Modern video gaming began with the development of arcade video games and home video game consoles and was at its height until 1983, when North American markets experienced a significant “crash.”
This crash was precipitated by an abundance of poorly programmed video games featuring high levels of violence, prompting the formation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
In the 1950s, engineers started using computers to test out programs on computers. Engineer Ralph Baer – the “Father of Video Games” – introduced home gaming consoles during this era; his first was an unwieldy brown console that could only accept self-contained games but represented an important step forward in gaming technology.
Nolan Bushnell established Atari in 1972 and released its table tennis-inspired game Pong into arcades a year later, sparking massive success that ultimately launched a multibillion-dollar gaming industry.
The 1990s witnessed immense gaming graphics and storytelling innovation, such as Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog’s creation. New consoles such as Sega’s Genesis also began “console wars.” Regardless, sales remained strong until 1983, when North American markets had become saturated by too many consoles and games.
The Early Years
Atari’s 1970s games, such as Pong and Space Invaders, helped video gaming become a multibillion-dollar industry. Meanwhile, computer programmers created programming languages allowing people to create video games.
In the late 1980s, North American markets experienced a serious video game market crash for several years that caused several companies to close down. With Nintendo’s release of their NES console in 1985, things began improving with improved colors, graphics, and gameplay features that helped lift this sector of the economy back up again.
NES also gave birth to iconic franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy VII, which remain relevant today. At the same time, Sony’s Playstation revolutionized console gaming by featuring disc-based games – not to mention HD graphics with recorded dialogue!
The 1970s marked the advent of arcade video games and home gaming consoles. Before this development, gamers would only have one option for video game entertainment: pumping quarters into machines while watching others try to top their high score.
Nutting Associates released Computer Space in 1971 as an updated version of Spacewar!, although it did not prove commercially successful. Still, Computer Space set arcade cabinet standards that led Nolan Bushnell to found Atari with Pong as their flagship game the following year.
Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork were revolutionary personal computer games introduced in 1976. They featured engaging text-based gaming with narrative features that transformed gaming from its previous state – only showing small amounts of action and player control – into something more immersive and text-based.
Pac-Man, Super Mario, and Mortal Kombat have been part of our lives for three generations – becoming part of their lives through entertainment, education, and recreation. But how did video games reach such prominence today?
Nintendo and Sega battled fiercely for dominance of the home console market during the 1980s, as Famicom became known as Nintendo Entertainment System worldwide. At the same time, Sega’s Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis gained ground.
Game designers continued to push the limits of what video games could do. Jordan Mechner’s Prince of Persia for Apple II used rotoscoping, an early motion capture technology used today, to convert film footage into characters onscreen. It would eventually evolve into the more sophisticated motion-capture technology used today.
After experiencing fluctuations throughout the 1980s, home consoles like Nintendo and Sega began dominating the video game industry. Computer gaming also saw significant advancements – Richard Garriott’s Ultima and Sir-Tech’s Wizardry were two such pioneering titles developed for personal computers that made an impression on their first appearance.
As microprocessor technology advanced, video game graphics improved to the point that real-time 3D polygonal graphics became possible on consoles and PCs. Players created their games, known as mods for popular titles like Doom or Half-Life.
Gun violence was an issue during the 1990s, with schools and libraries curtailing gaming within their facilities while media outlets advocated boycotts against violent video games. Rockstar video game company removed “Kill All Haitians” as an option in Grand Theft Auto following protests from Haitian-American groups.
In 2000, another wave of game consoles hit the market: Sega released their Dreamcast while Sony introduced their Playstation, capable of supporting online multiplayer gaming and using disks rather than cartilages to store games more economically.
As video games became an integral part of popular culture, Hollywood took note. The Wachowski brothers, known for making The Matrix films, developed Enter the Matrix to unify all its events into one game.
As a result, numerous movies based on video games were produced, and handheld video gaming enjoyed a tremendous surge during the 2000s thanks to 3D graphics that allowed games to resemble what you might find on a big screen more closely.
Video gaming now represents a $100 billion industry, spanning home consoles to handheld devices. Many popular titles feature multiplayer online components that create communities with their competitive followings (e-sports).
It isn’t easy to pinpoint when the first video game was invented. However, one possible starting point might have been during the 1950s when computer scientists created simple electronic games to demonstrate what their computers could do – OXO being one such early tic-tac-toe simulator displayed on cathode ray tube displays.
Steve Russell from MIT created Spacewar!, an educational computer game. This inspired arcade games such as Pong to be developed further, leading to further creation from programmers taking basic ideas and running with them.