Video Games History
06
June
2013

The history of video games goes as far back as the 1940s, when in 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.” Video gaming would not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 1980s, when arcade video games, gaming consoles and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since then, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern culture in most parts of the world. There are currently considered to be eight generations of video game consoles, with the seventh and the eighth concurrently ongoing.

Early history[edit]

Main article: First video game

On January 25, 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”. [1] This patent, which the United States Patent and Trademark 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.

Tennis for Two – Modern recreation

In 1949–1950, Charley Adama created a “Bouncing Ball” program for MIT’s Whirlwind computer. [2] While the program was not yet interactive, it was a precursor to games soon to come.

In February 1951, Christopher Strachey tried to run a draughts (checkers) program he had written for the 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. [3]

OXO , a graphical version of tic-tac-toe, was created by A.S. Douglas in 1952 at the University of Cambridge, in order to demonstrate his thesis on human-computer interaction. It was developed on the EDSAC computer, which uses a cathode ray tube as a visual display to display memory contents. The player competes against the computer.

In 1958 William Higinbotham created a game using an oscilloscope and analog computer. [4] Titled Tennis for Two , it was used to entertain visitors of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. [5] 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 trajectory and a button for hitting the ball. [4] Tennis for Two was exhibited for two seasons before it was dismantled in 1959. [6]

Late 1950s–1960s[edit]

Spacewar! is credited as the first widely available and influential computer game.

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. [ citation needed ]

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. [7]
  • 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 PDP-1, a new computer at the time. [8] 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.

Also in 1961, John Burgeson wrote the first computer baseball simulation game on an IBM 1620 Computer at the IBM facility in Akron, Ohio. [9] Users picked a lineup and could then watch the results of their simulated game printed out by the computer.

In 1966, Ralph Baer engaged co-worker Bill Harrison in the project, where they both worked at military electronics contractor Sanders Associates in Nashua, New Hampshire. 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. [10] 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. [3]

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. [11]

1970s[edit]

Early arcade video games (1971–1977)[edit]

See also: Arcade game

In September 1971, Galaxy Game was installed at Stanford University. Based on Spacewar! , this was the first coin-operated video game. Only one was built, using a DEC PDP-11and 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 created a coin-operated arcade version of Spacewar! and called it Computer Space . Nutting Associates bought the game and manufactured 1,500 Computer 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, [12] creating many imitators.

Another significant game was Gun Fight , [13] an on-foot, multi-directional shooter, [14] designed by Tomohiro Nishikado and released by Taito in 1975. [15] It depicted game characters, [16] game violence, and human-to-human combat, [17] controlled using dual-stick controls. [18] The original Japanese version was based on discrete logic, [15] which Dave Nutting adapted for Midway’s American release using the Intel 8080, making it the first video game to use a microprocessor. [19] This later inspired original creator Nishikado to use a microprocessor for his 1978 blockbuster hit, Space Invaders . [15]

First generation consoles (1972–1977)[edit]

Main article: History of video game consoles (first generation)

The Magnavox Odyssey

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. [20] [21] 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. [22] A major marketing push, featuring TV advertisements starring Frank Sinatra, helped Magnavox sell about 100,000 Odyssey consoles that first year. [3]

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.

Mainframe computers[edit]

University mainframe game development blossomed in the early 1970s. There is little record of all but the most popular games, as they were not marketed or regarded as a serious endeavor. The people–generally students–writing these games often were doing so illicitly by making questionable use of very expensive computing resources, and thus were not eager to let very many people know of their endeavors. There were, however, at least two notable distribution paths for student game designers of this time:

  • The PLATO system was an educational computing environment designed at the University of Illinois and which ran on mainframes made by Control Data Corporation. Games were often exchanged between different PLATO systems.
  • DECUS was the user group for computers made by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). It distributed programs–including games–that would run on the various types of DEC computers.

A number of noteworthy games were also written for Hewlett-Packard minicomputers such as the HP2000.

