Pop Culture

Games that changed the way we look at the industry

The gaming industry has become perhaps the most dynamic part of modern pop culture. Game development is evolving at a cosmic speed, transforming from simple ASCII symbols moving on screens to full-fledged, photorealistic visuals within just four decades. During this time, an entire system of genres has been established, the public has developed its favorites, and some particularly iconic series have even been honored with screen adaptations.

In this text, we want to remember the projects whose release became a watershed moment – defining the “before and after” in the gaming industry. Games that changed the industry and our ideas of what it could and should be. For instance, titles like “Pac-Man” and “Super Mario Bros.” reshaped entertainment, influencing not just game design but also leading to widespread cultural phenomena. Similarly, the introduction of innovative game mechanics in “Doom” influenced countless first-person shooters that followed.

Additionally, the evolution of online gaming has brought about changes in how players interact and access games. This shift is also reflected in how promotions like Slotozen no deposit bonus code are increasingly significant in attracting new players and offering them a taste of gaming without initial investments. These promotions have altered the dynamics of engagement and monetization in gaming, illustrating how even aspects of the industry seemingly peripheral to game design can influence broader trends and player expectations.

These games and trends highlight how the industry continuously adapts and evolves, impacting how we perceive and interact with games across different platforms and genres.

Elite (1984)

Relatively recently Elite: Dangerous (the last game of the legendary series) was given away for free, which added to the popularity of this outstanding game. And everything started back in the 80s of the last century. At that time Elite cosmosim was released on all actual platforms, including ZX Spectrum and NES.

In those times nobody expected anything like that. In the era of rather primitive and mirror-like platformers, the playing community got an open world, a subtle simulation of space combat, flights and docking, a tonne of equipment and an economic system. Finally, the spirit of the user of those years knocked out the real three-dimensionality. Even though the objects were only outlines, without the textures that we are used to today.

And of course, Elite impressed with its freedom. Here you could become an honest merchant or a treacherous space pirate, fight and do peaceful things. And the main thing – to explore the whole universe full of adventures and opportunities.

It is especially impressive that Elite was made by only two enthusiastic students – Britons David Braben and Ian Bell.

Super Mario Bros (1985)

One of Nintendo’s biggest hits (which sold over 40 million copies), this game defined the look and feel of 2D platformers in the last century.

Multi-tiered, carefully designed locations, a crushing jump on the enemy, knocking out bonuses from bricks, temporary improvements of the main character’s skills – in the game about a mustachioed plumber all this worked properly and fascinated with terrible force. A significant part of successful genre games of the era diligently copied this gameplay invented by Shigeru Miyamoto.

Incidentally, Super Mario Bros. was one of the games that started the video game boom in the former Soviet Union in the first half of the 1990s. It was played for hours in almost every flat, regardless of the age of the players. And even some fathers of families shamelessly abused their authority, taking Dendy gamepads away from their offspring to challenge Bowser – we saw it with our own eyes.

Sid Meier’s Civilisation (1991)

This game was ahead of its time by at least ten years. Gameplay designer-legend Sid Meier released an epic strategy game of unprecedented scope at the time. While most games of the genre were close to tabletop wargames, Meyer tried to recreate the development of an entire civilisation – from antiquity to the present day. With economic fiddling, settlement building, diplomacy, scientific research and military action.

Fantastic elements were discarded, and any attempts to impose a plot on the user were forgotten. Civilisation was purely historical. The designer was inspired by ancient computer strategy games such as Empire (1977).

Civilisation blew up the gaming community and became the beginning of a franchise that is still alive today. And variations on the theme of Meyer’s game are released with enviable regularity (Rise of Nations, Humankind, Old World).

The genre of 4X-strategies (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) itself appeared earlier, back in 1983, with Reach for the Stars. But it was Civilisation that made it what it is today.

Mortal Kombat (1992)

When the first instalment of the unsinkable Mortal Kombat franchise was released, it was the first time an interested public saw how violent games could be. Fighters who truly fought to the death without sparing each other were converging in mortal combat. Ed Boon, the demiurge and mastermind behind the series, created a real phenomenon: with all the digital blood and guts, his in-game violence was not seen as a savouring of anatomical gruesomeness. It became an element of gameplay and a recognisable hallmark of the MK universe. All those ripped out spines were part of the unique design and worked well for the atmosphere.

For moralisers of all stripes Mortal Kombat became one of the main targets. But players instantly appreciated what Boon created: not just a shocking work, but also an uncompromising fighting game that allows you to show your skills.

Dune 2: Battle for Arrakis (1992)

Publisher Virgin Games gave two development teams the task of developing games based on Frank Herbert’s novel. The first to complete the work was Cryo Interactive with its adventure game, which was called Dune. But the project, which was born second, went down in history.

Dune 2: Battle for Arrakis laid the foundations of a whole new genre. At that time there was no separate name for it, but later it would be called RTS – real-time strategy. It already had almost all the elements that game designers would use in new projects for many years to come, adding something of their own. The player collected resources, built buildings, hired a variety of troops, which were then thrown into battle, which took place in real time, not in campaign mode, as it was customary before.

The game combined the incongruous. Thoughtful strategic gameplay was juxtaposed with tense action, and reaction speed was as important as the ability to plan development. It was with Dune 2 that the RTS genre announced itself to the world.

Doom (1993)

The iconic first-person shooter shook the industry so much that for many years all games of this genre were simply called “Doom clones”.

