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Plugged In

Gaming grows up: The PlayStation turns 15

Plugged In

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Sony PlayStation

Bill Clinton was a mere two years into his first term, Pixar's
original Toy Story was storming the box office, and the San Francisco
49ers romped to their record-setting fifth Super Bowl victory (side
note: Kathy Lee Gifford sang the National Anthem. How far we've come!)
The year was 1995, and while it will be remembered for many things, most
folks probably don’t consider it a pivotal year in pop culture.

That's a crime. Because in 1995, Sony forever changed the face of
video gaming by releasing an unheralded game console called the
PlayStation.

How big of a deal was that little gray box? Very, very big. Not only
did it usher in the era of smooth, polygonal 3D graphics, but its sleek
design and multi-purpose disc-based format marked the first step in
changing public perception that games were just fancy kids toys. Plus,
it shipped with a controller so intuitive it's retained its core design
to this day.

The core design of the system, however, can be partially credited to
none other than Nintendo. As the story goes, the unit was initially
planned as a CD-ROM drive for Nintendo's Super Nintendo System, but
Nintendo and Sony couldn't agree to terms. The dispute quickly grew
ugly, leading Sony exec Ken Kutaragi, widely considered to be the
"father" of the PlayStation, to explore the idea of creating a competing
console. Sour grapes? More like sweet wine, as the PlayStation would
quickly thrash Nintendo's troubled N64 console and help put Sony atop
the gaming world for a good decade.

Things might not be so rosy for the company these days -- though it's
gaining ground, the PS3 has notably lagged behind both the Nintendo Wii
and Microsoft's Xbox 360, while the portable PSP has been trounced by
the Nintendo DS -- but it's safe to say that without their flagship
starter system, gaming wouldn't be the pop-culture juggernaut it is
today.

Like any game console, the PlayStation was truly defined by its
games, though picking a favorite is impossible. Gran Turismo? Tomb
Raider? Resident Evil? Final Fantasy VII? I might go with pioneering
rhythm game PaRappa the Rapper, but really, there's no wrong answer when
you're dealing with nearly 8,000 releases.

What are your faves? Let us know in the comments.

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