Highlights of this period, in approximate chronological order, include:

  • 1971: Don Daglow wrote the first interactive baseball game, computer baseball, on a DEC PDP-10 mainframe at Pomona College. Players could manage play-by-play strategy for individual games, or simulate an entire season. Daglow went on to team with programmer Eddie Dombrower to design Earl Weaver Baseball , published by Electronic Arts in 1987.
  • 1971: Star Trek was created (probably by Mike Mayfield) on a Sigma 7 minicomputer at University of California. This is the best-known and most widely played of the 1970s Star Trek titles, and was played on a series of small “maps” of galactic sectors printed on paper or on the screen. It was the first major game to be ported across hardware platforms by students. Daglow also wrote a popular Star Trek game for the PDP-10 during 1970–1972, which presented the action as a script spoken by the TV program’s characters. A number of other Star Trek themed games were also available via PLATO and DECUS throughout the decade.
  • 1972: Gregory Yob wrote the hide-and-seek game Hunt the Wumpus for the PDP-10, which could be considered the first text adventure. Yob wrote it in reaction to existing hide-and-seek games such as Hurkle , Mugwump , and Snark .
  • 1974: Both Maze War (on the Imlac PDS-1 at the Ames Research Center in California) and Spasim (on PLATO) appeared, pioneering examples of early multi-player 3D first-person shooters.
  • 1974: Brand Fortner and others developed Airfight as an educational flight simulator. To make it more interesting, all players shared an airspace flying their choice of military jets, loaded with selected weapons and fuel and to fulfill their desire to shoot down other players’ aircraft. Despite mediocre graphics and slow screen refresh, it became a popular game on the PLATO system. Airfight was the inspiration for what became the Microsoft Flight Simulator.
  • 1975: William Crowther wrote the first modern text adventure game, Adventure (originally called ADVENT , and later Colossal Cave ). It was programmed in Fortran for the PDP-10. The player controls the game through simple sentence-like text commands and receives descriptive text as output. The game was later re-created by students on PLATO, so it is one of the few titles that became part of both the PLATO and DEC traditions.
  • 1975: By 1975, many universities had discarded these terminals for CRT screens, which could display thirty lines of text in a few seconds instead of the minute or more that printing on paper required. This led to the development of a series of games that drew “graphics” on the screen. The CRTs replaced the typical teleprinters or line printers that output at speeds ranging from 10 to 30 characters per second.
  • 1975: Daglow, then a student at Claremont Graduate University, wrote the first role-playing video game on PDP-10 mainframes: Dungeon . The game was an unlicensed implementation of the new tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons . Although displayed in text, it was the first game to use line of sight graphics, as the top-down dungeon maps showing the areas that the party had seen or could see took into consideration factors such as light or darkness and the differences in vision between species.
  • 1975: At about the same time, the game dnd , also based on Dungeons & Dragons first appeared on PLATO system CDC computers. For players in these schools dnd , not Dungeon , was the first computer role-playing video game.
  • 1976: The earliest role-playing video games to use elements from Dungeons & Dragons are Telengard , written in 1976, and Zork (later renamed Dungeon ), written in 1977. [23] [24]
  • 1977: Kelton Flinn and John Taylor create the first version of Air , a text air combat game that foreshadowed their later work creating the first-ever graphical online multi-player game, Air Warrior . They would found the first successful online game company, Kesmai, now part of Electronic Arts. As Flinn has said: “If Air Warrior was a primate swinging in the trees, AIR was the text-based amoeba crawling on the ocean floor. But it was quasi-real time, multi-player, and attempted to render 3-D on the terminal using ASCII graphics. It was an acquired taste.” [ citation needed ]
  • 1977: The writing of the original Zork was started by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Tim Anderson, and Bruce Daniels. Unlike Crowther, Daglow and Yob, the Zork team recognized the potential to move these games to the new personal computers and they founded text adventure publisher Infocom in 1979. The company was later sold to Activision.
  • 1978: Multi-User Dungeon , the first MUD, was created by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle, beginning the heritage that culminates with today’s MMORPGs.
  • 1980: Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman and Ken Arnold released Rogue on BSD Unix after two years of work, inspiring many roguelike games ever since. Like Dungeon on the PDP-10 and dnd on PLATO, Rogue displayed dungeon maps using text characters. Unlike those games, however, the dungeon was randomly generated for each play session, so the path to treasure and the enemies who protected it were different for each game. As the Zork team had done, Rogue was adapted for home computers and became a commercial product.

