Gaming Past, Present & Future: Part 2

Gaming Past, Present & Future: Part 1 by Adrian Maldonado and Part 2 by Adrian Hon

When I visited the Game Masters exhibition, there was no question what the most popular games were. It wasn’t the energetic Dance Central, or the modern PC and console games, or even Minecraft. No, it was the old arcade games from the 60s, 70s, and 80s: Missile Defense, Tempest, Asteroids, Robotron.

On first glance, this seems strange. There are countless knockoffs of these games available for free on our smartphones and tablets – devices that practically all of us own, and are vastly more powerful than the old arcade games. If we want to play Missile Defense, we can do it on the bus, in a cafe, or lying in bed. And yet that’s what we play at an exhibition?

The Game Masters exhibition at National Museum of Scotland
Above: The Game Masters exhibition at National Museum of Scotland

Nostalgia is the easy explanation, and it’s not wrong. I saw a mother work her way through all the arcade cabinets, showing her two girls exactly how to master the games of her youth. But again, she could have done this on a tablet.

A more powerful explanation is that there’s more to games than pixels on a screen. Games are about the sounds of the arcade, the bounce of the joystick, the clicking of the buttons, the person you’re trying to beat or impress standing behind you. Sure, you can play Missile Defense on an iPad, but it was made for a trackball. And you can play Robotron on a PC, but it’s best with dual arcade sticks.

The Game Masters exhibition at National Museum of Scotland
Above: The Game Masters exhibition at National Museum of Scotland

The contrast with smartphone and tablet games, with tapping on a piece of glass, couldn’t be greater. It highlights just how broad and deep the world of gaming is right now. Games are everything from Angry Birds and Candy Crush to Minecraft and Mario. They can be played in arcades, on phones, inside virtual reality, or even while running away from zombies in the real world.

So if there’s one thing to take away from Games Masters, it’s that there is no single idea of a game, and no single idea of a person who plays games. There are millions, and it’s growing every day.

Adrian Hon is CEO at Six to Start, co-creators of Zombies, Run!, the world’s most successful smartphone fitness game. Previously, he was Director of Play at Mind Candy and lead designer of the Perplex City treasure hunt, and before that, he studied neuroscience and experimental psychology.

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