I. The Video or Computer Game Industry
The now multi-billion dollar video game industry starting slowly. In 1972, Atari developed Pong, a simple tennis-like game played on the television screen. Pongwas followed by Space Invadersin 1978 (Griffiths 223). Since then, thousands of games are available over the Internet, on CDROM for personal computers, hand-held units, and television console units like Playstation, Nintento, and Sega. Further, the market has developed beyond just entertainment, now providing educational games that make learning fun. Commercially successful titles sell around 350,000 copies and a few go beyond sales of one million units (Sanchez-Crespo Dalmau 3). Top selling games like Myst (for PCs) and Final Fantasy (for consoles) have sold over six million units (Sanchez-Crespo Dalmau 3).
II. Video Games and an Overview of How They Work
Put simply, video games are interactive entertainment with sophisticated graphics and speed. They challenge the player’s mental agility, as in games like Myst and it’s sequel Riven (where players solve puzzles and obtain fragments of a story to complete the game) and/or hand-eye agility, like All-Star Baseball, Combat Flight Simulator, and Mortal Combat, typically at increasing levels of difficulty, with some games taking over 100 hours to complete.
Although not all games involve opponents and competition, games that are played off-line (not connected to the Internet) allow players to interact with the “virtual” inhabitants of the game. Games that can be played on-line, facilitate multi-player interactivity and competition over the Internet.
Once a video game is loaded, either from CDROM or downloaded from the Internet, the player can enter the game and begin play. Many games offer a short video clip in MPEG (Motion Picture Expert Group) format (with graphics superior to the graphics available in the game), which introduces the story within the game. Graphics images that are used repeatedly for the current game level or environment are stored in ROM (Read Only Memory) (Perry and Wallich 251). For instance, when the player advances to another level or chooses a new environment, a new set of bit-mapped images is loaded into ROM. RAM (Random Access Memory) is used to store bit-mapped graphics, statistics such as score, and a “scratchpad” for keeping track of “where the player and [virtual] opponents are in the simulated environment, or generating new, random obstacles” to challenge the player (251). Parameters, such as choice of character the user will play, vehicle, environment (setting or location, such as track, building, open area) and current location within the environment, weapons, opponent, and mission, are stored in RAM until the player either saves or saves to a file upon exiting the game. In either case, the parameters can be recalled by the user within a game session or upon reinitialization of the game, by selecting the game file name...