Once someone realised that real-time input when fed to a visual display could also be used to have fun. It was a shabby black and white screen with a tiny box being bounced between 2 rectangular boxes on either side. Yes, I’m talking about Pong. It wasn’t about the details, mind you but rather about the fun.
Over the course of time people started putting 2 & 2 together literally and in pixels. And Bam! 8-bit games came into existence. The console processors in video games are either 8-bit or 16-bit. 8-bit and 16-bit refer to the size of words data used by the processor. Nintendo started using 8-bit processors. They were the initial 8-bit consoles. The TurboGrafx- 16 was a 16-bit console that used a 16-bit processor. Depending on how much data is used at once, it makes a difference to the quality of graphics and music. But keeping music aside, what really mattered were the “graphics”. 2-dimensional coloured pixels were the thing. People saw an Italian plumber with a pot belly, a blue jumper, with red undershirt and a red hat all in a 16×12 pixel square.
Let’s compare that to one of the benchmarks of the current times. Mario from the original Super Mario with someone like Geralt of Rivia form The Witcher: Wild Hunt. A bit of effort was needed to understand what those pixels meant. Geralt on the other hand is Battle-weary; you could tell this by looking at the scars on his face and body. You could just recognise just by looking him. The difference is, Mario was limited by the technology of his time but not the lack of effort. Pitting Famicom against a PS4 or a Xbox One sounds foolish to be honest.
With the invention of media drives with massive data storage capabilities and faster processing speeds to access that data. The games have only “upped” their game. Gone were the days of 2-dimensional pixels (Not really, #Nostalgia), the 3-d vector games were possible. Instead of flat tiles, there is depth to the perspective now. And with that, the scope of adding details. Racing and First Person Shooter games were that much more immersive now. The artists were getting their proper tools.
In a sense, video games have only been limited by the technology of their times but not lack of creativity or scope. People were creating open-world RPGs well before the advent of 3-dimensional dungeons and procedurally generated worlds. Vast green plains of The legend of Zelda or Pokemon gave the same sense of a rich world with possibilities on par with TESV: Skyrim or GTA V. The idea was there, but the details have to be confined with flatter colours and limited pallets.
It also has been a topic of controversial debate lately that if video games could be considered and art form. Technically speaking, video games are a form of art and a bit more too and the genres are constantly evolved or being added. Steampunk (Bioshock), Retro (Pac-man), Noir (L.A Noire), Fantasy (World of Warcraft), Sci-fi (Star Wars: Battlefront), Episodic (The Walking Dead), Superhero (Arkham Knight) etc. are some of the examples of art forms video games have diversified into.
Looking to the future, I can only imagine the vast worlds with detailed graphics that people could just explore from their desktops. Yes No Man’s Sky, I’m looking at you.
Quoting Wikipedia here:
In No Man’s Sky, players are free to explore the entirety of a procedurally generated deterministic open universe, which includes over 18 quintillion (1.8×1019) planets, many with their own set of flora and fauna.
Just, imagine the possibilities.
Indium Software’s insight:
Author: Basha M Syed, Lead Game Testing Expert, Indium Software – An independent software testing company