Op-Ed

Op-Ed
This Week in Gaming History

Nova Barlow | 24 Nov 2008 13:00
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As Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States, we take a moment this week to give thanks to all of the videogames over the years as well as looking at this week in videogame history for November 23 through November 29.

Kicking off the week on a legendary note, this day in history was also Sonic 2sday back in 1992, Sega's way of celebrating the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. With Sonic already a household name at this point, the game went on to sell six million copies worldwide - that is, before people stopped counting in 2006 and bundling the popular title with compilation efforts. Considered the best-selling game across all Sega consoles, the game surprisingly proved to be less popular in its country of origin (Japan) than in the United States. To date, the highest score on record (three lives, five-life limit, no continues) for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is 433,000, reached on November 23, 2001 by a Glendale, Arizona gamer.

Sharing the week on the sequel circuit with Sonic, we have Final Fantasy IV. While it was technically the fourth game in the series, this game was originally called Final Fantasy II for the initial release in North America, in order to provide continuity for marketers and mild confusion for fans. On November 25th, 2002, Japanese RPG giants Square and Enix announced a merger to be completed the following spring, representing one of the first major mergers in industry history.

Another legendary game released this week online was 2004's World of Warcraft. There isn't much to be said about this game that my colleagues have not already covered in fantastic detail, but four years, three types of spinoff games, two expansions , and one hero class later the game has reached 11 million subscribers worldwide and has set a tough act for every MMOs to follow. Even if you're a devoted player, recovering raider, or won't touch an MMO with a ten-foot pole, the buzz has been undeniably strong since 2001 when Blizzard announced the game at the late summer European Computer Trade Show.

The last week of November is traditionally the sign of the annual National Institute on Media and the Family's (NIMF) report card style evaluation on the videogame industry. Generally pessimistic and outright gloomy some years, the organization is focused on encouraging "positive change in the production and use of mass media". This week in 2005 the annual report called the ESRB out, stating the ratings system was "beyond repair". This was largely due to the Hot Coffee scandal earlier in the summer, and as such, no one was surprised. Two years later in an attempt to be a bit more positive, NIMF championed GameStop's efforts to restrict M-rated gaming and Microsoft's parental controls. However, these small factors were not enough, as the report labeled parents (and especially retailers) "complacent" over ratings enforcement. In an effort to possibly improve their marks in various areas as well as demonstrate their continuing need to "think of the children", the ESRB recently announced new "rating summaries" to further empower potential game buyers, earning faint praise from the NIMF.

Thankfully, things were a lot easier in 1972 for gaming. To end the week, we return almost all the way to the beginning of gaming history and a much simpler time with the commonly noted November 29 anniversary of Pong. Thirty-six years ago on this day, the game of Pong rolled off the assembly lines and into history books. Even though only 38,000 units were sold in total, the legend lives on to surpass games that have sold millions of copies. Based on the simple game of table tennis, Pong's influence can even be felt today in titles such as Wii Play and serves as a subtle reminder to revisit those classic games for which we can all be thankful.

Researcher Nova Barlow plans on using this week's holiday to catch up on some much needed game time - especially games that aren't WoW.

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