Video game crash of 1977[edit]

The Atari 2600

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 [25] and causing Fairchild and RCA to abandon their game consoles. Only Atari and Magnavox remained in the home console market, despite suffering losses in 1977 and 1978. [26]

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 arcade video games. [25] Soon after, Space Invaders was licensed for the Atari VCS (later known as Atari 2600), becoming the first big hit and quadrupling the console’s sales. [27] This helped Atari recover from their earlier losses. [26] The success of the Atari 2600 in turn revived the home video game market, up until the North American video game crash of 1983. [28]

Second generation consoles (1977–1983)[edit]

Main article: History of video game consoles (second generation)

In the earliest consoles, the computing logic for one or more games was hardwired into microchips using discrete logic, and no additional games could ever be added. In other words, these consoles were single-purpose computers, not programmable computers; there was no software, only hardware, so no change of software was possible. This was an obvious issue for developers; customers would have to buy a whole new device to attach to their TV sets in order to play different games. By the mid-1970s, game consoles contained general-purpose microprocessors and video games were found on cartridges, starting in 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES). Programs were burned onto ROM chips (ICs) that were mounted inside plastic cartridge casings that could be plugged into slots on the game console. When the cartridges were plugged in, the ROM electrically became a part of the microcomputer in the console, just as if the ROM ICs were on the same circuit board with the microprocessor inside the console, and the microprocessor would execute whatever program was stored in the ROM. 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.” [29]

Three machines dominated the second generation of consoles in North America, far outselling their rivals:

  • The Video Computer System (VCS) ROM cartridge-based console, later renamed the Atari 2600, was released in 1977 by Atari. Nine games were designed and released for the holiday season. While the console had a slow start, its port of the arcade game Space Invaders would become the first “killer app” and quadruple the console’s sales. [27] Soon after, the Atari 2600 would quickly become the most popular of all the early consoles prior to the North American video game crash of 1983. Notably, the VCS did this with only an 8-bit 6507 CPU, [30] 128 bytes (i.e. 0.125 KB) of RAM, and at most 4 KB of ROM in each “Game Program”(tm) cartridge. [31]
  • The Intellivision, introduced by Mattel in 1980. Though chronologically part of what is called the “8-bit era”, the Intellivision had a unique processor with instructions that were 10 bits wide (allowing more instruction variety and potential speed), and registers 16 bits wide. The system, which featured graphics superior to the older Atari 2600, rocketed to popularity.
  • The ColecoVision, an even more powerful machine, appeared in 1982. With its port of arcade game Donkey Kong included as a pack-in, sales for this console also took off. However, the presence of three major consoles in the marketplace and a glut of poor quality games began to overcrowd retail shelves and erode consumers’ interest in video games. Within a year, this overcrowded market would crash.

In 1979, Activision was created by disgruntled former Atari programmers “who realized that the games they had anonymously programmed on their $20K salaries were responsible for 60 percent of the company’s $100 million in cartridge sales for one year”. [32] It was the first third-party developer of video games. By 1982, approximately 8 million American homes owned a video game console, and the home video game industry was generating an annual revenue of $3.8 billion, which was nearly half the $8 billion revenue in quartersgenerated from the arcade video game industry at the time. [33]

Golden age of video arcade games (1978–1986)[edit]

Main article: Golden age of arcade video games

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. [25] [34] 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. [35] The game also became the subject of numerous articles and stories on television and in newspapers and magazines, establishing video gaming as a rapidly growing mainstream hobby. [36] [37] Space Invaders would go on to sell over 360,000 arcade cabinets worldwide, [38] and by 1982, generate a revenue of $2 billion in quarters, [39] equivalent to $4.6 billion in 2011. [40] In 1979, Namco’s Galaxian sold over 40,000 cabinets in the United States, [41] and Atari released Asteroids which sold over 70,000 cabinets. [42]

The total sales of arcade video game machines in North America increased significantly during this period, from $50 million in 1978 to $900 million by 1981, [43] with the arcadevideo game industry’s revenue in North America reaching nearly $1 billion in quarters by the end of the 1970s, a figure that would triple to $2.8 billion by 1980. [44] 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, [45] and within a year, generate a revenue of more than $1 billion in quarters; [46] in total, Pac-Man is estimated to have grossed over 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion) during the 20th century, [46] [47] equivalent to over $3.4 billion in 2011. [40]

