Video games, simulation.
In 1947 Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann filed a request for an invention they described as a “cathode ray tube amusement device.” Video gaming would not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 80s, when arcade and computer gamesand the first gaming consoles were introduced to the general public. Since then, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern culture in the developed world. There are considered to be currently seven generations of video game consoles, with the seventh being ongoing and the most recent.
On the 25th of January 1947, Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann filed a United States patent request for an invention they described as a “cathode ray tube amusement device”. This patent, which the United States Patent Office issued on December 14, 1948, details a machine in which a person uses knobs and buttons to manipulate a cathode ray tube beam to simulate firing at “air-borne” targets. A printed overlay on the CRT screen helps to define the playing field.
In 1949–1950, Charley Adama created a “Bouncing Ball” program for MIT’s Whirlwind computer. While the program was not yet interactive, it was a precursor to games soon to come. A year later Christopher Strachey tried to run a draughts program he had written for the NPL Pilot ACE. The program exceeded the memory capacity of the machine and Strachey recoded his program for a machine at Manchester with a larger memory capacity by October. Also in 1951, while developing television technologies for New York based electronics company Loral, inventor Ralph Baer came up with the idea of using the lights and patterns he used in his work as more than just calibration equipment. He realized that by giving an audience the ability to manipulate what was projected on their television sets, their role changed from passive observing to interactive manipulation. When he took this idea to his supervisor, it was quickly squashed because the company was already behind schedule.
OXO, a graphical version of tic-tac-toe where the player competes against the computer, was created by A.S. Douglas in 1952 at the University of Cambridge, in order to demonstrate his theory on human-computer interaction. It was developed on the EDSAC computer, which uses a cathode ray tube as a visual display.
In 1958 William Higinbotham created a game using an oscilloscope and analog computer. Entitled “Tennis for Two”, it was used to entertain visitors of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Tennis for Two showed a simplified tennis court from the side, featuring a gravity-controlled ball that needed to be played over the “net,” unlike its successor—Pong. The game was played with two box-shaped controllers, both equipped with a knob for controlling and a button for hitting the ball. Tennis for Two was exhibited for two seasons before it was dismantled in 1959.
1961 saw the invention of the game “Spacewar!” created by Steve “Slug” Russell, Martin “Shag” Graetz and Wayne Witaenem. The game is credited as the first widely available and influential computer game. It is a two-player game, with each player taking control of a spaceship and attempting to destroy the other. A star in the centre of the screen pulls on both ships and requires maneuvering to avoid falling into it. In an emergency, a player can enter hyperspace to return at a random location on the screen, but only at the risk of exploding if it is used too often.
The majority of early computer games ran on universities’ mainframe computers in the United States and were developed by individuals as a hobby. The limited accessibility of early computer hardware meant that these games were small in number and forgotten by posterity.
In 1959–1961, a collection of interactive graphical programs were created on the TX-0 machine at MIT:
- Mouse in the Maze: allowed players to place maze walls, bits of cheese, and, in some versions, martinis using a light pen. One could then release the mouse and watch it traverse the maze to find the goodies.
- HAX: By adjusting two switches on the console, various graphical displays and sounds could be made.
- Tic-Tac-Toe: Using the light pen, the user could play a simple game of tic-tac-toe against the computer.
In 1961, a group of students at MIT, including Steve Russell, programmed a game titled Spacewar! on the DEC PDP-1, a new computer at the time. The game pitted two human players against each other, each controlling a spacecraft capable of firing missiles, while a star in the center of the screen created a large hazard for the crafts. The game was eventually distributed with new DEC computers and traded throughout the then-primitive Internet. Spacewar! is credited as the first influential computer game.
In 1966, Ralph Baer engaged co-worker Bill Harrison in the project, where they both worked at military electronics contractor Sanders Associates in Nashua, NH. They created a simple video game named Chase, the first to display on a standard television set. With the assistance of Baer, Bill Harrison created the light gun. Baer and Harrison were joined by Bill Rusch in 1967, an MIT graduate (MSEE) who was subsequently awarded several patents for the TV gaming apparatus (US Patents 3,659,284, 3,778,058, etc.). Development continued, and in 1968 a prototype was completed that could run several different games such as table tennis and target shooting. After months of secretive labouring between official projects, the team was able to bring an example with true promise to Sanders’ R & D department. By 1969, Sanders was showing off the world’s first home video game console to manufacturers.
In 1969, AT&T computer programmer Ken Thompson wrote a video game called Space Travel for the Multics operating system. This game simulated various bodies of the solar system and their movements and the player could attempt to land a spacecraft on them. AT&T pulled out of the MULTICS project, and Thompson ported the game to Fortran code running on the GECOS operating system of the General Electric GE 635 mainframe computer. Runs on this system cost about $75 per hour, and Thompson looked for a smaller, less expensive computer to use. He found an underused PDP-7, and he and Dennis Ritchie started porting the game to PDP-7 assembly language. In the process of learning to develop software for the machine, the development process of the Unix operating system began, and Space Travel has been called the first UNIX application.
