Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The evolution of video games - 1950s to 1970s

History of computer games introduction.

*Before I write what has been written hundred's of times before,I think a slight introduction is needed into games and there role from a form of entertainment into something more. I will write in my own words from my own point of view, site sources of information were needed and definitely not copy and paste from the drab pages of wikipedia or any other area of cyber space. I will try to make it as different and as interesting as possible.

Here goes......


I believe the most important thing that influenced the advent of computer games was interactivity between man and machine. The idea that a person could have influence over an image on a monitor first came into play with a missile defence system that used cathode ray tube or CRT technology in the late 1940s, the idea of this system was that the person interacted with knobs and buttons to manipulate a CRT beam that simulated firing at airplane targets, it was simple, there was no "real” game environment as we know it now just a overlay on the screen to represent the environment and dots to represent the action.
 This defence system did not work for what it was intended for but this was an important event in video game history  because it was adapted into simple games. From this point simple games were created by defence contract workers..... that's how it started and the rest is history.

Video game history is more than just a list of things that happened through time, its more of an evolutionary process where a lot of different ideas were tried and the best ones were kept, the ones that did not work so well were discarded, games were being programmed on different machines which went from being large,impractical and being the size of a small planet to becoming smaller, and more compact, and less costly taking up less space making them more suitable for use in homes.
When this happened the competition started and different computer developers would compete against each other to sell there games through clever use of advertising. In the early days of home entertainment systems this advertising was usually misleading, Technology had not developed enough for the graphics in a game to acurately represent what a player saw on the box or tv. It was usually very  different from what was advertised, for example a space ship which would look high tech and interesting on the video game box or advert but would be represented in the game by a small triangle
Interactivity with games also changed with alternative methods of playing being created. some of these ideas worked and some did not. The ones that did formed the foundations for the games we play today such as Steven Russels creation of the game "space wars" that used a controller,Something us modern gamers take for granted.
apart from Steven Russel other video game pioneers include A.S. Douglas, William Higgenbotham and Ralph Baer.

In the beginning
There is a little conflict about "the first ever" video game, some sources say that A.S Douglas made the first video game on record, It was simply naughts and crosses. Others say William Higgenbotham programmed the first game tennis for two.
William Higgenbotham a nuclear physicist was the head of the brookhaven lab of instrumentation division, and he had the realization that all science exhibits were too static, he felt that he was able to change that so he created the first real game “tennis for two” for people to interact with.

Higinbotham wrote, “it might liven up the place to have a game that people could play, and which would convey the message that our scientific endeavors have relevance for society."

The game “tennis for two” which was funnily enough a simple tennis game required using buttons on a controller and the twisting of a knob to interact with the game. The ball, which was represented with a dot would leave trails as it virtually bounced around , knowing this I can only imagine that this experience would be closer in comparison to doodling on an "etch-a-sketch" than playing a modern computer game. 
And the timeline....
1952 as douglas created naughts and crosses on the electronic delay storage automatic calculator
1958 william higgenbotham – tennis for two. the idea of a tennis simulation game may seem so simple but it was widley copied it seemed everyone wanted to jump on the electronic tennis wagon. Pong which came later was probably the most recognised tennis game but even nintendo realeased a handheld version of an electronic tennis game. It was in fact the copying of "pong" that lead to the video game crash of the 1980's.
1961 ralph war  created the first interactive game, controller runs on the digital pdp 1 mainframe computer
1966 – probably the most influential idea in video game history ralph baer recieves support for making games for a tv, although this idea for interactive tv was realised a lot earlier than this when he was commissioned to design the best tv set in the world... he went on to be known as the father of video games.
just a year later in 1967 this idea is realised and ralph baer along with his team create 2 video games for use with a tv , they also make a toy gun be able to detect spots of light on a tv an evolution of the older controller
1970 The future founders of atari, nolan bushnell and ted dabney attemot to recreate an arcade version of space war called computer space 
1971 comuter space becomes the first video arcade game ever released.1500 were distributed but public said that the game wass too difficult to play
1972 computer television gaming apparatus and method us patent is issued to ralph baer
Ralph Baer was then come to known as the father of video games
1972 magnavox odyssey the first home entertainment video game system
1972 atarti is created
first game pong probably the most influential game because this started off the video games industry, with new video games companies competing by trying to recreate this game....even atari who invented pong recreated this game.......or gave it different names and passed it off as something else.
1973 in my opinion the best event in video game history..... the birth of nintendo as a games producer.
nintendo a japanese toy manufacturer who specialised in making playing cards.
1975 pong is released atari produced 150,000 units
1975 the first game to use a micro processor instead of hardwired solid state circuits
named gunfight
1976 first programmable games console, rather than having games built in it was the first games console that allowed users to change game by switching cartridges this was a breakthrough and influenced the way we play games today
In 1976 video game violence was born. A game called death race that was based on the film death race 2000. The gameplay involved the user hitting pedestrians with a car. Controversy was created over this video game violence and the game sold poorly. This game also was a first for another reason.... it was the first film game tie in something that has become really popular. It was the first but definatley not the last utterly crap film- game tie in (probably the worst moment in video game history).
1977 Atari produces first cartridge based home video system which becomes known as the atari 2600, it costed $249. 95
1978 The first high score space invaders is released in japan into arcades. The game became so popular that it created a national coin shortage.
1978 maganavox odyssey - the first controller with keyboard
1978 atari works on combat simulator for the u.s department of defense
1979 asteroids the first computer game to allow initials to be entered after highscore
and the future......
The early development of video games were not for the purpose of entertainment, they have evolved into that from ideas created for other purposes. In recent years games seem to be evolving still from a form of entertainment into something more. Although games for entertainment purposes still and in my opinion always will exist and grow in popularity. video games have been adapted for other purposes. These purpose include
  • Education - in games such as brain training as a recent example, donkey Kong Jr math as an older example
  • Fitness -such as Wii sports,Wii fit
  • Training purposes - serious games like medical simulation games.
Arguably most "hardcore gamers" wouldn't class anything above as “real games”, but there made the same way, controlled the same way, they ARE games, like it or not.
The escapist in me thinks that the main reason why video games have become so popular apart from there addictive quality's are because they allow the player to be submerged into another world all together, be someone exciting for a time and that's why I love them.
The reason they have evolved is because of there use of interactivity and potential. There is endless potential on what you can create in 3D and with new technology being developed quicker than ever who knows what ideas will be created or combined with games in 5, 10 or 20 years time. Some of them probably unimaginable to us now.
Games have become more appealing over the years to a wider audience because of the ever expanding genres and what was once considered a geeky pass time is now an acceptable form of entertainment for all. You don't have to be a lazy couch potato to be a gamer these days. 
Sources of information



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