and CD Roms were in as gaming went digital. The birth of the Sony PlayStation would signal a changing of the guard and whilst Sega and Nintendo would cling on for a few years it was only a matter of time before the soon to be giants of the gaming world would crush the competition.

1997 – The internet had been around for a while but it wasn’t until 1997 that online gaming really came of age with the hugely popular Ultima Online. It wasn’t the first MMORPG but it did take things to a brand new level, with gamers getting together from all concerns of the world to forge alliances and fight bad guys into the wee small hours.

2001 – Microsoft had already managed to corner the PC market and now it was time for them to get in on the console market too. From 2001 on there were only two consoles anyone wanted to own. You were and probably still are either Xbox or Playstation.

2003 – Steam is released by Valve, a platform that allows gamers to download games straight onto their PCs and update them without having to brave the outside world.

2006 – Did I say there were only 2 consoles anyone wanted to buy? Well, Nintendo made sure they still had something to say in 2006. The Wii was never a serious contender to the two big guns, but it was something different, something novelty and, whilst it may not have been for the serious gamer, in 2006 you would be hard pushed not to find a livingroom full of people jumping around with white sticks in their hands.

2008 – Over 10 million players sign up to World of Warcraft as computer games begin their rise to the top of the entertainment charts.

2009 – What? You mean I can play computer games at work, whilst I sit on the toilet? Mobile gaming takes off in 2009 with games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush leading the way.

2010 – Did someone say Minecraft? The age of building has begun.

2011 – Skylanders came along and allowed us all to learn what augmented reality actually was.

2012 – VR gives us a look into what the future of gaming might be. We’re still not there but who knows what is to come.

2014 – Free-to Play games launch and become the new business model for a new bread of mega franchise. 3 years later Fortnite would be released and gamers would pay nothing for the privilege. Well, nothing to begin with anyway.

2015 – Twitch is acquired by Amazon and the esports industry is thrust into the mainstream. Gaming can now be a spectator sport where we sit back in our armchairs and watch how the very best do the things we can only dream of, whilst earning big money as they do so.

2016 – Pokemon Go is born and augmented reality is given a brand-new lease of life. Now you can take gaming wherever you like and blend real and virtual together in the feel-good hit of that particular summer. I can’t help but think there is much much more to come from this medium in the next few years.

2017 – Did someone say that Nintendo were finished? The release of the Switch meant that for the first time in a long long time Nintendo dominated console sales, with nearly 8 million Switches sold in the 21 months following its release. The Switch takes mobile phone technology and marries it with traditional handheld technology so that you can tilt your screen and press the buttons like you always used to. However, like previous Nintendo releases it remains to be seen if the popularity can continue or if early sales were little more than novelty value.

The Future of Video Games

I think 2017 is as good as place to stop as any. What comes next is undoubtedly going to take video games even further into the stratosphere with new technologies. Facial recognition is now so advanced that there are rumours that it will be integrated with computer games, identifying through pained expressions when the difficulty level needs to be turned down.

Facial recognition not enough, well how about voice recognition too? It’s unclear how this might be used within games, but in terms of navigating through menus within them and within the console, it is unlikely that you’ll be needing to press any buttons.

Remember that scene in Back to the Future 2 when Marty tries to impress the young folk with his arcade skills and they dismiss it because they needed to use their hands to play it? We’re not quite at the, just use your mind to control it stage, but gesture control could mean that controllers become a thing of the past as our bodies become the main interface.

Augmented reality has only just got started. Be prepared for this to grow and grow.

With each console release there has been a marked improvement in the quality of the graphics. However, now the box that is wrapped around your console is no longer going to hold this back. With the cloud an enormous hard drive won’t be needed in your house as they sit in massive warehouses and stream via the internet. All this means that there should be nothing holding software developers back from pushing the envelope as far as they can.

Slots

Of course, despite the long article, I’m really here to write about slots, which got me thinking about how some of that technology might be used in future releases. Could augmented reality see the slot experience take us out of our homes? Bonuses where items can be collected in the street, tiles that can be flipped on dinner tables?

