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Full-Motion Video – The Future of the Past

The early 90’s were a landmark era in the evolution of home video game consoles. The Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis were brand new and bringing graphics into the living room that were nearly as vivid and colorful as those in the arcade. Console gaming was finally coming into its own, designers were refining and expanding the gaming experience, and utilizing the new generation of consoles to develop new types of gameplay.

Mario in 1990

Mario in 1990

When the Genesis was first released, bundled with the game Altered Beast, I remember it as a revelatory moment. The graphics were so spectacular that I was willing to completely overlook the fact that the game wasn’t actually fun. The sprites were huge and detailed, the characters had musculature, and I had spent the past five years playing as a big-nosed pixelated plumber. Now that I was a werewolf with the frame of an Adonis, there was no turning back. I was undeterred by the fact that the game had just five levels, that the controls were terrible, and that it was nearly impossible to beat.

This story is important because it’s an object lesson in the history of gaming. It was that very mentality – that graphics could supercede gameplay – that gave rise to the short lived Full-Motion Video (FMV) Game craze of the early 1990’s.

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