Gaming has come a long way since the first programs made their way into the mainstream. While it would be difficult to discount the long road of innovations that the industry went through to get where it is today, this generation is chock-full of new and simplified technology that makes our gaming lives so much easier.
5. Online Integration
Online integration in gaming has been around a long time, but this is the first generation where it’s not only popularized, but also considered necessary in many cases. Along with the advent of DRM and DLC, online integration has brought both good and bad things to the table. Since this mixture is so new, it’s hard to say whether overall online integration is a good thing—but it certainly makes console MMOs and multiplayer easy to set up and achieve.
4. Interactive Controls
Either through touch screens, tablet inputs, or motion controls, this generation put controller gimmicks into the forefront, with good results. The Wii sales soared despite speculative analysts and brought a new target of casual gamers into the game. Sony and Microsoft eventually followed suit, releasing their own types of motion controllers. However, the distinct lack of hardcore games that require motion is depressing—this is a good technology with its potential currently wasted on casual players. There are very few good games that take advantage of any of the motion controls. There are also a few flaws to these controllers—a player has to see through their hand to use touch screens, a console can’t distinguish between a swing of the remote versus a flick of the hand, and it’s difficult to use a camera to move in-game when you have to stand in one spot. All this aside, this generation is very exploratory when it comes to interactive controls.
3. Wireless controllers
Before interactive motion controls could even be imagined, wireless controllers were first on the list. The console needs to be able to detect movement from afar before gaming companies could popularize motion control. Otherwise, we’d have no sad pictures of people swinging their Wiimotes into the television—they’d accidentally be pulling their console instead. Virtually all systems took advantage of these wireless controllers this generation, regardless of motion controls—and in the case of portables, they at least improved their wireless connections and booted multiplayer by cord connection.
2. Open World
Open world games have frequented the shelves for nearly three decades, but it was only with the latest generation that they started to grow impressive. With series such as the Elder Scrolls and Grand Theft Auto taking huge leaps in creating an expansive, intricate overworld to explore. This innovation also dealt a crippling blow to loading screens, since the integration of each area was seamless in many open world games, especially compared to regular games. While past generations’ attempts at open world have led to large areas to explore (Hyrule Field comes to mind), this is the first generation where you can get truly lost in a place without having any idea where you are. Thankfully, most of these games have a map.
1. Mobile Arcade
As smart phones and tablets continue to become popular, their huge library of games continues to expand. The notion of being able to buy, download, and play a game from anywhere, within minutes, has revolutionized the gaming world. Popular Facebook games and iPhone apps have found themselves competing with profitable giants such as Nintendo at minimal cost. The XBOX and PS3 released their XBL Arcade and PSN game system to mimic this success, and from there many new, critically acclaimed indie gems were born. While many of these games are simple and short, as technology continues to evolve, more and more professional games will turn up in these arcades as time goes on. With the next generation looming, there are infinite possibilities—but I think the arcade system is one that has been around forever, and finally found a way to cement itself in the mainstream permanently.