If you are a hardcore gamer, can you imagine your life without Nintendo Wii, Xbox and Playstation?
Absolutely not. Let us have a view how these video games were invented and how it evolved over some decades.
In October 1958, Physicist William Higinbotham created what is thought to be the first video game at a Brookhaven National Laboratory open house. It was a very simple tennis game.
It took Higinbotham only a couple of hours to conceive the idea of a tennis game, and only a few days to put together the basic pieces. Having worked on displays for radar systems and many other electronic devices, Higinbotham had no trouble designing the simple game display.
Higinbotham made some drawings, and blueprints were drawn up. Technician Robert Dvorak spent about two weeks building the device. After a little debugging, the first video game was ready for its debut. They called the game Tennis for Two.
Players could turn a knob to adjust the angle of the ball, and push a button to hit the ball towards the other player. As long as they pressed the button when the ball was in their court, players couldn’t actually miss the ball, but if they hit it at the wrong time or hit it at the wrong angle, the ball wouldn’t make it over the net. Balls that hit the ground would bounce like a real tennis ball.
Tennis for Two had none of the fancy graphics video games use today. The cathode ray tube display simply showed a side view of a tennis court represented by just two lines, one representing the ground and a one representing the net. The ball was just a dot that bounced back and forth. Players also had to keep score for themselves.
Later in 1961, Steve Russell, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), creates Spacewar, the first interactive computer game. It runs on a Digital PDP-1 mainframe computer, and the graphics are made up of ASCII text characters.
But the first true video game wouldn't be invented until 1967 when an engineer named Ralph H. Baer created the first prototype of “Brown Box”, the world's first video game console.
The “Brown Box” was a vacuum tube-circuit that could be connected to a television set and allowed two users to control cubes that chased each other on the screen.
The “Brown Box” was licensed to Magnavox, which released the system as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972.
Baer, often known as the “Father of Video Games," was the first person to create a system that transformed electronic signals into pictures on a television screen via a raster pattern…or what we now know as a video game.
The original Magnavox Odyssey featured a few simple games, such as a chase game, checkers, and a shooting game using a rifle peripheral device. The system came with two paddle controllers, as well as a few other accessories usually associated with board games. It was a huge success, selling over 700,000 units in its first three years of production.
But these consoles are a very recent addition to the list of video games-related technologies that have developed over the years.
Perhaps, you might have heard your parents mention ‘Atari’? Ask them, and they will tell you about Pong, a game originally created by a company called Atari Incorporated, way back in 1972 — 44 years ago.
Pong was a two-dimensional tennis game and its creator was a man called Allen Alcorn. In those days, you could not simply buy a game and bring it home and play. There were places where these games were installed and they were coin-operated (arcade games). This meant that you had to put a coin in the machine to play the game!
In 1972, Atari (founded by Nolan Bushnell, the godfather of gaming) became the first gaming company to really set the benchmark for a large-scale gaming community.
Atari not only developed their games in-house, they also created a whole new industry around the “arcade,” and in 1973, retailing at $1,095, Atari began to sell the first real electronic video game Pong, and arcade machines began emerging in bars, bowling alleys and shopping malls around the world.
In 1975, Atari's Pong is released with help from Sears Roebuck, which finances the production of 150,000 units. It becomes the hottest selling Christmas present. Sears sells the product exclusively, with the Sears Tele-Games logo.
Gunfight, the first "computer" game is released. It is the first game to use a microprocessor instead of hardwired solid-state circuits.
In 1977, Atari introduces its first cartridge-based home video system called the Video Computer System which later becomes known as the Atari 2600. It retails for $249.95.
When it was released, the Atari VCS was only designed to play 10 simple challenge games, such as Pong, Outlaw and Tank. However, the console included an external ROM slot where game cartridges could be plugged in; the potential was quickly discovered by programmers around the world, who created games far outperforming the console’s original designed.
The integration of the microprocessor also led to the release of Space Invaders for the Atari VCS in 1980, signifying a new era of gaming — and sales: Atari 2600 sales shot up to 2 million units in 1980.
As home and arcade gaming boomed, so too did the development of the gaming community. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the release of hobbyist magazines such as Creative Computing (1974), Computer and Video Games (1981) and Computer Gaming World (1981). These magazines created a sense of community, and offered a channel by which gamers could engage.
Nintendo, the company which eventually became a major player in the video gaming industry for the next three decades, delivered their first series of video game console from 1977 to 1979. The Color Game Series were only for sale in Japan. These consoles essentially followed in the footsteps of Atari and featured Pong-style games.
Once again, there were a few newcomers to the market but they were met with limited success. Bally Astrocade came about in 1977 and was celebrated for its superior capabilities. For some reason, it did not last long. Mattel introduced its Intellivision console in 1979, which actually intimidated Atari 2600 with its exceptional capabilities.
The golden age of video gaming has arrived! With progressively advanced gaming technology,the 1980s was a period of genre innovation when the industry began experimenting with non-Pong games like fighting, platform, adventure and RPG games.
It is also this era that we saw the of all-time classic games such as Pac-man (1980), Mario Bros (1983), The Legend of Zelda (1986), Final Fantasy (1987), Golden Axe (1988), etc.
There was also a major shift from dedicated consoles (with built-in games) to cartridge-based video game systems. In the first few years of 1990s, there is a notable shift in the medium used for storing games from cartridges to compact discs.
There were increased capacities for video gaming, prompting as well a transition of 2D graphics to that of 3D. The first console was launched by Philips (1991) – the CD-i.
In 1992, NEC TurboGrafx-16 was upgraded to the TurboGrafx-CD to meet the demands of CD-based consoles. But again, it lost itself to Sega Genesis/MegaDrive with its latest add-on, the Sega .
The current generation of video game console only has room for three major competitors: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii. With full 1080p HD graphics for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and Wii’s innovative remote for sensing 3D movements, it seems that video gaming had indeed came a long, long way.