A virtual summer

For many, a summer break spent clutching a video game controller with glazed eyes has almost become a tradition. However, if you’re like me and didn’t have the luxury of growing up with video games, summer serves as prime catching-up time.

Getting to know the roots of video games and consoles today can lead to a good indication of what to expect from the gaming world of tomorrow. Since there are so many game categories, it will be easier to take a look at the evolution of the three most popular categories: role-playing games, first-person shooters and sports games. Different gaming platforms also play to the strengths of each of gaming category.

The RPG, or role-playing game, thrives on Sony Playstation consoles more so than consoles by Nintendo and Microsoft. Square Enix is by far the foremost RPG developer, famous for the Final Fantasy series.

Final Fantasy Adventure for the first-generation Nintendo Game Boy rocked my middle school days. The hoopla of Final Fantasy Adventure’s launch in 1991 may be over, but it has helped propel the RPG, Square Enix and the Final Fantasy series to gaming greatness today. Its monochromatic visuals may not have been too impressive – even for its time – but the epic adventure of FFA, along with its free-roaming game play, influenced later Final Fantasy games, such as the soon-to-be-released Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII.

Don’t own a first-generation Game Boy? Good – you shouldn’t unless you’re a crazy collector or stuck in the early nineties. Most of us won’t be able to play Final Fantasy Adventure in its original format, but don’t fret. Those who haven’t even heard of the Final Fantasy franchise may be aware of it now, especially Final Fantasy VII. FFVII made its debut in 1997 on the Sony Playstation and later became available on PC. It left a huge impact on the world of RPGs. It has everything a gamer could want in a RPG: a dynamic story line, the intuitive control system typical of other FF games and well-developed heroes, heroines and villains.

Expect FFVII to be revisited in the near future in games such as Dirge of Cerberus for Playstation2 (to be released in August), Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII (available on some cell phones) and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII for PSP (available sometime in September, according to IGN.com).

If you’re not into games, I’m sure you’re into movies. Go rent a copy of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and see what all the commotion is about. Portability and accessibility may be key elements to the RPGs of the future.

The first-person shooter – or FPSs – is another popular game type. The great FPSs of today originated on early PCs. Titles like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom blew my mind in addition to giving me a headache from their rudimentary three-dimensional rendering. Today the Wolfenstein series and Doom 3 are among the best looking and most fluid FPSs.

There is a great variety of FPSs on gaming consoles, but many gamers would say that the full potential of FPSs lies in PCs because a mouse and keyboard lend themselves to the on-screen action better than a controller. If you’re searching for a great FPS for your PC, the Decent Freespace series is a must. For a series that began in 1999, it was ahead of its time. If you’re an old-school Wing Commander fan, or just enjoy strapping yourself in a cockpit and playing the role of futuristic fighter pilot, then you’ll be a fan of this deep-space epic as well.

It’s hard not to think of first-person shooters without thinking about Halo. College life today would not be complete without an on-campus Halo tournament now and then. It’s a great game that is easy to learn, but hard to master.

Halo 2 coupled with Xbox Live is the pinnacle of the first-person shooter experience. There is nothing like teaming up with a bunch of your buddies to take on gamers from all over the world. You’re not only representing yourself when playing Halo 2 on Xbox Live, you may also be representing your country. The future of the FPS is online. Like Final Fantasy VII, Halo is also making the transition from monitor to the megaplex, with a movie set to premiere in 2008, according to Imdb.com. Halo fans are also greatly anticipating the release of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360.

Sports games comprise the third category. I am not a fan of sports games, but I know there is a huge following. With that said, I heart the Virtua Tennis series. It’s true I could be playing tennis outside instead, but then I would miss playing Virtua Tennis on my Sega Dreamcast and Sony PSP. Again, the key to this game is its simplicity. There are only two buttons to master in order to play this game.

Good sports games are good party games. Their playability increases when played with a group of people, and the same can be said for Virtua Tennis.

What are the origins of Virtua Tennis? Pong by Atari, of course. Pong sure has come along way. We’ll soon see its latest evolution when Nintendo launches their new console, the Nintendo Wii (known earlier as the Nintendo Revolution). Ping Pong will be one of its titles, but the revolutionary advancement is not necessarily the game, but how the game is played. The Wii’s controller can be held like an actual ping-pong paddle and used as such. Other gaming giants have looked to Nintendo in the past and have emulated their developments. It’s not too far fetched to say that because of the Nintendo Wii the future of sports video games will be more interactive.

Consumers will be seeing a lot more of video games in the future. If there is going to be a Final Fantasy game available on our cell phones, then the possibilities are almost endless. Car modifying TV shows such as MTV’s Pimp My Ride have installed Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox consoles into their cars. Take that just one step further and next thing you know your new car will come standard with a preinstalled gaming console.

How many people sing in the shower? How many would dance to Dance Dance Revolution in the shower? Don’t be surprised to see an interactive sports video game as an event in the Olympics 50 years from now. You can’t escape the future.