Video Games and How They Began
When video games were first introduced into society, they were largely considered, for want of a better description, as science nerd projects. The very first historical example of a video game was launched by Dr Edward Uhler Condon, a nuclear physicist and associate research director, in 1940 at the New York World Fair. He designed an electromechanical machine which played the game of Nim, an ancient strategy and numbers game.
During the 6 months the machine was displayed, the game was played by an estimated 50,000 people. The computer was reported to have won more than 90% of the games.
Over 10 years later, an American electrical engineer, mathematician and cryptographer, Claude Elwood Shannon wrote the first guidelines for a chess playing computer program.
Fast forward a further 10 years, and the US Defence Department came up with a war game known as STAGE.
The Father of Video Games
However, the concept of video games being played on television sets, was devised by a man called Ralph Baer.
Ralph Baer was a German born engineer, game developer and inventor, whose family fled Germany in the second world war, and settled in America. He is known as “the Father of Video Games” – based on his myriad of contributions to the industry during the second half of the twentieth century.
Ralph Baer was asked by his bosses to build the world’s best television, and during that project, came up with the idea to create games that could be played on any television set. His bosses rejected the idea at the time, but he did not give up, and in 1967, he and his colleagues finalized the development of the very first multiprogram, multiplayer video game system ever introduced.
His bosses were hoping to licence the technology aimed at a commercial environment, so Baer felt that the games had to be enjoyable or investors interest would not be piqued. Baer was quoted as saying, “The minute we played ping-pong, we knew we had a product. Before then we weren’t too sure”
They launched the “Brown Box” which was a vacuum tube type circuit which could be connected to any TV and allowed two players to chase cubes around the screen that were controlled by the Brown Box controllers. They were licenced to a company called Magnavox in 1972, but at the time of their release, only 300,000 consoles were sold, before they were discontinued.
The lack of popularity of the consoles was largely attributed to the fact that the in-store marketing drives were mismanaged but also because up until this time, gaming from the home, was a completely alien concept to most American citizens.
Despite the initial setbacks however, Ralph Baer’s achievements are considered as the first in what is a multi-billion-dollar industry today, the industry of gaming.
The Next Phase
In the 1970s, the companies, Taito and Sega brought the games, Periscope and Crown Special Soccer into mainstream public. The competitive nature of the games among players able to record what their high scores were, sparked the interest of gamers playing across the globe.
In 1972, the company Atari, pioneered by Nolan Bushnell, known in the industry as the godfather of gaming, moved things forward even further. They developed their games in house, but they also started a whole new aspect to the industry around the arcade, selling the first genuine electronic video game, Pong. It was then that arcade machines began to pop up in shopping malls and bowling alleys.
This created a surge of interest across the world and in the next 12 years, 15 companies or more started to develop video games.
From Then Until Now
Since the mid 1980’s the gaming industry has continued to boom. Multiplayer games were introduced, the first of which was Empire, which allowed 8 players to compete against each other in this turn based strategic game.
From then on, the rest is history. Home computers became commonplace and players were able to play all the online craps Canada has to offer and just about every other game you can think of too, on their PC’s, in the comfort of their own homes. With the advent of the internet, the market was opened up to an almost endless audience, and gaming continued to grow and flourish.
These days there are a myriad of different options for gaming enthusiasts. There are games to suit every taste, there are a variety of devices on which to play which allow players to play in any location or time, and there are an army of technological experts in the background working away to keep expanding the industry. From its humble beginnings, to the massive industry gaming is today, it’s exciting to think where it will go next.