The Evolution Of Video Game Visuals A journey through the generations of game graphics.

Generation One

The first generation of video game consoles began in 1972 with the Magnavox Odyssey (which began development in 1968 by Ralph Baer under the code name "The Brown Box"), until 1977, when "pong"-style console manufacturers left the market en masse due to the video game crash of 1977 and when microprocessor-based consoles were introduced. The games only had very few colours such as green, blue, red, etc. the games played had objects and not characters, due to the limit.

Some defining characteristics of first generation consoles include:

Discrete transistor-based digital game logic.

Games were native components of consoles rather than based on external or removable media.

Entire game playfield occupies only one screen.

Players and objects consist of very basic lines, dots or blocks.

Colour graphics are basic (mostly black and white or other dichromatic combination; later games may display three or more colours).

Either single-channel or no audio.

Lacked features of second generation consoles, such as microprocessor logic, ROM cartridges, flip-screen playfields, sprite-based graphics, and multi-color graphics.

Generation Two

In 1977, Atari released its CPU-based console called the Video Computer System (VCS), later called the Atari 2600. Nine games were designed and released for the holiday season. It would quickly become—by far—the most popular of the early consoles. The games had improved and their was now more colours introduced into the gaming society. for example, a famous game called pacman was made during this time period.

Some features that distinguished second generation consoles from first generation consoles include:

Microprocessor-based game logic.

AI simulation of computer-based opponents, allowing for single-player gaming.

ROM cartridges for storing games, allowing any number of different games to be played on one console.

Game playfields able to span multiple flip-screen areas.

Blocky and simplistic-looking sprites, with a screen resolution of around 160 × 192 pixels.

Basic color graphics, generally between 2-color (1-bit) and 16-color (4-bit).

Up to three channel audio.

Lacked features of third-generation consoles, such as scrolling tile-based playfields.

Generation Three

the third generation (sometimes referred to as the 8-bit era) began on July 15, 1983, with the Japanese release of both the Family Computer (referred to in Japan in the abbreviated form "Famicom", and later known as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, in the rest of the world) and SG-1000. This generation marked the end of the North American video game crash, a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan, and the transition from block-based graphics to smooth hardware scrolling tile and sprite based graphics, which was a pivotal leap in game design. The games had now had enough space to have a main protagonist, for example, Super smash bros was invited in this time period, along with the protagonist Mario.

Some features that distinguished third generation consoles from most second generation consoles include:

D-pad game controllers.

Screen modes with resolutions up to 256×240 or 320×200.

25–32 colors on screen, from a palette of 53–256 colors.

Tile-based playfields with smooth multi-directional hardware scrolling.

Advanced hardware scrolling, including multi-directional scrolling, diagonal scrolling, and line-scrolling.

64–100 sprites on screen, each with 4–16 colors and 8×8 to 16×16 pixel sizes.

Up to five channel (primarily square wave) mono PSG audio.

Generation Four

the fourth generation (more commonly referred to as the 16-bit era) of games consoles began on October 30, 1987 with the Japanese release of NEC Home Electronics' PC Engine (known as the TurboGrafx-16 in North America). Although NEC released the first fourth generation console, and was second to the Super Famicom in Japan, this era's sales were mostly dominated by the rivalry between Nintendo and Sega's consoles in North America: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (the Super Famicom in Japan) and the Mega Drive (named the Genesis in North America due to trademark issues). The gaming graphics were not improved greatly. but more games came through making the gaming industry more attractive.

Some features that distinguished fourth generation consoles from third generation consoles include:

More powerful 16-bit microprocessors

Multi-button game controllers (3 to 8 buttons)

Complex parallax scrolling, multi-layer tilemap backgrounds, with pseudo-3D scaling & rotation

Large sprites (up to 64×64 or 16×512 pixels), 80–380 sprites on screen, scalable on-the-fly, with pseudo-3D scaling & rotation

Elaborate colour, 64 to 4096 colours on screen, from palettes of 512 (9-bit) to 65,536 (16-bit) colours

Flat-shaded 3D polygon graphics

CD-ROM support via add-ons, allowing larger storage space and full motion video playback

Stereo audio, with multiple channels and digital audio playback (PCM, ADPCM, streaming CD-DA audio)

Advanced music synthesis (FM synthesis and 'wavetable' sample-based synthesis)

Generation Five

The fifth-generation era (also known as the 32-bit era, the 64-bit era and the 3D era) refers to computer and video games, video game consoles and video game handhelds from approximately 1993 to 2001. The games in this generation were improved and could hold a whole story line with decent graphics, for example The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Some features that distinguished fifth generation consoles from fourth generation consoles include:

3D polygon graphics with texture mapping

Optical disc (CD-ROM) game storage, allowing much larger storage space (up to 650 MB) than ROM cartridges

CD quality audio recordings (music and speech), PCM audio with 16-bit depth and 44.1 kHz sampling rate

Wide adoption of full motion video, displaying pre-rendered computer animation or live action footage

Analog controllers

Display resolution from 480i to 576i

Color depth up to 16,777,216 colors (24-bit true color)

3D graphical capabilities such as lighting, Gouraud shading, anti-aliasing and texture filtering

Generation Six

In the history of video games, the sixth-generation era (sometimes referred to as the 128-bit era; see "Bits and system power" below) refers to the computer and video games, video game consoles, and video game handhelds available at the turn of the 21st century which was from 1998 to 2008. Platforms of the sixth generation include the Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Microsoft Xbox. The gaming graphics was improved but slightly, games such as Sonic Adventure started to show up and increased the popularity of the gaming industry.