By 1981, the arcade video game industry was generating an annual revenue of $5 billion in North America, [25] [48] equivalent to $12.3 billion in 2011. [40] In 1982, the arcade video game industry reached its peak, generating $8 billion in quarters, [33] equivalent to over $18.5 billion in 2011, [40] surpassing the annual gross revenue of both pop music ($4 billion) and Hollywood films ($3 billion) combined at that time. [33] This was also nearly twice as much revenue as the $3.8 billion generated by the home video game industry that same year; both the arcade and home markets combined add up to a total revenue of $11.8 billion for the video game industry in 1982, [33] equivalent to over $27.3 billion in 2011. [40] The arcade video game industry would continue to generate an annual revenue of $5 billion in quarters through to 1985. [49]

Home computer games (late 1970s–early 1980s)[edit]

See also: PC game

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 1980s, allowing their owners to program simple games. Hobbyist groups for the new computers soon formed and PC 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 , [50] Pac-Man (see Pac-Man clones) [51] and Donkey Kong [52] —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.

1980s[edit]

Main article: 1980s in video gaming

The Video games industry experienced its first major growing pains in the early 1980s as publishing houses appeared, with many honest businesses—occasionally surviving at least 20 years, such as Electronic Arts—alongside fly-by-night operations that cheated the games’ developers. While some early 1980s games were simple clones of existing arcade titles, the relatively low publishing costs for personal computer games allowed for bold, unique games.

Genre innovation[edit]

See also: Golden age of arcade video games

The golden age of arcade video 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:

