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Computer games of the 80s and 90s

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Computer games of the 80s and 90s


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By 1984 computer games took over the market. The Commodore 64 was released in August 1982. Thanks to its BASIC programming environment, advanced graphics and sound capabilities similar to the ColecoVision console as well as the fact it used the same game controller ports popularized by the Atari 2600, allowing gamers to use their old joysticks with the system, it became the most popular home computer of its day in the United States and other parts of the American continent.

In the UK, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was released and quickly became the most popular home computer there.

Over 10,000 titles were created for both computers, including arcade and console ports; but most of them were original computer games produced by independent companies dedicated exclusively to the computers market as well as taking advantage of the consoles crash of 1983-1985 thus replacing them and taking over the games market immediately.

Until late 80s the PCs were still expensive and their low graphics capabilities until 1984 less apealing to gamers. Then with the release of PC/AT and the EGA graphics card, they could display up to 16 allowing its graphics to approach the quality of the Commodore 64, but the sounds were still poor limited to the PC speaker, and the prices did not come down yet. The arrival of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga was the beginning of a new era of 16-bit machines and the arrival of technically excellent games with higher graphics and sounds quality, comparable to arcade machines. They dominated the market from 1989 to 1992.

But the advent of dedicated sound cards in 1987 started to address the poor sound issues of PC compatible machines. First the Ad Lib based on the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip and then in 1989 the new Sound Blaster. Moreover the new VGA standard developed for IBM’s new PS/2 line in 1987 gave the PC the capability of 256-color graphics. So the PC would take over the market in the early 90s, replacing all the other computers and becoming the most popular computer for gamers. All the games during the 90s would be developed for the PC before any other platform, finally the PC with its new technical capabilities and lower costs became the king of games.

Some of these small game development companies, mostly made up of 1-5 persons; would become in the future the leading billion-dollars companies of the 21st century, like EA Games. Other companies disappeared during the 90s or were acquired by those which made it to our days. Many of the games were produced and published by young students who gave them to bigger distribution companies with some renown by the mid-80s. The fever of computer games was born and they were installed in our society to evolve technologically and become years later in a billion-dollars industry even with larger revenues than the film industry.

New game genres appeared one after the other, taking the attention of new gamers who eventually would join the video games world becoming fans of each of these specific genres.

Some of the computer games that made history during the 80s and today are considered classics:Adventure Games: This genre evolved during the 80s and the 90s, it introduced the concept of interactive story to the gaming world. Progress in these games is based on problems and puzzle-solving instead of physical challenge. Some of the games that today are considered milestones of the genre include: Sierra's King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown (1984), King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne (1985), King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human (1986), King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella (1988), King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! (1990), King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (1992), King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride (1994), Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist (1993) Space Quest 1-6 (1986-1995), Police Quest 1-4 (1987-1993); Lucasarts' Maniac Mansion (1987), The Secret of Monkey Island (1990), Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1991), Monkey Island 3: The Curse of Monkey Island (1997), Monkey Island 4: Escape from Monkey Island (2000), Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle (1993), Sam & Max (1993), Full Throttle (1995), The Dig (1995), Grim Fandango (1998); Cyan Worlds' Myst (1993); Westwood Studio's The Legend of Kyrandia 1-3 (1992-1994); Adventure Soft's: Simon the Sorcerer 1 and 2 (1993 and 1994 respectively); Cyberdreams' Dark Seed 1 and 2 (1992 and 1996 respectively); EA's The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel (1992), The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Rose Tattoo (1996), Infogrames' Alone in the Dark 1-3 (1992, 1994), Shadow of the Comet (1993).

Beat 'em up Games: They featured combats between the player and a large number of enemies. They usually take place in scrolling, two-dimensional (2D) levels located in urban settings and feature crime-fighting and revenge or rescue based plots, however some games take place in historical or fantasy settings. The Beat'em up genre had its golden era from 1987-1993. Some of the games that today are considered milestones of the genre include: Kung-Fu Master (1984), Karateka (1984), Renegade (1986), Double Dragon (1987), Golden Axe (1989), Final Fight (1989), Turrican (1990), The Simpsons: arcade game (1991), Turrican II: The Final Fight (1991), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1992).

Fighting Games: In this genre players usually control an on-screen character who must fight in one-on-one close combat with an opponent. They can fight either against a computer-controlled opponent or a character controlled by another player in a 2 players type of fight. The characters tend to be of equal power, and skill dependant; matches consist of several rounds. Some of the games that today are considered milestones of the genre include: Karate Champ (1985), Yie Ar Kung Fu (1985), The Way of the Exploding Fist (1985), Street Fighter (1987), Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (1987), Barbarian II: The Dungeon of Drax (1988), International Karate (1985), International Karate (1987), Street Fighter II (1992).