One of the creators of the project, John Carmack, once issued a meme about the unnecessary plot in games and porn. And the narrative part of his shooter could fit into one line about the breakthrough of demons from the Underworld. The game became megapopular because of its unaccustomed yet three-dimensional (not quite, however, honest), furious gameplay, creature design and arsenal of guns.

Labyrinths of levels were generously dotted with stashes with valuable ammunition and passhacks. This approach to leveldesign was actively used for a quarter of a century after the release of Doom, and similar modelling of locations is also found nowadays. For example, in the Serious Sam and Shadow Warrior series.

By the mid-1990s, the Doom universe had become the most popular franchise, with games ported to every conceivable platform, books and comics. The series is still going strong these days, setting new standards for the genre. Even though Wolfenstein 3D was released a year before Carmack’s game, it was Doom that changed the gaming industry forever.

Half-Life (1998)

Valve’s game changed the FPS genre beyond recognition. Half-Life became a kind of antithesis of Doom. If in the popular id Software game players, following the famous principle of Porthos, “fought because they fought”, then here they were waiting for the elaborated plot and convincing atmosphere of the real catastrophe, from which there was no hiding and no escaping. The developers didn’t hide that they were inspired by Stephen King’s “The Fog” and made references to the works of the maestro even at the development stage.

One insignificant, at first glance, detail is also interesting: the main character of Half-Life, Gordon Freeman, doesn’t utter a single word during the game. So, according to Valve’s idea, it was easier for the user to get into the role of a poor physicist and imagine himself in the thick of events. And it worked: a huge number of players got into Half-Life. In ten years, 9.3 million copies were sold, and the industry was irrevocably changed.

Diablo 2 (2000)

The first Diablo instalment was a success, it was seen and praised. But the real bomb was the sequel, which changed the very idea of isometric action-RPGs.

David Bravick, the ideologist and creator of the first Diablo, was able to fully realise his vision of the genre in the second part – now he had the budget and technology. He, like the rest of the Blizzard North team, had a passion for role-playing computer games from a young age. And in David’s childhood, high school and college kids played RPGs like Rogue and NetHack. At the heart of these games was the descent into enchanted dungeons – the deeper, the more dangerous. But the reward is also more valuable. In the first two games of the franchise, it was this mechanic that formed the basis of gameplay.

And if Diablo 1997 was a test of the pen, the second game became a truly popular game. Everyone played Diablo 2. Neither gender, nor age, nor social status mattered when it came to clearing another cave.

The reason for its success was the extremely low entry threshold. Even people who had never tried a computer game before instantly mastered the game. Players also appreciated the procedural generation of levels: the map was drawn from scratch by algorithms at each launch, and each new run brought surprises. After the success of Diablo 2 it became a trend, and it has remained so to this day. Tons of trophies were generated in the same way – fiddling with inventory was a separate entertainment.

Thanks to all this, David Bravick’s game is one of the first in the history of the industry in terms of the number of followers and imitators, and the Diablo series feels great even nowadays.

GTA 3 (2001)

Open-world experimentation has been around since the first, two-dimensional GTA. But with the third instalment of the crime thriller, Rockstar Studios forever changed the approach to freedom of movement and action in the action genre.

The big city in GTA 3 was really perceived as a living, bustling and never sleeping metropolis. Before the player appeared streets with passers-by and gawkers, with robbers, cops and prostitutes. And it was not just statisticians: in GTA 3 you could become an eyewitness to a quarrel, a fight or a crime. Not only that, you could intervene – with an unobvious outcome.

There was also an opportunity to simply wander the alleys, looking for secrets and pass-hacks. You could engage in optional activity, earning money as, for example, a taxi driver. Inventive and varied story missions were available at any time. This level of freedom was not found in every purebred RPG of those years.

Separately worth noting is the amount of detail, sometimes imperceptible. Some places of interest worked only in the dark. An ambulance came to the injured citizens. The weather changed, and the wind carried rubbish across the pavement. And the puddles reflected passers-by – an unprecedented thing for 2001!

GTA 3 gave a strong impetus to modelling open worlds in games, and without it we might not have seen Mafia, Just Cause, Sleeping Dogs and many other worthy things.

Dark Souls (2011)

Genius Japanese designer Hidetaka Miyazaki tried out the basic Souls formula back in 2009 with Demon’s Souls. This role-playing action game was warmly received by critics, became a cult in narrow circles, but did not pull the revolution. Probably, the reason was the exclusivity for PS3, or maybe the community was embarrassed by the unconventionality of the new game (or its rather unsightly appearance for that time). Whatever the case, the genre took a turn after the release of Dark Souls.

Perhaps no one before Miyazaki had managed to balance hardcore difficulty in such a way. Souls characters died often and quickly, and not just from the claws of the next boss. One careless step could result in falling to the bottom of a ravine or activating a trap. At the same time, any challenge, any opponent could be overcome. You just had to concentrate and work a little harder.

Few games before gave so much joy from the very process of overcoming (yourself – in the first place). The author of the text personally saw how adequate and moderately solid forty-year-old man ran around the flat with joyful cries after defeating the Executioner and Dragonborn, the most difficult double boss.

Dark Souls was the progenitor of the now flourishing souls-like genre. The developers copy the original mechanics of collecting, losing and returning souls, the combat system with rolls and stamina bar, visual design and narrative minimalism. And of course, the Souls continuators offer, like Miyazaki, to try out the teeth-grinding difficulty on the edge of the foul.

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