Alternate history, game industry versions


Editorial Team
Nov 21, 2005
United Kingdom
I clicked on an alternate history video a few months back and as my entertainment suggestions are now dictated by robots it has become a recurring theme. They are all concerned with big world changing events where I kind of like tech and games. Thread series idea formed.

I could dictate some but I reckon a pool of ideas that I set forth a la the know your and debates formats, and maybe spin up my version/key events for others to add their bit from.

Usual sorts of questions are
What if such and such never failed, had not passed on this game, had not died, law had not passed (the Sega vs Accolade and Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc, aka game genie case, cases having far reaching impacts in general US intellectual property law, never mind in games), patent had not been granted (if Nintendo had not got the dpad patent sort of thing)...

----- More example questions -----
What if EA never existed?

What if Gunpei Yokoi had not died (among many many other things he was the one credited with Nintendo's philosophy of using slightly older tech, he died in 1997 which was the same year the N64 hit Europe)? Similar any number of greats in the industry have had a phrase like "we were a couple of months from going bankrupt and I would have gone back to coding financial programs"? At the same time we have seen a lot of isolated bubbles (Japanese, American, German, UK and Russian RPGs being a term you probably had some idea of before now) so what if things had spread wider?

Going on from above I have long decried game theory not being taught to game designers and even game players, indeed I view it about as odd as if you were trying to train an engineer without them knowing the laws of motion. What if it was? If that is a bit abstract consider how sometimes someone lucks onto a good idea that had been known for decades somewhere else (right now all the free to play games are basically reinventing things casinos have known for the the longest time, and perhaps even the old coinops/arcades had also come to understand back when they were relevant in the US*). Just as being an English language professor does not make you a good novelist a good game theory grounding does not make solid games... but there is a strong correlation.

*arcades never died out in the UK and Japan at least, what if they never left the US? Japan also has some very interesting arcade machines (I recall a story about a very popular golf game I think it was that issued player cards which load up profiles spread nationwide).

What if Japan had gone into first person shooters? Some speculate that the popularity, or indeed lack thereof, in Japan is due to the large numbers of people that get motion sickness from them. I don't know if it is a cultural, genetic or learned factor that causes it but you could always brush that aside.

What if Sega still made consoles? Presumably managed to get the Dreamcast going or a crazy investor picked it up and ran with it. Alternatively Sega's snub of 3dfx in what eventually became the Dreamcast could be interesting.

What if Nintendo had not come to America? Do remember in this that the "crash" was a North American phenomenon and throughout that Europe and Japan were both doing their own thing just fine. Also most European devices were pretty open devices which today causes some people issues when trying to define what a console is.

What if Apple had made/funded/kept Halo?

Similar to the above while directX was an example of software development and business done right, and a big part of the reason why MS is such a major player in games, there were a bunch of others, and throughout directx's reign openGL has been the standard for professional work. The 3dfx stuff is not so well known among the younger members it seems but for a long time they were probably the go to standard -- pick a bunch of the seminal 90s PC games and you will see why my somewhat younger self stood in computer shops in the 90s longing for a voodoo graphics card. What if they pulled it off?
I don't see a way for S3 to have won but why not have a pondering there as well.
Also just to finish the flashbacks. Zip drives, mscdex, dos4gw, we only support the gravis gamepad, what is your sound card IRQ, sound blaster (clones) only, ipx networks, serial cable play, vampire tap and himem.sys.

Computer games are something of a rich person's hobby, on a global sense of the concept anyway, however there are quite a few rich countries that don't really have a presence in games. Sometimes this is for cultural/religious reasons but other times I have no clue why
For instance
Germany, Italy, UK and Spain GDP chart for the last few decades. Why am I not playing more Spanish and Italian games?

If you want history to get an idea of the impact of certain players I quite suggest the earlier seasons of
The Rare games one and the ID one both being fantastic examples of the concept.

What if the Amiga had become the dominant platform in the 16 bit era?

This is all fairly modern stuff but so is computing really. Many early games were from scientists and such messing around with their gear. I view that as inevitable (if psychology does not provide the answer, and loads of vaguely large brained animals do seem to learn by play, the entire concept of model engineering being an earlier take on the matter) but there is still some meat there if you want to consider some changes to earlier text adventures, muds (multi user dungeons, dungeon crawlers basically) and similar such things.

----- Sources ----- has also some excellent videos, often with a European focus if you are at risk of having it swamped by US history (again no crash, all the fondly remembered adverts and ways rivalries did not play out the same in Europe, a whole bunch of wildly popular things in the region that today are little known outside it).

Not quite like the others but the old gametrailers pop fiction series can cause some ideas to form.

Often a bit more in depth on specific topics but the GDC post mortems are also worth a watch
The flash games post mortem is a good one. Earlier I referenced the European games world and all throughout the flash games presentation I was reminded of what were once known as bedroom coders in the UK, the US favouring garage coders (as in garage band or garage startup).

----- TLDR part -----

Regardless of what happens here I will make some but the purpose of this thread is topic suggestions, and if you want to also give a few lines on what it might have played out like.
Play the resulting things how you will but if you can make it vaguely plausible within physics, business and world history of the last 60 or so years then it makes for some more compelling explorations; World War 3 would have been big so probably skip that, to continue from the example above Spain not having Franco last as long would not change too much on the world stage but may allow them to gain nice creative industries sooner and maybe be a bigger player now, at the same time the game industry managed to appear from kind of nothing in the 80s and was hardly championed by finance/countries/tech similar to film and TV so maybe the Spain thing earlier does not play (indeed what if the game industry was funded sooner and championed by politicos rather than scapegoated as hard as it was might be interesting), the end of the cold war but Russia becoming something of another European country rather than the isolationist thing that happened could play (Tetris is a big one but go look at the Soviet era homebrew computer scene some time). This might end up being a portal thing as well.

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