Monday, 13 October 2008

From Pong to Pac-man...a brief history of computer games

I will now shock and appal many of you, I thought Atari’s 'Asteroids' was the first computer game. Apparently I was half right though, it was the first commercial video game but after some research I was surprised to discover that computer games actually date back to the 1950s.

In 1952 an early version of tic-tac-toe was created by a PhD professor, however the first game made for computer use was Spacewar!. Created in 1962 by Steve Russel, Spacewar! was played on nearly every early research computer. It was a basic game that consisted of two ships firing proton torpedoes at each other.

Most early computer games (generally before the late 1970s) were multiplayer games. This is a cultural reflection as the early computers were large in size and very, very expensive so multiple people used them. I say 'people' but they were generally scientists and professors as most computer games were originally developed on computers used for military and research purposes.

So this brings me as to who I think decided that computers should be used for recreational purposes. My answer, scientists. I feel that games were conceived out of curiosity. Programming the first games would have been an experiment, a challenge, a new way to test the capability of the computers. It also brings a phrase to mind ‘work hard, play hard’, as most early game creators such as A.S Douglas (tic-tac-toe), William Higginbotham (Tennis for Two) and Steve Russel (Spacewar!) were all researchers or professors at universities.

I feel that the science based background of games is significant as it shows that games have changed and developed with the technology available at the time. In the early days, computer games were basic programs and pixels as they were results of the basic technology available then. However, now, games are more conceptual, testing the skills of both artists and the boundaries of the graphics available.

This will nicely lead into my personal games history timeline, which I will slowly update with each post. I have been playing games for as long as I can remember, my parents are both keen gamers and we still have a working ZX spectrum Sinclair. My earliest memory of playing a game will be Golden Axe2 for the Sega Mega Drive. I would spend many an afternoon playing adventure mode with my Dad, when I was just 4 or 5 years old but there are photographs of me playing when I was younger!!!

I am vastly exceeding my word limit so watch this space…

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