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The gaming renaissance


In the early 70's, some clever chap programmed a pile of circuits to create a primitive game we all know as Pong. Fast-forward some forty years down the line and we're now battling Orcs in Azeroth and flying spaceships in the far-reaches of another galaxy. An entire games industry has erupted from those first simple arcade systems, with people designing and programming games for kids and adults alike. In the 90's, the first generation of kids that grew up with those early game systems became the ones making them and a virtual renaissance in game design ensued. Those kids that grew up wishing they could make their own games started to realise their dreams and the games industry as we know it came forth. More recently, the people that grew up with early MMOs have begun to hit the games industry and we're seeing a rebirth of the genre.

In this article, I look at the games industry explosion and how it relates to the generations growing up with games. I ask whether the MMO genre is headed for its own great gaming renaissance and take a speculative look ahead at the future for MMOs and the games industry as a whole.

The gaming renaissance:
As kids, we absorb an incredible amount of information from our environments as we learn to fit into it appropriately. The things we're exposed to when we're young have a profound impact on our technical aptitudes in adulthood and the direction we take our lives. Those that grew up alongside the early computers sparked a new wave of computer research, bringing with them new ideas and ways of thinking. Similarly, those that grew up with early game systems learned an aptitude for gaming and the first video gamers were born.

In the 1990's, people that grew up with the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amiga and early dedicated games consoles began taking the reigns of the industry in which they'd always just been consumers. Juvenile programmers invented themselves as game designers and the games industry experienced a boom in both revenue and innovation. We saw the advent of 3D games, new graphics hardware and an eruption of new game ideas that hadn't been considered before. The games industry began to find its place as mainstream entertainment and a new generation grew up with parents that played video games. Since then, the games industry has become as intractable a part of our society as the movie industry or our love of books. Each new generation absorbs the games of their time, learning insights and an aptitude that the previous generation didn't have. Each generation brings us to the next step in an ongoing evolution of gaming.

The MMO renaissance:
For many of us, the MMO genre is such a part of our lives that we can scarcely recall a time when we didn't play them. We sometimes forget just how young this genre we love really is. In the not-so-distant past it was barely anything to speak about at all. With the exclusion of early MUDs, the first graphical online worlds that we could call MMOs spawned in the early 90's. Games like Neverwinter Nights, Nexus, Meridian 59 and The Realm paved the way for Ultima Online, Everquest, Lineage, World of Wacraft and the other MMOs we have today. It wasn't until the very late 90's that the games we've come to know as the iconic MMOs came about. With Lineage released in 1998 and Everquest hitting the shelves in 1999, it's almost shocking how far we've come in the past ten years.

In the same way that the games industry as a whole experienced a generational boom of talent and innovation, we stand on the cusp of an evolutionary leap for MMOs. The kids that grew up with Lineage, Ultima Online, Runescape and all the more recent MMO releases have begun hitting employment age. There now exists a new generation of talented individuals, fresh out of education and with almost half a lifetime of MMO gaming under their belts. Graphic artists, 3D modelers, programmers, game designers, writers, music composers and even voice actors are now coming into the jobs market with significant MMO experience. These are people who have watched the MMO genre grow and evolve and they're in a good position to know what works. They bring with them a new wave of innovation and a fresh dose of enthusiasm, the two things that genuinely fuel the games industry.

Read on to page 2, where I take a look at how new talent is entering the industry and what has me so excited for the future of the games industry and MMOs.

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