Millions of people from all over the globe enjoy playing games on their computers, consoles, and smartphones. Over the last two decades, the percentage of people that have taken up this hobby has increased greatly, with demographics that had previously been uninterested in playing games also finding a lot of fun in the medium. There are several reasons behind this, including the fact that games have become more ingrained in our culture and the ever-growing variety of titles appeals to a greater number of people. In addition to the traditional genres like first-person shooters, players can also enjoy a range of casual games like puzzles and simulations. Online slots have also become immensely popular, thanks in part to sites like oddschecker that list the many different free spins bonuses offered by casinos, and the fact that there are hundreds of different themed games to choose from.
There is another key reason for this rise in popularity – technology. Of course, gaming and tech have always gone hand-in-hand as, without the latter, the former couldn’t exist. However, the 21st century has seen an acceleration in the rate of technological advancements that have helped to game to appeal to and reach a much wider audience.
During the last 22 years, tech has changed everything about gaming. It’s affected which games we play, how we play them, what we play them on, who we play them with, and even where we play them.
In the late 1990s, the internet was finding its way into our homes. Some early adopters already had a dial-up modem and a powerful computer that could already handle online gaming, but this was by no means the norm. It was also quite the kerfuffle as it required above-average IT skills to get connected and find opponents to play with.
It wasn’t until the 2000s that we all began to get online. It was during this decade that the modern world of online multiplayer gaming and even internet-connected single-player games began to take shape.
The Sega Dreamcast supported internet connectivity, but it was ahead of its time. Similarly, the Sony PlayStation 2 had an optional network adapter and a few online games, but they were still a niche product.
It was the next generation of consoles, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, that helped to popularise online multiplayer games. Just about every title released for these machines included an online portion and some, like Call of Duty, were even designed with a multiplayer-first philosophy.
Over time, this continued to evolve with the online portion of most games becoming more and more prominent, reaching the point where the internet is a requirement to enjoy many modern releases. Many of today’s most popular titles, including Fortnite, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Words With Friends, Farmville, CS: GO, and League of Legends, simply would not work without being able to connect to the net.
The idea of being able to play games on the go is much older than the 21st century. In the 1980s, Nintendo created a range of products known as the Game & Watch. These were handheld devices that could play a single title which, while primitive, eventually led to the company’s creation of the Game Boy, a true portable console that allowed players to insert cartridges to load up games of their choice.
Through the 1990s, portable consoles continued to evolve and, in the early 2000s, we saw the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable take off. These devices allowed players to enjoy releases similar to those on full-size consoles but with the convenience of being able to take them wherever they wanted.
At the same time, mobile phones were coming pre-loaded with small games like Snake and third-party services like Jamster allowed people to install additional ones for a fee. However, these were very basic compared to today’s standards.
The late 2000s and early 2010s changed the landscape of gaming on the go. The release of the iPhone in 2007 helped to spark a revolution in the mobile industry with all major brands building touchscreen devices that could be used to download apps from one of the two major digital marketplaces.
It’s quick and easy to get into smartphone gaming. Since most of us already own a compatible handset, we don’t need to buy any special hardware or install any complicated systems. Instead, we can download a game in a couple of taps and immediately start playing.
The compact portable nature of smartphones also means we can play mobile games wherever and whenever we want, including on the bus, on the sofa while watching TV, or in the park. This convenience is something that appeals to many non-traditional gamers, encouraging more to start playing.
Virtual reality gaming may seem like a new concept, but it was actually attempted by Nintendo in the mid-1990s. However, its Virtual Boy console was a massive flop due to the fact that it was an idea ahead of its time and one which was generally uncomfortable and inconvenient to use.
In the 21st century, technological advancements have helped to change this. They’ve made gaming in virtual reality something that millions of people now enjoy on a regular basis.
Modern VR headsets, such as the Oculus Quest 2, include many features that Nintendo could have only dreamed of when they created the Virtual Boy. These include full head tracking, which allows the screen to change what you see depending on where you turn your head, and 4K graphics that help to create quality and realistic-looking images.
VR gaming has also combined existing technologies like the internet to create ultra-immersive experiences for players with titles like Echo VR, a game that puts players into a virtual arena where they compete against others in a team ball sport that’s similar to football and rugby.
VR still has some way to go to achieve mainstream adoption in the same way that smartphones and the internet have, but it is already one of the biggest gaming tech advancements of the 21st century and is shaping up to become one of the most pivotal of all time.