If we were to pick a single key development in the history of video games which arrived at around the turn of the millennium and looks set to have the biggest impact on the medium, a good choice would be the advent of the Flash game.
When the online Flash game arrived on the scene, it took the medium back to its roots. Console games have long teetered on the brink of becoming a niche pursuit for dedicated enthusiasts; almost gone were the early days, in which video games were a time-killing pastime for people who wanted to spend a few minutes in an arcade.
The Flash game is a small-scale affair made by a tiny group of people (sometimes just one person). By its nature, it put the ball back in the court of independent developers – the so-called “bedroom programmers” who formed the bedrock of the industry back in the days of the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. All of a sudden, a person did not need a major corporation or large funds to create a marketable video game: a few choice pieces of software and a computer were all that was needed. The worldwide popularity of Angry Birds, a simple Flash game which is played over Facebook, is testament to this.
Early Flash games were very basic. However, there have been a number of noteworthy developments in the short history of the Flash game. There have been experiments with three-dimensional or pseudo three-dimensional Flash games; Cubefield, a 3D game created by Max Abernethy in 2006, is a good example of this.
As noted above, Flash games are closely related to the legions of simple but fun titles created for early eighties systems. They have a major advantage, however, in their far superior graphical capabilities. Angry Birds is a typical Flash game which has embraced the potential of modern computers to create an entertaining cartoon world, a key part of the game’s wide appeal.
Consoles and computers come and go; the Flash game is most certainly here to stay.