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The History of Video Game Animations

Being a hardcore gamer has more to it than just having an advanced understanding of the games you play. To be ahead of other players you need to develop an understanding of what is going on on the screen. When it comes to MOBA ( Multiplayer Online Battle Arena ) or just regular MMORPG’s ( Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games ) that have intense PvP ( Player vs Player ) new players usually have problems coordinating their eye to hand coordination and things can get really ugly since most of the time they can not follow what is happening on the screen. At this point, it becomes really frustrating and people tend to give up on those games. Only those determined enough are able to develop the skill to follow up what is going on on the screen. The reason for this ” OMG, what did just happen ” is that the eye to brain communication has to recalibrate each time you start playing a new game, since the brain needs some time to adapt to the changes in speed to fully understand what is shown on the screen you are playing on.

Colorblind persons did not have problems adapting to some of the first Video Games ever developed, since they were having a black background with white or green graphics. Nowadays though, the graphics on the screen consist of several million colors and a colorblind person will have a difficult time seeing all the details, and as every hardcore gamer knows, every detail counts.

To have a better understanding of the speed and details in new games, we have put together a list that shows the evolution of graphics and video game animations.

Everything started when William Higinbotham invented Electronic Tennis in 1958.

Video Game Animations Tenis

(William Higinbotham’s Electronic Tennis)

As you can see on the picture above, the game had no background ( although it might seem grey on the picture ) and white graphics. The game was using a cathode-ray tube like the early versions of television.

In 1972 another tennis game hit the markets. ” Pong ” has cut the costs, using a cheaper Black and White Hitachi Television Screen. In 1975 a ” Pong ” home edition was released, and ” Pong ” became the first game ever to reach mainstream popularity.

Video Game Animations Pong

(Atari’s Pong )

There was another highlight in 1972 and that was the development of Magnavox.

Video Game Animations Magnavox Odyssey

(Ralph Baer’s Magnavox Odyssey )

Magnavox was the first game to introduce color overlays as a way to include color. It was using cellphane sheets placed over the TV. It is important to note that although these games appear in color, they only used color overlays to give the player an illusion of color.

In 1978 ” Space Invaders ” was released. Although technology improvements were made, the hardware itself could not keep up with colors, so again an overlay was used and graphics were reflected to a cashboard background using mirrors.

Video Game Animations Space Invaders

( Tomohiro Nishikado’s Space Invaders )

One year later, a variation of ” Space Invaders ” was released, called ” Galaxian “. It was the first game ever to use the RGB ( Red Green Blue ) color model.

Video Game Animations Galaxian

( Namco’s Galaxian )

In 1985 the ” Sega Master System ” was introduced. It was on of the first home consoles of its kind ever developed. It was released with 32 on-screen colors. Till today, it sold somewhere between 10 and 15 million units world wide.

Video Game Animations Sega Master System

( Sega’s Sega Master System )

Four years later, one of the first handheld consoles hits the market. ” Game Boy ” gets released by ” Nintendo “. It had no color support and it only run in black and white, but since the battery life was long it became more popular than its competitors.

Video Game Animations Game Boy

( Nintendo’s Game Boy, Tetris )

At the same time that year, the ” Sega Genesis “, in Japan also known as the ” Mega Drive ” was released. It was able to support up to 64 colors at a time. It sold over 40 million units worldwide, but the last war in the end to its competitor, the ” Super Nintendo “.

Video Game Animations Sonic

( Sega’s Sega Genesis, Sonic )

In 1991 Nintendo’s ” Super Nintendo ” hits the market, and beats it competitors to bulb with its 256 color support. Altough, the ” Super Nintendo ” started late and had a lot of competitors it became the best-selling console of the 16-bit era and remained popular in the 32-bit era. It shipped over 49 million units worldwide.

Video Game Animations Super Mario World

( Nintendo’s Super Nintendo, Super Mario World)

So far we have seen a small improvement trough the years. We started with Black and White and slowly climbed the mountain up to 256. But the console that is coming is the one that made the Game Industry one of the most profitable businesses in the world. In 1994, Sony introduced the ” PlayStation “. It appears with 16.7 Million colors displayed. It was the first game console in its series and the first video game console to ship 100 million units, nine years after its release.

Video Game Animations Tekken 3

( Sony’s PlayStation, Tekken 3 )

Nintendo’s ” Game Boy Color ” was released in 1998. It could display 56 color at a time, out of 32.000 that were supported by the console itself. It also had the ability to play games from previous generations. 4 to 10 colors were used and overlaid to create a colored game. The ” Game Boy ” and ” Game Boy Color ” were a tremendous success. Combined they shipped over 118.69 million units worldwide.

Video Game Animations Pokemon Crystal

( Nintendo’s Game Boy Color, Pokemon Crystal)

In 2010 , Sharp released their Quatron 3D TV, which offered the RGBY ( Red Green Blue Yellow ) color model, utilizing a forth pixel, Yellow, having 4 pixels opposed to the old RGB color model, which only had 3.

Video Game Animations RBGY

( Diagram of Quattron’s 4-pixel structure )

” Call of Duty : Black Ops ” and ” Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 3 ” are one of the first game developed with Color Blind Assist, helping out people, with colorblindness.

Video Game Animations Call of Duty

( Color Blind Assist in Call of Duty )

The Video Games today are played on a range of different consoles which offer millions of colors. With the improvement of Speed it is possible to render a lot hues in order to improve color quality and quantity. Still, there are some gamers that still prefer simple and bright graphics, to improve their gaming experience.


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