Saturday, 8 November 2008

A History of Videogames : Part 1

Gaming dates back further than most people may think and here are some of the key titles that set in motion the birth of the videogame industry. When people think back to the earliest games most people would stop a ‘PONG’ from the 1970’s, but you would be wrong. The origins of gaming actually stretch back to the 1950’s where the first basic game was produced. “Tennis for Two” was a simple as its title, a two player tennis game that was played from a side angle rather than an over the top view. Next up, we move to 1961 where some MIT students developed a the ”Spacewar!”. The player would control a spacecraft that would fire missiles at hazards that were created by a black hole in the centre. It was built into a unit called the DEC PDP-1, very original… it is the size of transit van and the game itself is played on a circle monitor and controlled with a basic keyboard. I had the lucky opportunity to see it in the flesh at the ‘Game-ON’ exhibition in 2006 and it’s amazing how things have changed in 50 years.

The game went on to inspire later efforts like 1969’s “Space Travel” and 1971’s “Galaxy Game” which became the first ever coin-op videogame and was built into a very unique looking cabinet.

Now we come to gaming genesis, in 1972 ‘ATARI’ was founded and its debut effort was “PONG”. The classic over the top format tennis game went on to influence the look of most tennis and sports games all the way up to the mid 80’s. PONG was the stand alone arcade success for most of the 70’s and the cabinet it was built into became the standard design for most arcade machines to this day. I wish I had the opportunity to play it during the height of its popularity rather than many years later on the Atari 2600.

In 1978 Taito’s “Space Invaders” ushered in the “Golden Age” of arcade gaming. ‘Space Invaders’ offered a more complex gaming experience with many objects on the screen at one time and the introduction of a ‘LIVE’s/Credits’ format made the games more competitive especially in bars and arcades where these cabinets were placed and extra features like top scores added to the experience and help people part with their cash. The first colour arcade game “PAC-MAN” added to the popularity of the arcade machines and he became recognised as the first icon or mascot of the games industry and led the way for future titles to adopt mascots to represent their games.