1998 vs 2008: How has gaming changed in 10 years?

Seeing as it took almost 40 years for movies to learn how to talk, gaming hasn’t exactly shuffled its feet. It hasn’t even been 40 years since Computer Space became the first commercial game, and what began as little more than dandruff on a black screen is already threatening photo-, audio- and physical realism. So let’s look closer at how times have changed, starting with the year that gave us Dana International, 1998.

In 1998, the future of Sonic was laid out by Sonic R, a Sega Saturn spin-off which traded tight design and pace for a single gimmick: 3D. Not the isometric trickery of Mega Drive’s Sonic 3D, either, but polygons, textures, and the sneaking suspicion that something was about to go terribly wrong.

Sure enough, after mixed success with Sonic Adventure, the purple blur became gaming’s answer to Jar Jar Binks. Scandalised by trash like Sonic Heroes and Sonic The Hedgehog on 360, barely finding his feet in 2008’s Sonic Unleashed, he still makes a killing thanks to “the kids”. Thanks a bunch, kids.

Remember Body Harvest, the alien invasion game for N64? “The freedom!” praised gamers at the time. “The vehicular mayhem! The boundless manslaughter! Whatever will they think of next?” “They”, of course, were DMA Design, best known for Lemmings and soon to become Rockstar North.

What did they think of next? More freedom, more mayhem, more manslaughter, and the three most controversial words in gaming: Grand Theft Auto. Ten years on and there are now ten Rockstar studios scattered around the globe, responsible for over 30 games. And let’s not forget Crackdown, made by DMA founder David Jones and his new company, Realtime Worlds.

In the beginning was the word. And the word was “Forever”. Promised “no later than mid-1998”, the fourth Duke (that it’s now the fifth says it all) was a white-hot prospect for the adult FPS, boasting unprecedented interactivity with its 3D universe.

A decade later and we’re talking more brown-hot, the closest thing to a release being two – that’s two - screenshots in 2008, neither of which made buttocks tremble. Not in the intended manner, at least. It’s as if someone at 3D Realms said, “Make fun of us? We’ll show ya! We’ll finish this game if it’s the last thing we do. Tell ‘em, guys! Guys..?”

As far as technology goes, there’s no better benchmark than the racing game, and none more sophisticated than a racing game by Codemasters. In 1998, the Warwickshire company was pulling away from its bedroom coder days into more complex simulation. The visuals of every Colin McRae Rally and Race Driver game since have been greeted with the same breathless response: “That almost looks like a photograph!”

Now, a decade on from the first CMR, it’s the photographs struggling to keep up, along with the sounds and physics of real world racing. Lost, however, are the real driver names and, tragically, Colin McRae himself.


Well, at least the number’s still correct, even if the cast and roles have changed. Sega was celebrating the magnificence of Dreamcast in 1998; now it’s enjoying its freedom from the hardware race altogether. Sony has gone from brand dominator to: “You’re not getting one of those, Timothy, it’s too expensive and the games are all on that other one.” Nintendo has gone from kids and Mario to pensioners and Toilet Training DS (trust us, it’ll happen). And a little-known company called Microsoft, better known in 1998 for Minesweeper than Halo, is now the hardcore king of the hill.


  • brickman409 - March 17, 2009 3:09 a.m.

    compare 88 to 98
  • first-riot - January 5, 2009 11:50 p.m.

    i cant believe that all those games was the best back then.
  • ebikes6 - January 5, 2009 2:21 a.m.

    whos ever heard of body harvest
  • Mola123 - January 4, 2009 7:49 p.m.

    I totally agree with Wizrai, a lot of the gamers have gotten worse. I have a 360, but i still like the PS3. (but i think most of us are in agreement...untill Madworld, the wii will not have a good hardcore game)
  • Mackster-901 - January 4, 2009 12:06 a.m.

    Playstations have always been the best apart frm sega megadrive(which was legendary) but i agree dat da ps3 cost 2 much and if it was cheaper it will again b the best console out at da mo
  • TractorBoy21 - January 2, 2009 10:06 p.m.

    I don't mean to be a huge prat, cos in all honesty, i loved the article, but doesn't the iPod touch count as a handheld?
  • animeman - January 2, 2009 4:54 p.m.

    in another 10 years maby we will acually have the technology to be put in the game.
  • zeero - January 2, 2009 3:26 p.m.

    maaan the MGS brings back memories!
  • dinnerdog - January 2, 2009 11:35 a.m.

    Yes graphics have come a long way but, if anything, games are far less inventive. Technological restrictions demand games designers and programmers to innovate in other areas; polished HD graphics tend to mask the fact you're playing a unoriginal, rehahsed version of something else. Take GTA for example; the game structure is basically the same the original top-down version, and in my eyes, in no less enjoyable than the current iteration. Just prettier and online. If Rockstar want to rehash something though, I'd give a new version of Body Harvest my total support!
  • Shellghost - January 2, 2009 8:54 a.m.

    with the MGS part, personaly im glad that things never changed because to me MGS1 was the best game in the series. @NYFanatic in 10 years we will probly have contact lenses that project the gaming world directly into your eyes (AHHH! The pain!!!)
  • Defguru7777 - January 2, 2009 4:34 a.m.

    What a Long Strange Trip it's Been
  • iluvmyDS - January 1, 2009 7:33 p.m.

    Wow I can't believe it still. I'm seen so much happen to gaming in my 18 years on this planet.
  • bron1417 - January 1, 2009 6:56 p.m.

    man how times have changed.
  • NelosAngelos - January 1, 2009 6:51 p.m.

    Ah the N64...hours I spent on Mario and Super Smash Bros. And Body Harvest, holy shit that's a blast from the past.
  • JosephCh - January 1, 2009 6:29 p.m.

  • Xplosive59 - January 1, 2009 3:29 p.m.

    @ NYFanatic i completely agree with u cause whenever the writer had anything to say about ps3 it was like "Ps3 sucks" seriously it doesnt im not a fanboy but it has great games such as MGS4 and resistance 2 and some great ones coming out next year and all Xbox 360 has is tons of money which is used to buy everyone out ........... and Nintendo have uh 3 year old girls and people that could die any second
  • key0blade - January 1, 2009 3:06 p.m.

    Alot's changed over the ages
  • Rampage911 - January 1, 2009 7:36 a.m.

    old days of pokemon in the evening, this takes me back.
  • NYfanatic - January 1, 2009 3:01 a.m.

    Wow I see some fanboy with this writer Sony has gone from brand dominator to: “You’re not getting one of those, Timothy, it’s too expensive and the games are all on that other one Why does game writers have to be fanboys to?
  • georgeguy - December 31, 2008 9:03 p.m.

    agreeing with skull splitter and corsair89 here

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