The evolution of video game graphics: from 8-Bit to HD and VR - Gamestate

The evolution of video game graphics: from 8-Bit to HD and VR

The constant evolution of video game graphics is fascinating and has impacted the gaming industry over the years. With new technology advances rising every day, the improvement in video game graphics allows game developers to create new experiences and game modes that excite us and get us hooked.

Video games have come a long way since the first ever William Higginbotham created the first video game in 1958; Tennis for Two. Simple graphics, pixelated images, and a limited color palette characterize the early days of gaming. However, as technology has advanced, so has video game graphics’ quality; its evolution has been fascinating.

The Early Days

The first video games were simple. With limited Graphical processing, game designers worked with pixelated graphics that allowed only a few colors in each game. 

The first video game ever created is widely considered to be "Tennis for Two," a game developed by physicist William Higinbotham in 1958. The game was played on an oscilloscope, and two players used knobs to control the movement of dots that represented tennis rackets on a simplified tennis court.

"Olympic Games," also known as "Tennis for Two: Olympic Games," was created by William Higinbotham and Robert V. Dvorak in 1958, shortly after the creation of "Tennis for Two." The game allowed one player to control a dot representing an athlete, who competed in a series of Olympic events such as running, jumping, and pole-vaulting. The player used buttons to control the athlete's movements and timing.

Therefore, while "Olympic Games" was not the first video game ever created, it was one of the earliest video games and an important precursor to modern sports video games.

In 1972, Atari released one of the first arcade games ever made: “Pong” (a tennis game representation). This paved the way for many other companies like Nintendo and Sony that later produced their consoles filled with the classic titles we know today.

The 8-Bit and 16-Bit Era

The 8-bit era was a time of simple pixelated images with a limited color palette. Games like Space Invaders (1978), Pac-Man (1980), Donkey Kong (1981), and Super Mario Bros (1985)  quickly dominated the scene. These games may seem a tad primitive by today's standards, but at the time, they were groundbreaking and set the foundation for the future of gaming. 

In the mid-1980s, video game consoles began to use 16-bit graphics, which allowed for more colors, smoother animations, and more detailed backgrounds. You might remember iconic video games that used 16-Bit graphics, like Super Mario World (1990) and Sonic the Hedgehog (1991).

3D Graphics 

The first Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) came out in 1985, followed by Atari's 2600 home gaming system. These two systems laid the foundations for future generations of consoles and games, including those that would eventually introduce 3D graphics into our living rooms.

In the early 1990s, developers began experimenting with 3D graphics, allowing for more realistic environments and character models. However, it was in the release of the Nintendo 64 in 1996 that 3D graphics became a mainstream feature in gaming.

3D graphics are one of the most important developments in video game history. The new technologies allowed for a more immersive experience, with players able to move around in a three-dimensional world rather than just left, right, and forwards.

Games like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time featured stunning graphics that pushed the boundaries of what was possible in gaming.

HD Graphics

In the early 2000s, high-definition (HD) graphics became the norm, allowing for more detailed environments and characters. Notable examples include Half-Life 2 (2004), Gears of War (2006), and Bioshock (2007).

HD graphics are more immersive than 16-bit graphics, creating an experience closer to reality. Nonetheless, this comes with some costs: HD requires powerful hardware to run smoothly, and it takes longer for developers to create games using HD technology. Also, they’re not compatible across all platforms.

The solution to these problems was developed by developing High-Definition 3D (HD3D) graphics. HD3D combines high-definition (HD) and stereoscopic 3D (S3D) technology to create images that look real, move fluidly, and are compatible with all gaming platforms.

Mobile Graphics

With the rise of smartphones, mobile games became increasingly popular, and developers began creating games with simplified graphics optimized for smaller screens. 

The games need to run smoothly on a wide range of devices. Hence, developers often use optimization techniques like reducing the number of polygons in 3D models or using lower-resolution textures to improve performance.

Mobile game graphics have come a long way, with many games now featuring impressive visuals and animations. Popular mobile games include Asphalt 9: Legends, Call of Duty Mobile, and PUBG Mobile.

VR and AR

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are different technologies that let you experience a 3D environment through a headset or smartphone.

VR is a more immersive experience that creates an entirely new world to explore. It's like putting on special glasses, except the images appear all around you instead of just in front of your eyes like with regular old 2D video games. You could look up at the sky, down at the ground, or even behind yourself--it feels like being inside an alternate reality!

AR is less immersive than VR because it only adds 3D effects over the top of what we already see in our everyday lives. 

The most famous example of AR is Pokemon Go, released in 2016. This game allowed players to see Pokemon creatures that appeared in the real world through their smartphone cameras.

Video game graphics are constantly improving.

Video game graphics are constantly evolving, and that's a good thing. It’s exciting to see what the future holds for video games. 

Video game developers work hard at making their games look as realistic as possible so that you feel like you're playing games in an alternate reality (or even an augmented one).

Today, the evolution of video game graphics continues. 

With the rise of virtual and augmented reality, game developers are exploring new ways to create even more immersive and realistic gaming experiences. And with the continual advancements in graphical technology, the future of gaming graphics looks brighter than ever.

The evolution of video game graphics has been a fascinating journey that has seen gaming graphics evolve from simple 8-bit pixelated graphics to stunning HD and 4K ones.

With the fast pace of technological advancement, who knows what the future will bring? Our advice is to keep playing and keep an eye out here at Gamestate for the next big thing in video game graphics.