In the 1980s, most serious gamers could be found at the local arcade putting coins into arcade games such as Outrun, Street Fighter and R-Type. At the same time, the first home computer games began to appear, first the Sinclair ZX-81 and later the Sinclair Spectrum and Commodore C64.
These computers loaded games from cassette tape but were cheap to buy, and many families could afford to have a games machine in the home for the first time. Games were controlled either via the computer keyboard, or by joysticks with one “fire” button which could be plugged in peripherally to the computer.
The 1990s saw many home users move on to 16-bit home computers such as the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST. Priced slightly higher than the older 8-bit machines, yet still affordable for most families, the Amiga and ST had more memory than their predecessors and loaded games from 3.5 inch floppy disk drives. This Naughty Dog Shares Concept Art Gallery For The Last Of Us Part II, Reveals Ellie’s Pet Dog meant that users could enjoy much faster loading times for their games, as well as significantly faster games with better graphics and sound.
At around the same time, the first home games consoles began to appear, with the Sega Master System and Nintendo 64 being the most popular. These were then superseded by 16-bit consoles, the Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo or SNES. The console games were stored on cartridge meaning they loaded almost instantly, however the games themselves were more expensive than comparable games for the Amiga and ST.
In the late 1990s, the 16-bit home computers began to die out as more and more people were able to own a home PC, which they could also use for games. At the same time, consoles also took another step forward with the first Sony PlayStations being released, offering enhanced graphics and levels of game play that had never been seen previously.
As PC ownership became more widespread, the console manufacturers faced an ongoing challenge to make their machines popular. They have responded by producing ever more advanced consoles. The Nintendo Wii is one example, which introduced a new concept of wireless controllers which respond to human movement.
At the same time, the internet began to play a major part in everyday life and gaming has embraced this as you might expect. Now, players with consoles or PCs can join in distributed multi-player games with either their own friends, or with perfect strangers located anywhere across the world. It is no longer necessary to even own a physical copy of the game being played, as was the case in the old days. Games can now be played entirely online, in some cases free of charge.