Following the tragic events of Sept. 11, death and violence became a sensitive issue for Americans. In the world of video games, the issue of death and violence had a much different impact on the year that was 2001.

Paul Wong
Impressive titles “”Grand Theft Auto 3″” and “”Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty”” led Playstation 2 to great heights in 2001.<br><br>Courtesy of Rockstar Games

Death first struck the video game world in January, when video game giant Sega and their Dreamcast system threw in the towel. Purchased primarily by hardcore gamers, the Dreamcast quickly fell off the face of the map following the release of Sony”s Playstation 2 in October of 2000. Sega fought hard until the end, dropping the price of the unit to a mere 50 dollars, but casual gamers looked past the aged console. Fortunately for game fans, Sega has decided to focus on software which means its popular “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Phantasy Star” games will live on via newer systems.

While Dreamcast may have been the most suprising death in the video game business, 2001 also saw the end for three other systems: Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color and the original Playstation. Nintendo 64, while great for multi-player games and classic Nintendo updates, will be remembered more for delayed games, blurry graphics and outdated cartridges. As for the Game Boy Color and Playstation, their deaths were imminent with the releases of their backwards compatible successors, Game Boy Advance and Playstation 2.

In addition to the Game Boy Advance (the 32-bit handheld which became the prized possession of millions this summer), 2001 also brought two new contenders to the next-generation console race, Microsoft”s Xbox and Nintendo”s GameCube. Released within a week of each other in November, both systems managed to boast impressive sales during the holiday season, with many parents searching the ends of the earth to find an Xbox or GameCube. Microsoft announced it has sold approximately 1.5 million units from the launch date to the end of 2001, a number Bill Gates and Co. can be more than pleased with. Reportedly, Nintendo has sold similar numbers, but the PS2 continued to be the best-selling hardware unit in the crucial time-frame.

With a competitive game industry on the horizon, video game publishers released a slew of titles on several systems, with some companies choosing exclusive rights to a hardware publisher. Square maintained its powerful collaboration with Sony, releasing the 10th installment of the ever-popular Final Fantasy series on Playstation 2 in December. Nintendo focused on rehashing older titles at the launch of the system, putting out such remakes as Waverace and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Microsoft went for more originality for its system”s debut, releasing exclusive titles such as the critically acclaimed first-person shooter “Halo.”

Perhaps no game was as talked about in 2001 as much as Rockstar Game”s “Grand Theft Auto 3.” Released in October for PS2, the game contains all the elements of a classic Victorian novel: Gang wars, stealing cars, beating up prostitutes and the occasional assassination. Stores around the country refused to sell the game, but that didn”t do anything but help the tremendous buzz surrounding the controversial game.

Another candidate for game of the year was the highly anticipated sequel to Konami”s 1998 hit “Metal Gear Solid.” Gamers waited months for the release, with some left scratching their heads at the convoluted plot and others drooling at the innovative gameplay.

Sequels were rampant across all genres of gaming this past year, producing some of the finest entertainment in the process. “Tony Hawk”s Pro Skater 3,” “SSX Tricky” and “Madden NFL 2002” made vital improvements, keeping their respective series fresh and endlessly playable.

What might the future of video games hold? Sony will push online gaming in the coming year, while Nintendo and Microsoft try to maintain their strong starts. With three strong next-generation video game systems available, 2002 looks to be an exciting year for those still fascinated by the bloops and bleeps of the current batch of new gaming consoles.

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