  • Action-adventure game : The Legend of Zelda (1986) helped establish the action-adventure genre, combining elements from different genres to create a compelling hybrid, including exploration, transport puzzles, adventure-style inventory puzzles, an action component, a monetary system, and simplified RPG-style level building without theexperience points. [53] The game was also an early example of open world, nonlinear gameplay, and introduced innovations like battery backup saving. [54]
  • Action role-playing games : 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. [55] Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (1986), also released as Renegade , deviated from the martial arts themes of earlier game, introducing street brawling to the genre, [56] and set the standard for future beat ‘em up games as it introduced the ability to move both horizontally and vertically. [57]
  • 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). The Bard’s Tale (1985) by Interplay Entertainment is considered the first computer role-playing video game to appeal to a wide audience that was not matched until Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo . [58]
  • Console role-playing video games : Dragon Warrior (1986), developed by Yuji Horii, was one of the earliest role-playing video games. With its anime-style graphics by Akira Toriyama (of Dragon Ball fame), Dragon Quest set itself apart from computer role-playing video games. It spawned the Dragon Quest franchise and served as the blueprint for the emerging console RPG genre, [59] inspiring the likes of Sega’s Phantasy Star (1987) and Square’s Final Fantasy (1987), which spawned its own successful Final Fantasy franchise and introduced the side-view turn-based battle system, with the player characters on the right and the enemies on the left, imitated by numerous later RPGs. [60] Megami Tensei (1987) and Phantasy Star (1987) broke with tradition, abandoning the medieval setting and sword and sorcery themes common in most RPGs, in favour of modern/futuristic settings and science fiction themes.
  • 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 . [61] 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. [61] [62] Street Fighter (1987), developed by Capcom, introduced the use of special moves that could only be discovered by experimenting with the game controls. [63]
  • Hack and slash : Golden Axe (1988) was acclaimed for its visceral hack and slash action and cooperative mode and was influential through its selection of multiple protagonists with distinct fighting styles. [64]
  • 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. [65] Dragon’s Lair (1983) was the first Laserdisc video game to be released, beating Astron Belt to public release. [13]
  • Platform games : Space Panic (1980) is sometimes credited as the first platform game, [66] 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. [67] This game also introduced Mario, an icon of the genre. Mario Bros. (1983), developed by Shigeru Miyamoto, offered two-player simultaneous cooperative play and laid the groundwork for two-player cooperative platformers.
  • Scrolling platformers : Jump Bug (1981), Alpha Denshi’s platform-shooter, was the first platform game to use scrolling graphics. [68] Taito’s Jungle King (1982) [69] featured scrolling jump and run sequences that had players hopping over obstacles. Namco took the scrolling platformer a step further with Pac-Land (1984), [70] which was the first game to feature multi-layered parallax scrolling and closely resembled later scrolling platformers like Super Mario Bros. (1985) and Wonder Boy (1986). [71]
  • Scrolling shooters : Defender (1980) established the use of side-scrolling in shoot ‘em ups, offering horizontally extended levels. Scramble (1981) was the first side-scroller with multiple, distinct levels. [72] Jump Bug (1981) was a simple platform-shooter where players controlled a bouncing car. It featured levels that scrolled both horizontally and vertically. [73] Vanguard (1981) was both a horizontal and vertical scrolling shooter that allowed the player to shoot in four directions. [74] Xevious (1982) is frequently cited as the first vertical shooter and, although it was preceded by several other games featuring vertical scrolling, it was the most influential. [72] Moon Patrol (1982) introduced the parallax scrolling technique in computer graphics. [75] Gradius (1985) gave the player greater control over the choice of weaponry, thus introducing another element of strategy. [72] The game also introduced the need for the player to memorise levels in order to achieve any measure of success. [76] Thrust (1986) has the player maneuver a spaceship through a series of 2D cavernous landscapes, with the aim of recovering a pendulous pod, while counteracting gravity, inertia and avoiding or destroying enemy turrets.
  • Isometric platformer : Congo Bongo (1983), developed by Sega, was the first isometric platformer.
  • Isometric shooter : Zaxxon (1982) was the first game to use isometric projection. [72]
  • Light gun shooter : The NES Zapper was the first mainstream light gun. The most successful lightgun game was Duck Hunt (1984), which came packaged with the NES. [77]
  • 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. 3D Monster Maze (1981) was the first 3D game for a home computer, while Dungeons of Daggorath (1982) added various weapons and monsters, sophisticated sound effects, and a “heartbeat” health monitor.
  • Platform-adventure games : Metroid (1986) was the earliest game to fuse platform game fundamentals with elements of action-adventure games, alongside elements of RPGs. These elements include the ability to explore an area freely, with access to new areas controlled by either the gaining of new abilities or through the use of inventory items. [78] Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987) and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (1987) are two other early examples of platform-adventure games.
  • Racing games : Turbo (1981), by Sega, was the first racing game with a third-person perspective, rear-view format. Pole Position (1982), by Namco, used sprite-based, pseudo-3D graphics when it refined the “rear-view racer format” where the player’s view is behind and above the vehicle, looking forward along the road with the horizon in sight. The style would remain in wide use even after true 3D graphics became standard for racing games.
  • Rail shooter : Astron Belt (1983) was an early first-person rail shooter, in addition to being a Laserdisc video game. It featured live-action FMV footage over which the player/enemy ships and laser fire are superimposed. [13] Space Harrier (1985) was an early rail shooter that broke new ground graphically and its wide variety of settings across multiple levels gave players more to aim for than high scores. [79] [80] It was also an early example of a third-person shooter. [81]
  • Real-time strategy : Herzog Zwei (1989) is considered to be the first real-time strategy game, predating the genre-popularizing Dune II ; unlike its 1988 predecessor ( Herzog ), it features outposts that can be used to gain additional revenue; making it a strategic game as well as a tactical one. [82] [83] [84] It is the earliest example of a game with a feature set that falls under the contemporary definition of modern RTS. [85] [86]
  • Run & gun shooters : Hover Attack (1984) for the Sharp X1 was an early run & gun shooter that freely scrolled in all directions and allowed the player to shoot diagonally as well as straight ahead. The following year saw the release of Thexder (1985), a breakthrough title for run & gun shooters. [87] Commando (1985) was the first influential example of a shooter featuring characters on foot rather than in vehicles. [88]
  • Rhythm game : Dance Aerobics was released in 1987, and allowed players to create music by stepping on Nintendo’s Power Pad peripheral. It has been called the first rhythm-action game in retrospect. [89]
  • Stealth games : 005 (1981), an arcade game by Sega, was the earliest example of a stealth-based game. [90] [91] [92] Metal Gear (1987), developed by Hideo Kojima, was the first stealth game in an action-adventure framework, and became the first commercially successful stealth game, spawning the Metal Gear series.
  • Survival horror : Haunted House (1981) introduced elements of horror fiction into video games. Sweet Home (1989) introduced many of the modern staples of the survival horror genre. Gameplay involved battling horrifying creatures and solving puzzles. Developed by Capcom, the game would become an influence upon their later release Resident Evil (1996), making use of its design concepts such as the mansion setting and “opening door” load screen. [93]
  • Vehicle simulation games : Battlezone (1980) used wireframe vector graphics to create the first true three-dimensional game world. Elite (1984), designed by David Braben andIan Bell, ushered in the age of modern style 3D graphics. The game contains convincing vector worlds, full 6-degree freedom of movement, and thousands of visitable planetary systems. It is considered a pioneer of the space flight simulator game genre.
  • Visual novels : The Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983), developed by Yuji Horii (of Dragon Quest fame), was the first visual novel and one of the earliest Japanese graphic adventure games. It is viewed in a first-person perspective, follows a first-person narrative, and was the first Japanese adventure game to feature color graphics. It inspiredHideo Kojima (of Metal Gear fame) to enter the video game industry and later produce his own classic graphic adventure, Snatcher (1988).

