When I started writing for this blog, i had just become a dad and was struggling for time and ideas on what to write; then I had a brainwave, write about what interests me. In my case after my friends and family, which is a given; my two big interests are gaming and history. I thought why not combine the two? So to that end, welcome to the first of what I hope is a series of posts about the history of gaming.
I will say up front this will mainly be console orientated. I have some experience of PC gaming so will mention all the important stuff, but the majority of my personal experience has been on consoles, so here it is a potted history of gaming, and where better to start than the beginning.
So what was the first video game? There are several contenders to the title, the first takes us back to 1947 and a world emerging from the horrors of World War 2. Most computers in those days were used for running complex calculations or working out the trajectories of weapons. Using computers for games was not even an idea at this point and any “games” shown were to show off a programs capabilities or for exhibitions and not sold commercially. The first “interactive electronic game” made was the snappily named ‘Cathode-ray tube amusement device’, technically not a video game as it had no CPU or programming. The user would use a series of switches to guide a light, simulating an artillery round; onto paper models placed over the screen of an oscillator. A patent was taken out for this but it was never commercially made.
“Games” such as they were continued like this slowly getting more advanced and being able to use actual computing power to play simple games like tic-tac-toe or draughts using some fairly advanced (for the time) computer programming
1958 saw the first video game as we know it Tennis for Two, again played on an oscillator, this was created to show the computing powr of an oscillator that couls simulate trajectory amd wind resistance. The object was to use switches on a rudimentary controller to simulate a game of tennis. This was never intended to be a commercial product and was only shown at exhibitions, although variations can be found today
This continued until 1962, the year the first actual video game was made by a group of students at MIT, Spacewar.
Again the premise was simple, a screen representing a star field with a planet in the middle, two spaceships; “The Pin” and “The Wedge” both trying to avoid crashing whilst shooting the other down. The game was played on a computer with switches for rotating the ships, hyperspace (making the ship randomly re-appear with an increasing chance of it being destroyed) and firing torpedoes.
What made this game important is it was the first game to be installed on many different computer terminals at MIT, it was also the first game to use a proper handmade controller as the switches on the computer were found to wear out rather quickly whilst playing. Spacewar is regularly seen as one of the most important games of all time, inspiring classics such as asteroids that came later. Once Spacewar had been created it was a sign of things to come in the future, gaming had been born and the world was moving into the 1970’s and the era of pong…
The next article in this series will cover the first and second generation of games consoles through the turbulent years of the 70’s and 80’s