December 3rd marks the 15th anniversary of Sony's entrance into the console arena, with the 1994 launch of the PlayStation in Japan. This had me thinking all morning about the impact it had, both personally and for the wider gaming landscape.
There's a lot can and has been said on how the PlayStation changed the latter: how it helped standardize optical media over custom-built and more expensive cartridges, along with all the audio/visual upgrades that brought, (slightly overblown) sentiments on how it 'brought the Japanese RPG to the American mainstream' with Final Fantasy VII (a trend that hasn't necessarily carried through with nearly as much fervor), or how it helped ease gaming out of the shameful basement and into the living room as a lifestyle accessory.
More directly, it was also responsible for creating or evolving a laundry list of names that remain some of the industry's biggest franchises — Metal Gear, Tomb Raider, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Resident Evil, Wipeout, Castlevania and Final Fantasy. But my vote for the console's top achievement?
It gave birth to the music game. NanaOn-Sha and Rodney Greenblat's Parappa the Rapper might not have been the smash success of any of the names above, certainly in the West (where in Japan Sony would adopt the dog as the official face of its gaming wing), but it managed to make its strongest impact right where it counted.
Previous experimental flirtations aside (primarily Electroplankton creator Toshio Iwai's Famicom Disk System game Otocky and Maxis-published SimTunes), you can trace a clear line (as UK journo Simon Parkin has done) between Parappa's controller-button-Simon interactions to Konami's Beatmania/DDR beat-matching, to — most importantly — the creative turning-point at then-still-young developer Harmonix, who openly credit Parappa as leading them from a focus on simulation and instrument instruction to games proper, starting with Frequency, Amplitude and then, of course, the original Guitar Hero through to Rock Band.
It's a startling thought to realize that the tie that ultimately binds gaming to a cultural icon as big as The Beatles is an innocent stocking-capped rapping dog, and it follows that even that game couldn't have existed (at least in as captivating a way) without the music that the disc it lived on afforded, on the only console with the magic-formula of entertainment industry clout to attract that 'outsider' talent.
And on a personal level, too, Parappa was solely responsible for drawing me back into gaming itself, having skipped out on most of the 16-bit era to turn my teen-rebellion attention instead to music. It wasn't until I realized the two could play so happily together that I knew I wanted back in, and without that I wouldn't be writing this here today.
Which leads me to ask: a decade and a half on, did the PlayStation have as meaningful an impact on you? What's your view on its role in games history? Let us know via the comments below.