Could facial and voice recognition be used to facilitate the login process, or even support with self-exclusions? How good will slot games look in 10 years?

Ultimately, for me, the most important improvements will not necessarily be in the technology used but in the creativity used to develop slot games that stand out from an increasingly cluttered crowd.

All of which brings me conveniently to a list of just 5 slot games that I believe not only display a level of creativity rare in other slots but also 5 slots that hold a resemblance to the video games that we will celebrate on the 12th of September. Slots with levels, with bosses to be beaten and characters to become. Slots that look good, that offer choices and offer more than just paylines and spins. I won’t just look for slots that are directly based on video games because, to be quite honest, there really are not very many good ones out there. Whilst that will be at the forefront of my decision making, I will mainly be looking at those key similarities between slots and video games and to keep things relevant I will only consider releases over the last 2 years.

Slots as Video Games

Wild Worlds

This Net Entertainment slot has appear on a few of our lists already this year and for very good reasons. This is a slot that has the look of an older type pf computer game. One where grity realism is less of a focus and fun and imagination take centre stage. The Wild Worlds slot game has a cartoon aesthetic but has predominantly found itself on this list because of the quality of those features. You have levels and bad guys and an overall narrative that takes the design of this game up to a level that most other slot games simply cannot get anywhere near. This is a slot where you feel as if you are making the decisions and where there is progression to be made through levels.

Play the slot here for free

Lara Croft: Temples and Tombs

I had to include this slot, because it actually is based on a computer game and it actually is really good. What I liked most about this slot were the little touches. There weren’t as many game defining features as some of the other slots on this list but every feature that it does have comes with a kicker of some sort that elevates what can be won and as such makes each feature that little bit more exciting. This will be the only slot on the list that can be linked directly to a video game, something that appears to be less and less common nowadays.

Play the slot here for free

Arcane Reel Chaos

The moment I saw this game. The moment I saw that opening sequence, I knew I was dealing with a slot that would have a lot in common with some of the best video games. Arcane Reel Chaos has it all. There is nothing I like more in a slot game than a plot that is properly exploited. As much computer game as slot, Arcane Reel Chaos sees you take on 4 different bad guys over 4 levels within the Free Spins game. The Arcane Reel Chaos slot is as much about story telling as it is about software design and as such has to be considered one of the single best slots released so far in 2019.

Play the slot here for free

Champions of Rome

Champions of Rome was released earlier this year and was a positive sign of good things to come for Yggdrasil. The slot looks as good an anything Yggdrasil have ever released and like all their standout titles this one makes the most of the features that it offers. Actual gladiator fights built into the bonuses means that we have a game that applies its theme to its features in a way that makes it entirely unique. This is proper levelling up stuff with bigger, badder bosses to fight as you you’re your way through the slot.

Play the slot here for free

Yokozuna Clash

Yokozuna Clash came second in our best slots for August and it was one of the first I thought of when I knew I was making this list. I even asked the question, “Who doesn’t love a slot that plays out like a computer game?” and answered with, “One where there are levels and ever increasingly tough bosses for you to attempt to thwart.” This slot is everything we need it to be, fully embracing the concept of a beat ‘em up style of slot. In this slot, you are a wrestler and you are taking on opponents, attempting to push them out of the ring and reap the rewards that come with doing so. Nintendo would have been proud to call this their own.

Play the demo slot here for free

Conclusions

In a way this whole list is a bit of cheat because, when I say I want a slot that plays like a video game, what I mean is I want a slot that is fully of invention and uniquely immersive bonus features. I love all of the slots on this list and each of them as title contenders for best slot of 2019. What I have also noticed is that there are 2 or 3 software developers who do this better than just about anyone else. I won’t be so cruel as to point them out and as such dismiss the ones that I haven’t mentioned, but all you really need to do is take a look at the 5 games on that list and you will know exactly what I mean.

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