GDC 2011 looks back as Nintendo's Iwata recalls 25 years of gaming

This year's Game Developers Conference instead casts an eye back at the last 25 years of game development.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
2 min read
James Martin/CNET

While technology in general, and the video game industry in particular, is typically obsessed with the next big thing, this year's Game Developers Conference instead casts an eye back at the last 25 years of game development.

The theme runs through several parts of the show, starting with Wednesday's keynote from Nintendo's President, Satoru Iwata. The talk, titled "Video Games Turn 25: A Historical Perspective and Vision for the Future," turned the clock back to the beginning of what Iwata calls the "modern" era of gaming, anchored, not surprisingly, by the original Nintendo Entertainment System. (Obviously those behind the Atari 2600, Magnavox Odyssey, and other early living room game consoles would disagree with the concept of games turning 25).

During his keynote speech, Iwata talked about his early history as a game programmer, and early rivalry with Nintendo's gaming guru, Shigeru Miyamoto. He also emphasized the importance of creating "must-have" content, listing his picks for the top franchises of all time, which included the Mario series, Pokemon, Tetris, and The Sims. About halfway through, the keynote briefly turned into a press conference for the upcoming 3DS handheld, and we've got the relevant news announcements from that here, including a new Mario 3D game and future 3D video capabilities.

Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner describes early rotoscope tests for animation. Dan Ackerman

The Game Developers Conference is itself turning 25 this year, and looking back on the history of games in other ways. A collection of classic games are getting the a historial analysis in talks hosted by the game's creators. Highlights of the Classic Game Postmortem series include Jordan Mechner on Prince of Persia; Toru Iwatani on Pac-Man; Jason Kapalka on Bejeweled; and John Romero on Doom.

Mechner in particular discussed his influences in creating the original Prince of Persia game, from silent films and Eadweard Muybridge's sequential photography to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and Lode Runner, pointedly describing a time 25 years ago when a single college student could program a best-selling PC game by hand.