When Mario first entered the Mushroom Kingdom in 1985, a gaming revolution was born. 31 years later and the industry is on the verge of a new era, which was on show at this year's Melbourne International Games Week.
Image: Melbourne International Games Week Mural
The arrival of Mario brought gaming out of the arcades and back into homes following the video game crash of 1983. New technology combined with rich storytelling, creative and imaginative characters and more immersive worlds allowed the industry to thrive.
Today, gaming companies are taking immersive to a whole new level with the advent of virtual reality devices, and convenience with the rapid evolution of mobile gaming. Through its vibrant creative community, education and training opportunities ( ... and a healthy dose of coin collected from the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria), Melbourne is well placed to be a key player in the future of gaming.
What is Melbourne International Games Week?
Some huge innovations in next-gen gaming were announced as part of the week, including augmented reality game, Wayfinder Live (think Pokemon Go-style gaming where players crawl through Melbourne's laneways to unlock cafe and restaurant offers) and the VR Festival where users could scale Mount Everest or explore the International Space Station on a new wave of mainstream VR devices.
Associate Professor Stefan Greuter is the director at RMIT University's Centre for Game Design Research, which has been using VR technology to create programs including a hyperreal version of the NGV Garden where users can play architect.
"Melbourne is a hub of creative talent that is fueled by enterprise and education. The continued support of the Victorian Government into the expanding field of games and game-inspired applications as well as the vibrant and diverse community are certainly a key ingredient that makes Melbourne an attractive location for businesses and events," he said.
The rise of virtual reality
VR was invented in 1962 when Morton Heilig constructed the Sensorama, which allowed users to take in an immersive motorcycle tour of Brooklyn, complete with wind, vibrations and even smell. Since then aeronautics, health and science have used VR to great effect in education and training.
Gamers have had tantalising exposure to similar technologies over the years, with Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Kinnect and PlayStation Move allowing gamers to use their bodies as the controller, but it's the new era of devices that will allow gamers to truly immerse themselves in virtual worlds thanks to Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation VR and other VR devices.
Award-winning Melbourne-based VR wizards, Opaque Media were at the event, where Project Lead and games designer Emre Deniz said the moment is right for VR.
"We've always had the ability to do simulations, training, even health care in virtual reality. But gaming is a new addition to that, so that's why the consumer market has opened up," he said.
Melbourne as a mobile gaming heartland
The mobile gaming market was cracked wide open in Australia with Brisbane's Fruit Ninja by Halfbrick Studios taking a novelty for next-gen phones to a genuine gaming market. Over the past decade, the talent, ideas and studios have transitioned from Brisbane to Melbourne with companies like Mighty Games enjoying global success thanks to titles like Crossy Road.
Mighty Games Director, Matt Ditton said the Melbourne International Games Week put 'the rest of country on notice', and said the success of businesses like his own came through various supporters in Victoria."Film Victoria, Screen Australia, and The City of Melbourne have been really, really good allies to the games industry. It's definitely a thing that has galvanised the industry around Melbourne," he said.