PC Gaming dead!? But it’s so young and innocent!

In a somewhat bizarre turn of events, I’ve actually started reading a book. Yeah, I know. Simply amazing.

My friend at work let me borrow Masters of Doom, the book that details the two men that helped shape the PC gaming industry into what it is today: John Carmack and John Romero of id Software.

A very interesting part in the book was when Carmack, in only one night, recreated the first level to Super Mario Bros. 3 on a PC. For an IBM PC at the time (1990), this was an amazing feat. No PC was powerful enough to simulate the scrolling effect that Nintendo did so easily on their NES system, but Carmack created an algorithm that somehow faked the effect, calling it adaptive tile refresh. Basically, the screen changed only what needed to change, and it would be the starting point for what would later become id Software.

I’ll stop from going any further, but you should really give this book a read. Anyone trying to get into programming will definitely get a surge of motivation while reading this book. I know I did.

This book got me thinking about the PC industry in general. Many people say that it’s on its way out, with nothing coming down the pipe to save it in terms of innovation. I don’t really agree with this statement, only because the PC industry is too young to start making predictions like that.

In fact, the PC gaming industry is really only about 15 years old. Of course, people have been making games for their Commodore 64’s and Apple II’s for years before the PC came out, but it was a very disjointed way of doing business. First, not everyone had a computer back then. The only people that owned them were junior programmers, businesses, and a few lucky individuals (I’m pretty sure everyone here at videolamer except me). And the way games were sold was atrocious. Most of them were sold in plastic bags. A solidified model for creating and distributing games on a mass level really didn’t come into its own until Microsoft’s Windows and the advent of the Internet.

Carmack and Romero knew the PC was going to be huge, and immediately hopped on the bandwagon. And in 1993, they would release the venerable DOOM shareware game, and the world took notice.

It’s an odd way to think about it, really. Most people usually think PC gaming is the grand-daddy of them all, but it’s actually the youngest. It’s really only begun to walk on its own, with help from Microsoft’s DirectX and the booming graphics card business.

Now we have greats like Valve’s Gabe Newell, defining episodic game development, and Sid Meier for perfecting the “just one more turn” effect with his Civilization series. And for God’s sake, World of Warcraft is played by nearly every human being on Earth. You can’t even get a passport without having an account in Azeroth.

No, the PC game industry isn’t dead. It’s just getting ready for junior high.

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17 years ago

I’d also heartily and vehemently recommend this book.