It began with humble origins as a curiosity but home video gaming is now a major multi-billion pound business which the Government is at pains to nurture and support as part of the UK’s cultural and commercial output.
But for us the real benefits of gaming only arrived with the advent of the internet:
From the earliest days of home gaming, multi-player games have been a great way to spend time.
Games like Pong were designed from the get-go to allow players to compete against a friend but also allowed the lonelier members of society to take on a computer-controlled player.
But a major limitation of many of these early titles is that they relied on you having a friend or family member on hand to play against if you wanted a human opponent and, even when you did, be willing to drastically reduce the screen space by splitting the screen, or having the patience to sit and wait for your opponent to take their turn.
Things got a definite boost when games such as Delta Force introduced network play where gamers played head to head over a local network on machines in different rooms of the house.
Then, for the ultimate flexibility, came online gaming and the ability to play against friends and strangers alike regardless of their location.
Playing for cash
These days a host of major brands compete in the lucrative and growing online casino games sector – including some based on big name film franchises and popular TV quizzes – where real money is on the line and big prizes await the lucky and the skilled.
But not that long ago playing these sorts of games at home meant relying on either a casino or slots simulator or a conversion of a top rating TV show.
Anyone playing a game such as Vegas Jackpot on their Commodore 64 would eventually be struck at the sheer pointlessness of a slot machine game in which there was no actual money to win.
And while Blockbusters was that rare thing – a half-decent computer translation of a big name franchise – the lack of any prizes at the end of the Gold Run inevitably dampened any exhilaration at winning.
It took until the advent of the internet before games could be linked to the ability to win real cash and prizes.
Star Wars Battlefront is one of the most anticipated titles in recent years – not only is it a sequel to one of the most successful consoles games ever, it’s also one of the first developed to make full use of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One’s advance graphics capabilities and, if that wasn’t enough, ties in with the first Star Wars film to be released in 10 years.
So unsurprisingly there was a rush to take part in a recent Public Beta staged by developers EA Games who are keen to ensure both that the game is ready for primetime and that its network can handle the likely surge of players wanting to relive some of the franchise’s most iconic battles.
Taking part in such tests is a far cry from the early previews which used to get given away on cover tapes and, later, discs.
Not only do they give gamers an early glimpse at what’s coming but they allow developers to see and understand how players experience the game, understand what they want from it and spot those flaws which only ever show themselves when those outside the development process get their hands on a title.
The ultimate winners of course are those gamers who buy a product which is far better because of this feedback and user-testing.