In September 1971, the Galaxy Game was installed at a student union at Stanford University. Based on Spacewar!, this was the first coin-operated video game. Only one was built, using a DEC PDP-11 and vector display terminals. In 1972 it was expanded to be able to handle four to eight consoles.
Also in 1971, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney(future Atari founders) created a coin-operated arcade version of Spacewar! and called it Computer Space. Nutting Associates bought the game and manufactured 1,500Computer Space machines, with the release taking place in November 1971. The game was unsuccessful due to its steep learning curve, but was a landmark as the first mass-produced video game and the first offered for commercial sale.
Bushnell and Dabney founded Atari, Inc. in 1972, before releasing their next game: Pong. Pong was the first arcade video game with widespread success. The game is loosely based on table tennis: a ball is “served” from the center of the court and as the ball moves towards their side of the court each player must maneuver their paddle to hit the ball back to their opponent. Atari sold over 19,000 Pong machines, creating many imitators.
The first home ‘console’ system was developed by Ralph Baer and his associates. Development began in 1966 and a working prototype was completed by 1968 (called the “Brown Box”) for demonstration to various potential licensees, including GE, Sylvania, RCA, Philco, and Sears, with Magnavox eventually licensing the technology to produce the world’s first home video game console. The system was released in the USA in 1972 by Magnavox, called the Magnavox Odyssey. The Odyssey used cartridges that mainly consisted of jumpers that enabled/disabled various switches inside the unit, altering the circuit logic (as opposed to later video game systems that used programmable cartridges). This provided the ability to play several different games using the same system, along with plastic sheet overlays taped to the television that added color, play-fields, and various graphics to ‘interact’ with using the electronic images generated by the system. A major marketing push, featuring TV ads starring Frank Sinatra, helped Magnavox sell about 100,000 Odysseys that first year.
Philips bought Magnavox and released a different game in Europe using the Odyssey brand in 1974 and an evolved game that Magnavox had been developing for the US market. Over its production span, the Odyssey system achieved sales of 2 million units.
In 1977, manufacturers of older, obsolete consoles and Pong clones sold their systems at a loss to clear stock, creating a glut in the market, and causingFairchild and RCA to abandon their game consoles. Only Atari and Magnavox remained in the home console market, despite suffering losses in 1977 and 1978.
The crash was largely caused by the significant number of Pong clones that flooded both the arcade and home markets. The crash eventually came to an end with the success of Taito’s Space Invaders, released in 1978, sparking a renaissance for the video game industry and paving the way for the golden age of video arcade games. Soon after, Space Invaders was licensed for the Atari VCS (later known as Atari 2600), becoming the first “killer app” and quadrupling the console’s sales. This helped Atari recover from their earlier losses. The success of the Atari 2600 in turn revived the home video game market, up until the North American video game crash of 1983.
In the earliest consoles, the computer code for one or more games was hardcoded into microchips using discrete logic, and no additional games could ever be added. By the mid-1970s video games were found oncartridges, starting in 1976 with the release of the Fairchild ‘Video Entertainment System (VES). Programs were burned onto ROM chips that were mounted inside plastic cartridge casings that could be plugged into slots on the console. When the cartridges were plugged in, the general-purpose microprocessors in the consoles read the cartridge memory and executed whatever program was stored there. Rather than being confined to a small selection of games included in the game system, consumers could now amass libraries of game cartridges. However video game production was still a niche skill. Warren Robinett, the famous programmer of the game Adventure, spoke on developing games “in those old far-off days, each game for the 2600 was done entirely by one person, the programmer, who conceived the game concept, wrote the program, did the graphics—drawn first on graph paper and converted by hand to hexadecimal—and did the sounds.
The arcade game industry entered its golden age in 1978 with the release of Space Invaders by Taito, a success that inspired dozens of manufacturers to enter the market. The game inspired arcade machines to become prevalent in mainstream locations such as shopping malls, traditional storefronts, restaurants and convenience stores during the golden age. Space Invaders would go on to sell over 360,000 arcade cabinets worldwide, and by 1982, generate a revenue of $2 billion in quarters, equivalent to $4.6 billion in 2011. In 1979, Namco’s Galaxian sold over 40,000 cabinets, and Atari releasedAsteroids which sold over 70,000 cabinets. Color arcade games also became more popular in 1979 and 1980 with the arrival of titles such as Pac-Man, which would go on to sell over 350,000 cabinets, and within a year, generate a revenue of more than $1 billion in quarters; in total, Pac-Man is estimated to have grossed over 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion) during the 20th century, equivalent to over $3.4 billion in 2011.
