So I was sitting there playing “Rock Band”, a new video game where people get a chance to act like they are playing real music, in a real band, with real instruments. It got me thinking about how far video game technology has progressed in such a short period of time. If you look back only five years at what we had as video games, they looked like complete shit compared to games today. I don’t want to look at video games, but since this is a technology column I want to explore the evolution of video game technology. I mean, video games have evolved from little plastic controllers to a replica Stratocaster complete with fret buttons and a whammy bar.
For those of you who don’t know what the hell I am talking about, the concept of “Rock Band” is this: Little plastic models of instruments are placed in the hands of the gamers. The four instruments include: a guitar, a bass guitar, a drum set and a karaoke microphone. The basic gameplay is to hit little colored dots with the respective instrument as they come flying at you on the screen. The catch? Hit them to the beat of the song. It might just sound ridiculous to those who have never tried, but seeing those little colored dots light up because you hit the note on rhythm is extremely satisfying.
That’s the whole game. Very simple. Until you try it on the harder difficulty settings, then the game becomes impossible. With four different instruments needing to read their respective notes on the screen, it might sound like it would be chaotic. However, the presentation is executed perfectly, and never really seems overwhelming. The concept of playing video game instruments together as a group works flawlessly.
Games such as “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” mark a significant evolution in video game technology. Games are not just games anymore, but are simulations of the real world. Let’s not forget Nintendo’s Wii video game console, which uses motion-sensing technology to play out the games. This not only fades away the notion of playing a video game, but it is a much more fun experience. Playing drunk “Mario Party” at a friend’s apartment with the Wiimote is SO much more enjoyable than playing with “regular” controllers. Nintendo understood that changing the way gamers interfaced with the games would be the next evolutionary step. And while the Wii’s motion sensing technology is very elementary, it is a glimpse of what will come in the not-too-distant future.
Other futuristic uses of video game technology today include the military and police force. For example, the U.S. Army developed a combat simulator that improves the skills of its soldiers.
Later, that simulator was ported to a video game known as “America’s Army” and was used for recruiting purposes. The police force use a similar technology to simulate many common situations where the outcomes change based on what the officer says and does. Apparently the simulator shoots real rubber bullets to simulate gunfire. Remember “Time Crisis”? You guys know what I’m talking about. That badass arcade game is a distant cousin to these realistic simulators used in the military and police force today. Some might still think video games are only for children, but it’s time to wake up. Why can film and music be seen as legitimate art forms, but video games cannot? It takes just as much effort and talent to create a good video game as it does making a good film.
And while video games have come a long way, they still have the potential to advance technologically. While games such as “Rock Band” will be the closest thing to a real band for some, actually playing the little plastic drum kit will most definitely help you keep rhythm if you decide to learn the real instruments. For the future I am really hoping for virtual reality headsets. I really think moving the games away from flat screens to something that is 360 degrees will be the next step. Maybe for some, video games that actually simulate exercise will come as a blessing.