I remember in the early/mid 90s going into Boston to a ‘gaming café’ and playing a very primitive shooter game in a virtual reality setup. You got into a raised circular area with waist-high padded bumper rails, put on some wired gloves and a helmet, and using a combination of in-glove controls and your actual movement, you played the game. The actual gameplay was shooting a single-shot ‘gun’ at the other player in the VR setup across a small and primitive map. My friend and I almost got kicked out of the place due to hogging the machines.
At the same place, I remember playing the Japan’s version of the Sega Saturn, specifically Virtua Fighter. This was a few months before the US got the Saturn and Playstation, and at the time the crude 3D graphics of Virtua Fighter felt like seeing the future in front of you. It was mind-blowing stuff compared to what we were playing on the SNES/Genesis.
Over the last few years, have we had any Virtua Fighter-like moments? I know we are still waiting for virtual reality setups, and to me they seem further away today than they did back then. Sure having the iPhone as a mobile gaming platform on a cell phone is great, but the innovation there is more with the platform than the games. If anything, the best iPhone games are just re-releases SNES/Genesis titles or clones.
An interesting side-note is what happened with the Wii. Nintendo was coming off the horrible GameCube, and by many was considered a non-factor against the PS3 and Xbox360. Then they release the Wii, with its incredible motion controller, and everyone goes nuts. And much like Avatar and 3D movies, the Wii and its “play by moving the controller, not hitting buttons” fad is done. We are back to hitting buttons on standard controllers, just like we are back to watching movies in 2D (sorry to everyone who bought a 3D TV).
A similar entry but one focuses around MMOs is coming ‘soon’.