Gaming computers[edit]

Following the success of the Apple II and Commodore PET in the late 1970s, a series of cheaper and incompatible rivals emerged in the early 1980s. This second batch included the Commodore VIC-20 and 64; Sinclair ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum; NEC PC-8000, PC-6001, PC-88 and PC-98; Sharp X1 and X68000; and Atari 8-bit family, BBC Micro,Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, and MSX series. These rivals helped to catalyze both the Home computer and Games markets, by raising awareness of computing and gaming through their competing advertising campaigns.

The Sinclair, Acorn and Amstrad offerings were generally only known in Europe and Africa, the NEC and Sharp offerings were generally only known in Asia, and the MSX had a base in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, while the US based Apple, Commodore and Atari offerings were sold in both the USA and Europe.

In 1984, the computer gaming market took over from the console market following the crash of that year; computers offered equal gaming ability and, since their simple design allowed games to take complete command of the hardware after power-on, they were nearly as simple to start playing with as consoles.

The Commodore 64 system

The Commodore 64 was released to the public in August 1982. It found initial success because it was marketed and priced aggressively. It had a BASIC programming environment and advanced graphic and sound capabilities for its time, similar to theColecoVision console. It also utilized the same game controller ports popularized by the Atari 2600, allowing gamers to use their old joysticks with the system. It would become the most popular home computer of its day in the USA and many other countries and the best-selling single computer model of all time internationally.

At around the same time, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was released in the United Kingdom and quickly became the most popular home computer in many areas of Western Europe—and later the Eastern Bloc—due to the ease with which clones could be produced.

The IBM PC compatible computer became a technically competitive gaming platform with IBM’s PC/AT in 1984. The primitive CGAgraphics of previous models, with only 4-color 320×200 pixel graphics (or, using special programming, 16-color 160×100 graphics [94] ) had limited the PC’s appeal to the business segment, as its graphics failed to compete with the C64 or Apple II. The new 64-color [95] EGA display standard allowed its graphics to approach the quality seen in popular home computers like the Commodore 64. The sound capabilities of the AT, however, were still limited to the PC speaker, which was substandard compared to the built-in sound chipsused in many home computers. Also, the relatively high cost of the PC compatible systems severely limited their popularity in gaming.

The Apple Macintosh also arrived at this time. It lacked the color capabilities of the earlier Apple II, instead preferring a much higher pixel resolution, but the operating system support for the GUI attracted developers of some interesting games (e.g. Lode Runner ) even before color returned in 1987 with the Mac II.

The arrival of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1985 was the beginning of a new era of 16-bit machines. For many users they were too expensive until later on in the decade, at which point advances in the IBM PC’s open platform had caused the IBM PC compatibles to become comparably powerful at a lower cost than their competitors. The VGAstandard developed for IBM’s new PS/2 line in 1987 gave the PC the potential for 256-color graphics. This was a big jump ahead of most 8-bit home computers but still lagging behind platforms with built-in sound and graphics hardware like the Amiga. This caused an odd trend around ’89–91 towards developing to a seemingly inferior machine. Thus while both the ST and Amiga were host to many technically excellent games, their time of prominence proved to be shorter than that of the 8-bit machines, which saw new ports well into the 1980s and even the 1990s.

The Yamaha YM3812sound chip.

Dedicated sound cards started to address the issue of poor sound capabilities in IBM PC compatibles in the late 1980s. Ad Lib set an early de facto standard for sound cards in 1987, with its card based on the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip. This would last until the introduction of Creative Labs’Sound Blaster in 1989, which took the chip and added new features while remaining compatible with Ad Lib cards, and creating a new de facto standard. However, many games would still support these and rarer things like the Roland MT-32 and Disney Sound Source into the early 1990s. The initial high cost of sound cards meant they would not find widespread use until the 1990s.

