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Question? Do “Twitch” games still exist in modern day gaming? First off I think a definition of twitch gaming is in order. To me a twitch game is very easy to define. It is a game that challenges your reaction time every second of the game. A game that many times requires acute precision and offers little to no room for error. A game that challenges your hand eye coordination from start to finish. To put it bluntly, a game that tries to kick your pathetic gaming ass every millisecond, where a blink of an eye, a catch of your breath or minute loss of concentration can mean certain and immediate death. It is a game that keeps moving and doesn’t stop or give you a chance to stop and catch your breath. It keeps moving from the start of the game to the finish.
So when did twitch games arrive on the gaming scene? Well, since most twitch games were built around a single game play screen, they appeared at the dawn of the earliest arcade games. Twitch games first appeared in the arcades with games like Pong. Now many of you may not think of Pong as a twitch game, but it really hits on all the points defined above, especially when the ball starts to ricochet faster and faster across the screen. Pong is the simplest form of twitch gaming and set the bench mark for all the twitch games to follow.
Arcade game manufacturers soon realized these types of games challenging a players hand eye coordination were a hit and soon most arcade games were built around this unnamed play mechanic. It seemed a perfect fit with a player’s desire to score more and more points and with practice players could improve their game play ability and achieve higher scores. Twitch gaming challenged you but also rewarded you and that kept gamers coming back for more.
Arcade game manufacturers like Williams and Atari started perfecting the twitch game with games like Robotron, Defender, Tempest and Missile Command. Watch someone who has mastered those games and they are playing in some kind of weird state of being. They are in “the zone” you could say. Not thinking, only reacting. This brings us to a point that some people just weren’t cut out for these types of games. Their minds just couldn’t keep up. What category did you fall into? Were you good at twitch games or were you a Frogger and Pac Man gamer? Comment below and let us know. Did you know anyone that had mastered any of the twitch arcade games?
With the success of twitch games in the arcades, soon companies like Atari were porting their arcade game counterparts over to their newly launched Atari 2600 home console. The Atari 2600 was the perfect machine for twitch games and soon many would grace the screens of this new market of stay at home gamer.
One of the finest twitch games in the early 80′s was Activision’s Kaboom! Kaboom was the first game I bought for my newly purchase Atari 2600 back in 1981. Something about the box art and screen shot told me this was going to be a great game. And it was! Kaboom was twitch gaming in its most purest form. Simple game play like Pong, but with a new degree of intensity and sheer madness. A Mad Bomber dropping a successively faster barrage of bombs down from the top of a wall. Your only defense? An Atari 2600 paddle controller and three buckets that would disappear one by one with each missed bomb. I can’t tell you all how many hours I spent trying to better my previous scores. And it was only a few years ago I finally surpassed the 10,000 point mark and saw that familiar Mad Bomber grin turn to a frown. Priceless. Kaboom was a game where you couldn’t think for a second what you were doing or how you were going to catch the falling bombs. You just dove in and zoned out and tried to keep up.
The Atari 2600 was a perfect machine for twitch games in many thanks to the Atari 2600 simple control scheme of a single button joystick or paddle controller. Thankfully there were more and more software manufacturers designing twitch games for the system. Here is a list of what I feel are some of the best twitch games on the Atari 2600: Kaboom, Fast Food, Turmoil, Dodge’em, Break Out, Circus Atari, Atlantis, Cosmic Ark, Dragon Fire, Laser Blast and Ram It. These are all great games all Atari 2600 collections should include. But were other classic gaming systems good for twitch gaming? Considering the new control methods being used for systems like Mattel’s Intellivision and Coleco’s Colecovision and even Atari’s 5200 console, I think the writing was on the wall for the bleak future of twitch games. As controllers got more complicated, added more buttons, removed joysticks and removed paddle controllers completely from gamers hands, games become complicated. And twitch games were never about being complicated or hard to understand. Once the controllers changed, new game genres were introduced that led people away from the twitch gaming crack they knew before.
After the Video Game Crash of 1983, Nintendo came to the rescue of gamers everywhere with the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System. With this new gaming technology came new games, games that had multiple and seemingly endless game play screens. Games that had goals of progressing further into a game in addition to just playing for high scores. With this change Nintendo opted for a new type of controller. One without a joystick but with a Directional pad on one side and action/fire buttons on the other. This was a control method that would continue to be used up through the modern day gaming era. These new controllers simply weren’t built for twitch gaming and thus twitch games started to fall by the wayside. That is until Sony brought back a joystick of sorts with the introduction of the Sony Playstation. This was a hybrid controller that integrated buttons with dual control stick analog control and to this day is and was one of the finest gaming controllers ever!
Thankfully, there were a few gaming genres in the 90′s and early 2000′s that built off the twitch gaming theory, games like horizontal and vertical space shooters can be categorized as twitch gaming; games like Axelay, Ikaruga, the R*Type and Thunderforce series and countless other shooters that were introduced in the late 80′s to mid 90′s. Fighers like Street Fighter can be considered twitch gaming. Some may even argue that today’s First Person Shooters are twitch gaming. But I have to disagree on this one. Every FPS I’ve played has times where the games stops and a cut screen comes in to give you a breather. For that matter, you can hide somewhere while playing a FPS and catch a breather. True twitch games never give you an opportunity to rest and that is where the long, drawn out games of today just don’t deliver that true twitch gaming experience.
Twitch gaming is kind of a lost art at this point. Goals for gaming have changed. High scores are no longer the motivational factor for progressing through a game. Even though many games still score the player, how many times do we has modern day gamers care about the score in the upper left hand screen? Think about it the next time you are playing through a PS3 or Xbox 360 game. See the score? Do you care? I thought so. Casual gaming seems to be a good place for twitch game play. Dual stick shooters are popping up like crazy on the iPhone and iPad. Games like Geometry Wars and the newly released Infinity Field are some of modern day gaming’s best twitch games. One thing is for certain though, twitch games will never completely die but today one must open their eyes and search around a bit harder to find them. And when you do, you will likely continue to find great modern day games that will one day become twitch gaming classics in their own right.
So what do you think? Are twitch games still around? Did the new con trollers introduced by Nintendo, Sega and Sony, kill of twitch games or introduce us to know types of twitch games? We would love to get our reader’s takes on this topic. Please comment below.
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