Bit ratings for consoles largely fell by the wayside after the fifth generation (32/64-bit) era. The number of "bits" cited in console names referred to the CPU word size, but there was little to be gained from increasing the word size much beyond 32 bits; performance depended on other factors, such as central processing unit speed, graphics processing unit speed, channel capacity, data storage size, and memory speed, latency, and size.

Generation Seven

In the history of video games, the seventh generation includes consoles released since late 2005 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony Computer Entertainment. For home consoles, the seventh generation began on November 22, 2005 with the release of Microsoft's Xbox 360 and continued with the release of Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 3 on November 17, 2006, and Nintendo's Wii on November 19, 2006. Each new console introduced a new type of breakthrough in technology. The Xbox 360 offered games rendered natively at high-definition video (HD) resolutions, the PlayStation 3 offered HD movie playback via a built-in 3D Blu-ray Disc player, and the Wii focused on integrating controllers with movement sensors as well as joysticks. Some of the Wii controllers could be moved about to control in-game actions, which enabled players to simulate real-world actions during game play (e.g., in the Wii sports tennis game, the user swings the controller to hit the on-screen image of a tennis ball). Video game consoles had become an important part of the global IT infrastructure. It is estimated that video game consoles represented 25% of the world's general-purpose computational power in the year 2007.

Both the PlayStation 3[186] and the Xbox 360[187] support 1080p high definition video output. However, the output signal may be protected by digital rights management and may require an HDCP-compliant display if HDMI is used.

While only a small number of games render video in native 1080p, many games can be automatically scaled to output this resolution. The Wii is capable of outputting 480p for the Wii Menu and most games through a component cable, which must be purchased separately.

Generation Eight (final)

In the history of video games, the eighth generation includes consoles released since 2012 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony Computer Entertainment. For home consoles, the eighth generation began on November 18, 2012 with the release of the Wii U, and continued with the release of the PlayStation 4 on November 15, 2013, and Xbox One on November 22, 2013. These video game consoles follow the seventh generation: Sony's PlayStation 3, Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360. For video game handhelds, the generation began in February 2011 with the release of the Nintendo 3DS, successor to the Nintendo DS, in Japan, followed by a North American and European release in March. Nintendo released the New Nintendo 3DS XL in North America on February 13, 2015. The successor of the PlayStation Portable, the PlayStation Vita, was released in Japan in December 2011, and in Western markets in February 2012. The gaming graphics were greatly improved, the characters looked almost real, and the games felt more addictive due to it seeming closer to real life.

A trend starting from the eighth generation of handheld systems is that the general shift from dedicated handheld gaming consoles to mobile gaming on smart devices, such as smartphones and tablets. As such, smart devices has eroded sales of dedicated handheld gaming consoles, with analyst predicting that smart devices will replace handheld gaming consoles in the near future.

On May 21, 2013, Microsoft announced the Xbox One at an event in Redmond, Washington. The console has an increased focus on entertainment, including the ability to pass television programming from a set-top box over HDMI and use a built-in electronic program guide, and the ability to multitask by snapping applications (such as Skype and Internet Explorer) to the side of the screen, similarly to Windows 8. The Xbox One features a new controller with "Impulse Triggers" that provide force feedback, and the ability to automatically record and save highlights from gameplay. An updated version of Kinect was developed for Xbox One, with a 1080p camera and expanded voice controls. Originally bundled with the console, it has since been downplayed and excluded from later bundles.

On February 20, 2013, Sony announced the PlayStation 4 during a press conference in New York City, and it was released on November 15, 2013 in North America. The new console places a heavy emphasis on features surrounding social interaction; gameplay videos can be shared via the PlayStation Network and other services, and users can stream games being played by themselves or others (either through the console, or directly to services such as Twitch). The PS4's DualShock 4 controller is similar to the previous model, but adds a touchpad and a "Share" button, along with an LED light bar on the front to allow motion tracking. An updated camera accessory will also be offered for the system; it now uses 1280×800px stereo cameras with support for depth sensing similar to Kinect, and remains compatible with the PlayStation Move peripherals. The PS4 will also have second screen capabilities through both mobile apps and the PlayStation Vita, and game streaming through the recently acquired Gaikai service.

Created By
Shawn Christopher Maiden

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.