Shareware gaming first appeared in the mid-1980s, but its big successes came in the 1990s. [ citation needed ]

Early online gaming[edit]

Dial-up bulletin board systems were popular in the 1980s, and sometimes used for online game playing. The earliest such systems were in the late 1970s and early 1980s and had a crude plain-text interface. Later systems made use of terminal-control codes (the so-called ANSI art, which included the use of IBM-PC-specific characters not part of an ANSI standard) to get a pseudo-graphical interface. Some BBSs offered access to various games which were playable through such an interface, ranging from text adventures to gambling games like blackjack (generally played for “points” rather than real money). On some multiuser BBSs (where more than one person could be online at once), there were games allowing users to interact with one another.

SuperSet Software created Snipes , a text-mode networked computer game in 1983 to test a new IBM Personal Computer based computer network and demonstrate its capabilities. Snipes is officially credited as being the original inspiration for NetWare. It is believed to be the first network game ever written for a commercial personal computer and is recognized alongside 1974’s Maze War (a networked multiplayer maze game for several research machines) and Spasim (a 3D multiplayer space simulation for time sharedmainframes) as the precursor to multiplayer games such as 1987′s MIDI Maze , and Doom in 1993. Commercial online services also arose during this decade. The first user interfaces were plain-text—similar to BBSs— but they operated on large mainframe computers, permitting larger numbers of users to be online at once. By the end of the decade, inline services had fully graphical environments using software specific to each personal computer platform. Popular text-based services included CompuServe, The Source, andGEnie, while platform-specific graphical services included PlayNET and Quantum Link for the Commodore 64, AppleLink for the Apple II and Macintosh, and PC Link for the IBM PC—all of which were run by the company which eventually became America Online—and a competing service, Prodigy. Interactive games were a feature of these services, though until 1987 they used text-based displays, not graphics.

Handheld LCD games[edit]

In 1979, Milton Bradley Company released the first handheld system using interchangeable cartridges, Microvision. While the handheld received modest success in the first year of production, the lack of games, screen size and video game crash of 1983 brought about the system’s quick demise. [96]

In 1980, Nintendo released its Game & Watch line, handheld electronic game which spurred dozens of other game and toy companies to make their own portable games, many of which were copies of Game & Watch titles or adaptations of popular arcade games. Improving LCD technology meant the new handhelds could be more reliable and consume fewer batteries than LED or VFD games, most only needing watch batteries. They could also be made much smaller than most LED handhelds, even small enough to wear on one’s wrist like a watch. Tiger Electronics borrowed this concept of videogaming with cheap, affordable handhelds and still produces games in this model to the present day.

Video game crash of 1983[edit]

Main article: North American video game crash of 1983

At the end of 1983, the industry experienced losses more severe than the 1977 crash. This was the “crash” of the video game industry, as well as the bankruptcy of several companies that produced North American home computers and video game consoles from late 1983 to early 1984. It brought an end to what is considered to be the second generation of console video gaming. Causes of the crash include the production of poorly designed games, an immature distribution system which left retail stuck with unsold copies to discount, as well as a general thought among retail that video games were just another toy fad and that home computers were the next big thing.

Third generation consoles (1983–1995) (8-bit)[edit]

Main article: History of video game consoles (third generation)

The Nintendo Entertainment System or NES.

In 1985, the American Video Game Console market was revived with Nintendo’s release of its 8-bit console, the Famicom (a contraction of “Family Computer”), known outside Asia as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was offered in three tiered bundles: the basic bundle of the console and basic controller with Super Mario Bros. ; the basic bundle plus the additional Zapper and Duck Hunt ; and the Zapper bundle plus the Power Pad and World Class Track Meet . The NES instantly became a success, dominating the North American and Japanese home console gaming markets until the rise of the next generation of 16-bit consoles in the early 1990s. Other markets were not as heavily dominated by Nintendo, because of heavy competition from PC’s like the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 preventing the NES having much success in Europe, or lack of marketing, allowing other consoles to find an audience like the Master System in Australia and Brazil (the Master System was sold in North America as well, but was less successful).

