To how software keeps getting better and graphics get better-looking on the same old consoles.
Note that for the Atari VCS / Atari 2600, only answers #3 and #4 apply, since developers didn’t use “engines” or even compilers, instead writing their code in assembly langauge. (Presumably the assemblers didn’t improve much over the years.) Also, the VCS had no firmware, flashable or otherwise; although refined versions of the hardware were produced over the years, such as the Atari 2600 Jr., such systems were optimized for cheaper manufacturing and didn’t improve performance.
Still, there are important continuities between the answer to this question for the VCS and for modern-day consoles. And the answer is not obvious, since companies and the press usually emphasize the improvements in hardware that are made between generations of a console.
I’m very pleased to see the article Mia Consalvo and I wrote published in Loading…,
the journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA). There’s an intriguing lineup of articles in Loading… Vol 6, No 9; ours is:
Montfort, Nick and Mia Consalvo. “The Dreamcast, Console of the Avant-Garde.” Loading… 6: 9, 2012. http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/104/116
We look at the connections between the Dreamcast platform, five games in particular (Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, Rez, Seaman, and SGGG) and avant-garde movements and work in art, literature, and other areas in the 20th century. By seriously considering and applying the idea of the avant-garde and looking into these fives games closely (in terms of gameplay, in interpretive ways, and with regard to players’ online discourses about them), we show some ways in which videogames, within gaming, have done the work of the historical avant-garde; the business situations and factors in platform technology that relate to this innovation; and what opportunities for radical exploration in console gaming remain.