While the fruit of retail development in early video games appeared mainly in video arcades and home consoles, home computers began appearing in the late 1970s and were rapidly evolving in the 80s, allowing their owners to program simple games. Hobbyist groups for the new computers soon formed and personal computer game software followed.
Soon many of these games—at first clones of mainframe classics such as Star Trek, and then later ports or clones of popular arcade games such as Space Invaders, Frogger, Pac-Man (see Pac-Manclones) and Donkey Kong —were being distributed through a variety of channels, such as printing the game’s source code in books (such as David Ahl’s BASIC Computer Games), magazines (Creative Computing), and newsletters, which allowed users to type in the code for themselves. Early game designers like Crowther, Daglow and Yob would find the computer code for their games—which they had never thought to copyright—published in books and magazines, with their names removed from the listings. Early home computers from Apple, Commodore, Tandy and others had many games that people typed in.
Games were also distributed by the physical mailing and selling of floppy disks, cassette tapes, and ROM cartridges. Soon a small cottage industry was formed, with amateur programmers selling disks in plastic bags put on the shelves of local shops or sent through the mail. Richard Garriott distributed several copies of his 1980 role-playing video game Akalabeth: World of Doom in plastic bags before the game was published.
The golden age of video arcade games reached its zenith in the 1980s. The age brought with it many technically innovative and genre-defining games developed and released in the first few years of the decade, including:
- The Legend of Zelda (1986) helped establish the action-adventure genre.
- Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu (1985) is considered the first full-fledged action role-playing game, with character stats and a large quest, with its action-based combat setting it apart from other RPGs. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987), developed by Shigeru Miyamoto, further defined and popularized the emerging action-RPG genre.
- Adventure games: Zork (1980) further popularized text adventure games in home computers and established developer Infocom’s dominance in the field. As these early computers often lacked graphical capabilities, text adventures proved successful. Mystery House (1980), Roberta Williams’s game for the Apple II, was the first graphic adventure game on home computers. Graphics consisted entirely of static monochrome drawings, and the interface still used the typed commands of text adventures. It proved very popular at the time, and she and husband Ken went on to found Sierra On-Line, a major producer of adventure games. King’s Quest (1984) was created by Sierra, laying the groundwork for the modern adventure game. It featured color graphics and a third-person perspective. An on-screen player character could be moved behind and in front of objects on a 2D background drawn in perspective, creating the illusion of pseudo-3D space. Commands were still entered via text. Maniac Mansion (1987) removed text entry from adventure games. LucasArts built the SCUMM system to allow a point-and-click interface. Sierra and other game companies quickly followed with their own mouse-driven games.
- Beat ’em up: Karateka (1984), with its pioneering rotoscoped animation, and Kung-Fu Master (1984), a Hong Kong cinema-inspired action game, laid the foundations for side-scrolling beat ’em ups with simple gameplay and multiple enemies.
- Cinematic platformer: Prince of Persia (1989) was the first cinematic platformer.
- Computer role-playing video games: Akalabeth (1980) was created in the same year as Rogue (1980); Akalabeth led to the creation of its spiritual sequel Ultima (1981). Its sequels were the inspiration for some of the first Japanese role-playing video games, alongside Wizardry (1981).
- Fighting games: Karate Champ (1984), Data East’s action game, is credited with establishing and popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre, and went on to influence Yie Ar Kung-Fu. Konami’s Yie Ar Kung Fu (1985), which expanded on Karate Champ by pitting the player against a variety of opponents, each with a unique appearance and fighting style. Street Fighter (1987), developed by Capcom, introduced the use of special moves that could only be discovered by experimenting with the game controls.
- Interactive movies: Astron Belt (1983), an early first-person shooter, was the first Laserdisc video game in development, featuring live-action FMV footage over which the player/enemy ships and laser fire are superimposed.
- Platform games: Space Panic (1980) is sometimes credited as the first platform game, with gameplay centered on climbing ladders between different floors. Donkey Kong (1981), an arcade game created by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, was the first game that allowed players to jump over obstacles and across gaps, making it the first true platformer. This game also introduced Mario, an icon of the genre.
- Maze games: Pac-Man (1980) was the first game to achieve widespread popularity in mainstream culture and the first game character to be popular in his own right.
- Racing games: Turbo (1981), by Sega, was the first racing game with a third-person perspective, rear-view format.
- Survival horror: Haunted House (1981) introduced elements of horror fiction into video games.
- Vehicle simulation games: Battlezone (1980) used wireframe vector graphics to create the first true three-dimensional game world.
- Visual novels: Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (1983), developed by Yuji Horii (of Dragon Quest fame), was the first visual novel and one of the earliest Japanese graphic adventure games