Looking back at the 1990s, it’s a wonder that anything from this era survived. Looking back, it seems there was a huge emphasis on things like brightly colored food, plastic toys that lasted a week, and more than a few fashion trends that no one thought would repeat. Still, this newly minted ‘retro’ era was one of great innovation, especially when it came to gaming.
The arcade boom of the 1980s slowly led into an era of at-home console gaming. The NES became the Nintendo 64 during the 90s, while Atari had both the Lynx and Jaguar. Sega had the Dreamcast and the Saturn—but they were all blown out of the water by Nintendo’s handheld GameBoy. Until, of course, the phenomenon of the internet took over gaming in the late 90s.
Looking back, let’s count down some of the most unique releases and developments from the 1990s that have since greatly influenced gaming. First up, the precursor to modern eSports: the world wide web.
The Internet & Going Pro
Back in 1995, commercial internet started to roll out across North America. One of the very first industries to launch gaming through the web was casinos that offered poker. And while poker isn’t often tied to eSports, it’s possible to make the case that it actually steered the modern industry.
Back in the 1990s, poker rooms offered players a chance to test their skills remotely and online. Today, similar poker rooms are instead focused on recreation and professional skills building. In fact, players today can qualify online via satellites in order to advance to major live tournaments—something that early gamers in the 90s couldn’t dream of. But today, whether playing poker or another game like League of Legends, it’s entirely possible to flip an online interest into a fully-fledged career.
GoldenEye & FPS Madness
Let’s be clear: opinions differ on the ‘first’ FPS. Some would point to DOOM (1993), while others would point back to a NASA work-study project called Maze War, created in the 1970s. However, GoldenEye (1997) was the first first-person shooter to incorporate one hugely influential feature: multiplayer and deathmatch mode.
GoldenEye marked the first time that an FPS player could face off directly against others. The deathmatch mode was also novel, as it raised the stakes and added tons of excitement to the premise. The deathmatch mode helped curry interest in multiplayer online shooters, lending critically to the later development of MMO and battle royale releases.
Tamagotchi & Simulations
One of the most unique (and maybe baffling) trends of the 1990s was the Tamagotchi (often incorrectly spelled as Tamaguchi). This Japanese game was released back in 1996. The small, handheld device closely resembled a watch—but it allowed players to nurture and raise their very own digital pets.
The hugely popular game contributed to a phenomenon known as the ‘Tamagotchi effect’, which describes when a person becomes emotionally dependent on a robot or form of AI. Specifically, it’s helped boost the popularity of pet-raising and similar simulations. One recent example would be CryptoKitties. Using a blockchain platform, users are able to collect, trade, and breed virtual cats.
3D Glasses & VR Adventures
The first ‘official’ 3D film was released back in the 1920s, which saw renewed interest once again in the 1950s. However, this trend didn’t become popular or accessible to the general public until the 1990s. At this time, IMAX theatres started to hand out paper glasses with red and blue lenses that allowed viewers to see films in semi-3D fashion.
It led to huge interest in all things 3D—from fast food cups to peel-off stickers. However, one huge point of interest was the idea of creating an immersive and fully 3D gaming experience. With the rise in 3D interest came the pursuit of VR technology. However, much like the mythic holograms of the 1980s, it would take a lot of work to craft VR hardware. In fact, it’s only recently become an affordable trend in gaming.