The simple fact of the matter is that before Japan came along in the early eighties, there really wasn’t much in terms of video games whatsoever. Nobody had fully realised the potential of the technology now available with modern computer systems as a means of entertainment and expression. Nintendo, a company that is now utterly synonymous with video games everywhere, released the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1983, which served as the first in a long line of increasingly advanced video game consoles.
Nintendo Entertainment System 1980’s
Having pretty much kicked off an entirely new market, there began a fierce competition between them and other rivalling companies such as Atari and Sega, which in turn served to encourage more innovative design and rapidly accelerate the industry as a whole. After a while, Sony entered the market with the PlayStation, which in its various iterations remains a household name to this day.
The Sony PlayStation Family 1
As well as arguably dominating the console market for many years, many Japanese video games are recognised as being some of the greatest of all time, and have had an undeniable impact on how we look at games and their design. Forgive me here because I may rapidly be descending into nerd jargon, but the general consensus on how Japanese video games differ to those from western developers is as follows. Western games tend to often be more violent, grounded and focused on reality as well as tending to put a greater emphasis on visual fidelity (often at the detriment of gameplay design.)
Call Of Duty – Black Ops II
On the other hand, Japanese games are generally more innovative and far less grounded to reality, often featuring intensely dramatic and seemingly nonsensical story lines that cater more to their largely Japanese player base (most of the time.) People’s preferences differ; some prefer the often more intuitive design of western games whilst others are more drawn to the eccentric nature of most Japanese games and ultimately, most of us can appreciate both.
Final Fantasy 7
If there’s one thing though, that the Japanese (I’m referring largely to Nintendo here) know how to get right when it comes to video games, it’s creating icons. Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Zelda, to name but a few.
Maria Vs Donkey Kong
These are the names of video game characters often recognised by those who have never even played the games themselves. Franchises such as Mario and Pokémon have immortalised themselves as parts of the gaming industry, perhaps due to their longevity, or maybe just as a result of their simple charm and the quality of the games they inhabit. What we can tell for sure is that the Japanese will be innovating and re-inventing the games industry for many years to come, and that is something for which we can all be thankful!
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