When video game fans discuss the medium’s long and storied history, it usually isn’t to simply reminisce about how far the industry has come. A huge part of gaming culture now involves breaking down genres, platforms, and even eras into lists – determining the very best offerings for each category after days of debate and scrutiny. Topics range from the best Nintendo launch titles in history to the scariest video game development stories, but it always seems hyper-specific and specialized. Sometimes, it can be nice to just kick back and admire how something like Pong became something as gorgeous and complex as The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.
Luckily, observing that history has never been easier than it is now. While there are countless YouTube videos and articles that do an excellent job summarizing the way video games have changed since the early 70s, they can be time consuming. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to get a quick glimpse into the evolution of video games without needing to set aside a big portion of the day? The short answer is yes, it is quite nice:
The long answer is wow, it’s hard to believe that only fifteen years ago we thought that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was a beautifully rendered, nigh-lifelike representation of the criminal underworld. While a .gif this short would find it impossible to completely capture the evolution of video gaming, this sampler of some of the medium’s greatest hits does an excellent job in conjuring up nostalgia for anyone who has played major triple-A releases in the past thirty or so years.
Watching this collection makes it hard not to reflect on the fortunes of some of the most iconic franchises in the industry, too. While the upcoming release of Super Mario Odyssey indicates that everyone’s favorite plumber is doing just fine, it’s more than a little disheartening to see Sonic the Hedgehog so prominently represented in the early 90s and then completely disappear over the course of the images shown here. Perhaps Sonic can have that big 2017 that his fans are hoping for still, but at this point, it seems pretty unlikely.
Regardless of which games have withstood the test of time, it’s a lot of fun to look back on just how far we’ve come as an industry and as fans. Looking back on the evolution of video games helps dispel our qualms over triple-A DLC and graphical beauty and, given how different things are now, it is hard not to be optimistic about the future of the medium as well.