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What are Gaming Consoles?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Gaming consoles are devices designed for the sole purpose of playing video games. The console itself was the game system, which initially usually include any games playable on the system. Today consoles usually play games that are compatible with their system only and don't have built in game play features.

Neither arcade games nor personal computers are considered video game consoles either. Even though computers can play video games, they can be used for things unrelated to gaming; it should be noted that modern gaming consoles can have multiple uses too. You can think of video game consoles as very specific computers, which have advanced in capacity just like home computers have.

Many people can remember some early gaming console designs emerging in the 1970s, like the Magnavox Odyssey® and the Atari PONG® console. One thing common in the history of video games is not only successful systems along the way but also those that fell by the wayside. Far more people remember PONG than they do the Odyssey.

As with most gaming console today, these systems plugged into televisions, allowing people to play games on the television screen. Other systems and companies quickly designed their own consoles. Early companies introducing gaming consoles include Coleco, who produced the Telstar® in 1976 and Mattel’s Intellivision® system released in 1980.

The earliest console designs featured very limited variation in what you could play and many of them played one game only. This changed as gaming consoles developed, and the idea of using separate cartridges to play a variety of games become popular with later Coleco and Atari models. Intellivision also used cartridges.

Common features of gaming consoles in the late 1970s and early 1980s are still present in modern video game systems. These include controllers to operate games, a power source (usually plug in), and a way to connect the gaming console to a video display. What has changed is the speed at which games can play, the quality of the graphics, and even some aspects of functionality.

The progression of console history shows increased ability of game and system programmers. When gaming consoles like the Sega Genesis® and early Nintendo ® systems were released, most people thought graphics and speed couldn’t improve. However it did and introduction of systems like the Sony Playstation added whole new levels of fun and visual interest to play.

Modern popular gaming consoles include the Nintendo Wii®, the Microsoft X-Box®, and the Sony Playstation III®. Though these brands continue to dominate the market and release new or updated consoles from time to time, there is always room for another system. The achievement of graphic display especially with the Playstation has been integrated with other developing video systems. For instance, the Playstation III functions as a Blu-Ray player too, just as the Playstation II could be used to play DVDs.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By MrsPramm — On Jan 06, 2014

The amazing thing about modern gaming consoles is all the different uses that people put them to. You don't just buy gaming consoles to play games these days.

Well, most people do, but I've seen articles by people who have used them to help surgeons in surgery and train fighter pilots. My mother uses her Wii to do exercises and weigh herself to track her health and as it says in the article you can use them as a blue-ray and DVD player as well.

Now that they've put those motion tracking features into different consoles they've become capable of doing so much more than just playing games and I think that once people start getting really creative with this technology we're going to see some amazing things.

By umbra21 — On Jan 05, 2014

@Fa5t3r - Depending on what kind of games they were you might be able to play them on your PC. There are plenty of free game console emulators available online for the older kinds of consoles and fans have made versions of the old games that will play on them. Many of them have been released by their companies so they are even legal to download.

It's actually amazing how much you can get for free online if you are a fan of retro games. Some of them have even been rebooted so that the graphics are much better but they stick to the original story.

By Fa5t3r — On Jan 05, 2014

I remember when my cousins got a Nintendo when we were kids and it seemed like the most wonderful thing in the world. I was so jealous, because their dad got them cool stuff like that all the time and they would hardly ever let us play with it.

I still kind of want to buy old gaming consoles and the same games that my cousins played and hook them up to my TV so I can just play them as much as I want. I doubt I will actually want to play them all that much these days, but it would definitely make the childhood me happier.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia...
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