Reading 05: The History of... Interactive Gaming

I remember vividly the day my family got a Wii Fit. We stayed up late playing games that tested balance coordination, and agility. My siblings and I competed to get the lowest “Wii Fit Age.” My Dad excelled at the soccer minigame, while my sister perferred ski jumping. The board on the floor offered an entirely new dimension to gaming that we had never experienced before.

In general, I found with my family that the Wii was (and continues to be) a very active gaming console. There are passive games that I enjoy, like Tanks on Wii Play or Mario Kart, but by and large most of the classic standouts were games that involved standing and jumping and moving in place.

On one hand, this genre of gaming brings back lots of nostalgia. I look back fondly on the games of Guitar Hero and Dogfight, playing tennis with my brother and bowling with my parents. But when I think of a classic gaming experience, it isn’t one that would involve lots of moving and jumping about. I like to be able to sit in one place, to relax, and focus solely on the game I’m playing.

While there are awesome games that are interactive, I don’t think enough developers were interested and invested in expanding the game library so that such games could be more than a gimmick. And looking to the future, I worry that the same fate will befall virtual reality and augmented reality. Looking at this History of Computing class right now, it isn’t difficult to create a basic game that could be played while sitting at a computer, using standard inputs and graphical outputs. But to create a game that involves these additional technologies is something beyond hobbyist and casual skill level.

This week, I played a few games from the 2000s. First on the list was Wii Sports. This was one of my go-to’s as a kid, and I still will play Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort over break with my family. I enjoy the fact that the games alow for fun cooperative play along with leveling your Mii over time, showing off your skill at each game. Wii Sports is notable because it was so universal: the game was packaged in with Wiis sold all over the world. It had its own custom Wiimote attachments. Much like Solitaire for computers, Wii Sports helped newcomers to the console learn how to use the controls.

I also (re)downloaded Angry Birds onto my phone, the “Best bird game on mobile!” This also brought about a bit of nostalgia, and I played a few more levels than I meant to. Along the way, I learned that the yellow triangle bird’s name is Chuck, and that the game I thought was super simple had more nuance to it than I remembered.

Angry Birds vs. Green Piggies

The combination of simple parabolic physics and unique bird mechanics allowed Angry Birds to become a mobile game superstar. The game has more sequels than I can count, merchandise, and even a movie. It’s amazing that something that I can add and remove to a device in my pocket - for free - can have such a lasting impact.