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Next Generation Gamer

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The martial arts expert kicking you looks so real that your ribs start to ache. You can't take any more thrashing so you slide a new video game into your machine. Fasten your seat belt! You're now the solo pilot of a supersonic jet fighter. Welcome to the next generation of video games.

Several generations of games have been on the market since video games were invented in 1977. A new generation begins each time a technological advance is made in computer game production. The latest games, which started being released in 1994, are called next generation games.

People who thrive on the latest high-tech graphics, improved sound and playability are called next generation gamers.

Next generation video games have awesome graphics due to the power of their computer systems. This is a snowboarding game.
Courtesy of: Anthrox

The typical next generation home console (the machine that plays a game) has 32 bits. That means it takes 32 bits of computer memory to run the machine. The higher the amount of bits, the more powerful a system is, and the more high-tech graphics, sound and images it can produce.

Before the 32-bit system hit the market, the 16-bit system was all the rage. Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo are examples of the less powerful 16-bit system. The primitive eight-bit machine was invented before the 16-bit system.

Are you starting to get the picture? With each new generation, the graphics, sound and images are more advanced and require more computer memory.

As you know, nothing with computers stays the same very long, and gaming is the same. The first 64-bit machine made its appearance in 1996. Now they are becoming quite common amongst gamers as they upgrade their systems. These too are considered "next generation."

Now the term next generation is being applied the newest systems on the horizon. In 1999, one of the big manufacturers, Sony, announced new technical aspects to its newest PlayStation. Details were sketchy, but they did have a working name for it. What is it? The "the next generation PlayStation."

What makes this system so notable is that it's powered by a 128-bit chip! Apparently, this is the world's first full 128-bit CPU. Luckily for gamers, this new system is compatible with older PlayStation games and controllers.

Some people may think playing video games is a solitary sport, but it's actually a social activity. Many players gather at home to play multi-player games or play together at the arcade.

"Most of the time, I'll meet a new friend at the arcade just by playing a game with him," says gamer Eddy Tang in Arizona.

The two biggest 32-bit systems were the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation. The PlayStation was sleek, gray and modern looking. The Saturn was shiny black, but a bit more boxy. Other next generation machines were the 3 DO, Jaguar, Virtual Boy, 32X, Neo-Geo CD, CD-1 and 3D M2.

These 32-bit systems produce much more realistic images than 16-bit systems. "They have a whole 3D world that you can explore fully," says Chris Carla, editor of Next Generation magazine in California. "They are awesome."

A note for the techies: one of the technological advances used by the 32-bit machines is texture mapping. Texture mapping is a special kind of bit-mapping that uses polygons. When polygons, which are 2D shapes, are layered together, they form realistic-looking 3D images that can be represented on a screen.

Most games played on 32-bit machines come on CD-ROM rather than cartridges. Because CD-ROMs are cheaper to produce, the games are cheaper to buy.

Next generation games are played on a home console that is hooked up to a television. Many of the new games were translated from ones originally designed for the arcade. Now, some games are being designed only for home use. Next generation games can also be played on home computers.

Usually, older games can't be played on newer home consoles. So with previous generations, if you wanted to keep on top of things you had to buy a new home console.

The 32-bit system gave a big boost to gaming. Video gamers wrote to Next Generation magazine giving high praise to 32-bit systems. Many took the plunge and bought home consoles.

At the very beginning of this phase, however, some video gamers were disgruntled with the games. They said that while they had better graphics and sound, that the playability was poor. Manufacturers listened and developed better games, again increasing demand for the games.

It's an expensive proposition to buy a new console, especially if you know that in a few years you will probably want to replace it with a newer system. But the console is only the start of your expenses. Each of the games costs too.

"You have to shop carefully," says Tang. "Some stores will actually try to charge you $75 to $80."

Gamers think that the next generation will continue to grow in popularity. "People always want better looking games that look very appealing and are loads of fun to play," says Tang.

It's possible to get injured playing video games. Some games can induce seizures in people prone to epilepsy. Others have experienced repetitive strain injury in the wrist. This occurs from using one muscle over and over again. Some video games can cause dizziness, nausea and eye strain.

You could make a career out of your video game interests. Computer programmers are in demand today, and game programmers are sometimes considered the elite in the field. You will need to combine your love of video games with knowledge of graphic design and computer programming.

Part-time and full-time jobs are available in arcades, and video gamers can also test games for companies. Both of these jobs usually pay minimum wage.

Getting Started

If you're interested in cashing in your old home console and breaking into the next generation, the advice from the street is shop around. Check out a couple of stores before you buy.

Remember that playing video games is fun, exhilarating and has been called the pastime of the future, but don't overdo it. "Video games give people another option on what to do," says Tang. "If one is obsessed with it to the point they don't care about anything, then it can get dangerous."

Take a rest if your wrist gets sore or if your eyes get weary. This will help avoid repetitive strain injury and eye problems.

Remember your arcade etiquette. "You can get a bad reputation by having bad manners like showing arrogance when winning a game or being cheap when playing someone competitively," says Tang.

Also remember that carrying cue cards or notepads is banned in some arcades. With cheat sheets, it's possible for a beginner to get high scores simply by following a pattern of memorized moves.

Everything is fast paced in the next generation. You've got to stay in the action if you want to know what's going to happen next. Keep up with gaming publications and discuss developments with your friends.


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