If someone were to tell you only a few years ago, that you make more than a decent living simply by playing video games – would you believe it? Probably not. Nowadays, we have so many options when it comes to playing video games. You can play them on consoles such as PlayStation, XBOX, Nintendo Wii, you can play on your desktop or a laptop and, of course, most conveniently, you can play them on your mobile device. Today, the days of going to an arcade or blowing into the cartridges are long gone, but, we can’t forget about the history of video games that brought us where we are here today.
A Trip Down The Memory Lane
When we’re talking about the history of video games, our mind directly goes to the classics like Ms Pac-Man, Tetris, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Street Fighter, Madalin Stunt Cars 3 and so on. Those games are considered a part of the golden gaming era, however, there were some others, less popular, that came before them. Those games naturally never received a great amount of attention or world-wide recognition as the ones we’ve just mentioned, but are surely very important for the development of video games in general.
If we want to talk about the very first video game, we have to understand what makes it a video game. The term has certainly evolved over the years. At its inception, it was used as a purely technical term and if we were to follow that definition, none of the ones we play today would be deemed video games. Basically, back in the day, the term was used to describe an interactive video signal transmitted through a CRT, which nowadays, is no longer in use. Nowadays, that’s not the case and the term encompasses any interactive game played on an electronic device.
Where It All Started
So, what was the first video game ever created? Contrary to the popular belief, Pong, is not the first, or even second oldest game. Actually, the title of the first video game ever belongs to a mighty tome called Tennis for Two.
Tennis for Two was created almost 15 years before the Pong has hit the market. In 1958, physicist William Higinbotham created what is now deemed the first-ever video game. The idea behind creating the game came from William’s desire to make the exhibits of Brookhaven’s National Laboratory a little bit more enjoyable and interactive for its visitors. Since Higinbotham was already pretty handy with the electronics, it took him only a few days to draw up a plan for this game. After a few days of planning and about two weeks of construction – the game was ready.
As you can tell from the name, the game was about tennis. Players would turn a physical knob to adjust the angle and the trajectory of the ball and then press a button to hit it and send it towards another player. That was pretty much all there was to it. If you were to press the button once the ball was in your court, you couldn’t actually miss it. However, if you were too early or too late, you would forfeit the point, as you launch the ball into the net. Of course, the points weren’t kept in the game and the players would have to count themselves, which we would assume was quite fun as it gave the players the opportunity to cheat a little bit if they were losing.
Of course, the visuals of the game weren’t as good as they are today. There were basically just two lines and a dot on the screen. That was it – just a few lines and a moving dot.
What’s particularly interesting about this story is that Higinbotham never patented the game. He never knew that what he created would become a stepping stone for what is now a multi-billion dollar industry. We assume that if he had help from InventHelp, he would’ve patented it and potentially made some money off of it, but, since he never did, we guess we’ll never know what could’ve been.
If we fast forward a couple of years in the future, we enter the arcade video game era. This was arguably the most important part of video game history as this is what launched video games in the mainstream community.
The first-ever arcade video game was called Computer Space. It was an adaptation of a 1962 computer game called Spacewar! and it was this game that made everyone see just how big these could one day become.
Computer space was a space combat arcade game, in which you would fly a spaceship or a rocket and you’d attempt to shoot the enemies, while simultaneously avoiding the enemy fire. A player could control the rocket by rotating both clockwise and counterclockwise, while also having the ability to move forward, as well as to shoot missiles. The objective of the game was to hit the enemy ships more times than they’ve hit you. As long as you kept the score higher than the computer’s once the round ended – you would continue to play the game ‘for free’.
Since this one was an arcade game, you would have to pay a quarter to begin playing. If you kept winning the rounds, you would continue playing for free and when you’ve lost, you had to pop in another quarter to continue the game.
Despite this game not becoming very commercially successful, it has shown the developers what the future holds. Developers then decided to leave the company they were working for and establish one of the greatest gaming corporations that still stands to this day. The name of the company they’ve found? Atari.
From that point on, the gaming world started taking over the world. Shortly after Computer Space, Atari came out with what is now regarded as one of the earliest and most popular arcade games ever – Pong. And as they say – the rest is history…
So, the next time you fire up your brand new PS or and XBOX and hop on to play some CoD or Fortnite, take a moment to appreciate the ones that came before. And if you’re willing, you can always find an emulator online and fire up some good old Cadillacs and Dinosaurs and experience some 16-bit fun.