Platform Games: They are characterized by jumping to and from suspended platforms or over screen obstacles. Usually players control characters who must walk and jump through multiple screens per level or just or scrolling screens. The most common element of platform games is precision jumping. They are thematically diverse; including cartoon, science fiction, fantasy as well as real world based stories. This kind of games are mostly based on gameplay rather than the story itself, though most of them feature some kind of background fictional story as a reason to achieve the main goals of the game. At the beginning most platform games features single-screen levels with colorful platforms and black backgrounds, later the genre evolved to scrolling screen levels. All throughout the 80s platform games were the dominating genre of computer games and most of the Commodore 64 and Spectrum ZX games developed belonged to this genre. No genre before or since has been able to achieve a similar market share, however nowadays they represent only 2% of the games. Some of the games that today are considered milestones of the genre include: Donkey Kong (1981), Donkey Kong Jr. (1982), Pitfall! (1982), Popeye (1982), Mario Bros. (1983), Lode Runner (1983), Jumpman (1983), Henry's House (1983), Pitfall II (1984), Impossible Mission (1984), Manic Miner (1983), Jet Set Willy (1984), Pac-Land (1984), H.E.R.O. (1984), Jet Set Willy II (1985), Ghosts 'n Goblins (1985), The Goonies (1985), Rupert and the Toymaker's Party (1985), Rupert and the Ice Castle (1986), Bubble Bobble (1986), Wonder Boy (1987), The Great Giana Sisters (1987), Wonder Boy in Monster Land (1988).

Sports and Racing Games: Sports and racing had a special place in video games since theearly 80s with the popularization of arcades, consoles and computer games. This genre evolved to the point of being nowadays mostly based on real-world leagues and teams including the presence of professional players and racers. Some of the games that today are considered milestones of the genre include: RACING GAMES: Pole Position (1982), Revs (1984), Formula One (1983), Out Run (1987), Chase HQ (1987), Road Blasters (1987), Test Drive (1987), Test Drive II: The Duel (1989), Grand Prix Circuit (1988), Hard Drivin' (1988), Test Drive III: The Passion (1989), Formula One Grand Prix (1992), Daytona USA (1994), The Need for Speed (1994), Grand Prix 2 (1995), Test Drive 4 (1997), Test Drive 5 (1998), Test Drive 6 (1999). SPORTS GAMES: One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird (1983), The Activision Decathlon (1983), Summer Games (1984), Summer Games II (1985), Winter Games (1985), Leaderboard (1986), BMX Simulator (1986), World Games (1986), California Games (1987), Skate or Die! (1987), Hardball! (1987), The Games: Summer Edition (1988), The Games: Winter Edition (1988), Street Sports Basketball (1988), Hardball II (1989), California Games 2 (1990), Ski or Die (1990), Hardball III (1992), FIFA International Soccer (1993), FIFA Soccer 96 (1996), FIFA Soccer 97 (1997), FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 (1998), FIFA Soccer 99 (1999).

Strategy Games: Strategy games are based on the player's ability to out-think their opponent, involving skillful thinking and planning to achieve victory. Some of the main elements of this type of games include strategic, tactical, logistical challenges and sometimes economic challenges and exploration. The genre is subdivided into four subtypes depending on its real-time or turn-based nature as well as on its focus on strategy or tactics. Some of the games that today are considered milestones of the genre include: Computer Bismarck (1980), Defender of the Crown (1987), Civilization (1991), Dune II (1992), Master of Orion (1993), Sid Meier's Colonization (1994), Master of Magic (1994), Heroes of Might and Magic: A Strategic Quest (1995), Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994), Command & Conquer (1995), Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (1995),Civilization II (1996), Close Combat (1996), Heroes of Might and Magic II: The Succession Wars (1996), Total Annihilation (1997), Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far (1997), Age of Empires (1997), StarCraft (1998), Close Combat III: The Russian Front (1998), Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (1999), Close Combat IV: The Battle of the Bulge (1999), Heroes of Might and Magic III (1999).

Scrolling or Behicle Shooters: Since the early days there were games in which the basic idea was to beat the opponents shooting them up while traveling usually in a vehicle through a scrolling screen. Some of the games that today are considered milestones of the genre include: Scramble (1981), Moon Patrol (1982), Zaxxon (1982), Spy Hunter (1983), Paperboy (1984), Space Harrier (1986), R-Type (1987), Roadblasters (1987), Quarantine (1994), S.C.A.R.S. (1998), Descent: FreeSpace – The Great War (1999).

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