In the new consoles, the gamepad or joypad, took over for joysticks, paddles, and keypads as the default game controller included with the system. The gamepad design of an 8 direction Directional-pad (or D-pad for short) with 2 or more action buttons became the standard. This generation also marked a shift in the dominance of home video game console and game production from the United States to Japan. [97]

The Legend of Zelda series made its debut in 1986 with The Legend of Zelda . In the same year, the Dragon Quest series debuted with Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior) , and has created a phenomenon in Japanese culture ever since. The next year, the Japanese company Square was struggling and Hironobu Sakaguchi decided to make his final game—a role-playing game (RPG) modeled after Dragon Quest and titled Final Fantasy —resulting in the Final Fantasy series, which would ironically go on to become the world’s most successful RPG franchise spawning 15 main series titles to date and a host of spin-off games, movies and other media. 1987 also saw the birth of the stealth game genre withHideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series’ first game Metal Gear on the MSX2 computer—ported to the NES shortly after. In 1989, Capcom released Sweet Home on the NES, which served as a precursor to the survival horror genre.

In 1988, Nintendo published their first issue of Nintendo Power magazine. [98]

In 1990, Commodore and Amstrad entered the console market with their C64GS and GX4000 game machines respectively. These were both based on the 8-bit computers of their manufacturers, and had only limited success due to a lack of software support and the arrival of 16-bit machines. Amstrad’s GX4000 sold just over 15,000 units, with only 25 officially released game cartridges. Even though it was technically superior to the Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System, it was discontinued after 6 months.

This generation ended with the discontinuation of the NES in 1995.

1990s[edit]

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Main article: 1990s in video gaming

The 1990s were a decade of marked innovation in video gaming. It was a decade of transition from raster graphics to 3D graphics and gave rise to several genres of video games including first-person shooter, real-time strategy, and MMO. Handheld gaming began to become more popular throughout the decade, thanks in part to the release of the Game Boy in 1989. [99] Arcade games, although still relatively popular in the early 1990s, begin a decline as home consoles become more common.

The video game industry matured into a mainstream form of entertainment in the 1990s. Major developments of the 1990s included the beginning of a larger consolidation of publishers, higher budget games, increased size of production teams and collaborations with both the music and motion picture industries. Examples of this were Mark Hamill’s involvement with Wing Commander III and the introduction of QSound.

The increasing computing power and decreasing cost of processors such as the Intel 80386, Intel 80486, and the Motorola 68030, caused the rise of 3D graphics, as well as “multimedia” capabilities through sound cards and CD-ROMs. Early 3D games began with flat-shaded graphics (Elite, Starglider 2 or Alpha Waves [100] ), and then simple forms of texture mapping (Wolfenstein 3D).

1989 and the early 1990s saw the release and spread of the MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) codebases DikuMUD and LPMud, leading to a tremendous increase in the proliferation and popularity of MUDs. Before the end of the decade, the evolution of the genre continued through “graphical MUDs” into the first MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games), such as Ultima Online and EverQuest , which freed users from the limited number of simultaneous players in other games and brought persistent worlds to the mass market. A prime example of an MMORPG MUD is the game RuneScape created by Jagex.

In the early 1990s, shareware distribution was a popular method of publishing games for smaller developers, including then-fledgling companies such as Apogee (now 3D Realms), Epic Megagames (now Epic Games), and id Software. It gave consumers the chance to try a trial portion of the game, usually restricted to the game’s complete first section or “episode”, before purchasing the rest of the adventure. Racks of games on single 5¼” and later 3.5″ floppy disks were common in many stores, often only costing a few dollars each. Since the shareware versions were essentially free, the cost only needed to cover the disk and minimal packaging. As the increasing size of games in the mid-1990s made them impractical to fit on floppies, and retail publishers and developers began to earnestly mimic the practice, shareware games were replaced by shorter game demos (often only one or two levels), distributed free on CDs with gaming magazines and over the Internet.

In 1991, the game and character Sonic the Hedgehog was introduced. The game gave Sega’s Mega Drive/Genesis console mainstream popularity, and rivaled Nintendo’s Mariofranchise. Its namesake character became the mascot of Sega and one of the most recognizable video game characters in history.

In 1992 the game Dune II was released. It was by no means the first in the genre (several other games can be called the first real-time strategy game, see the History of RTS), but it set the standard game mechanics for later blockbuster RTS games such as Warcraft: Orcs & Humans , Command & Conquer , and StarCraft . The RTS is characterized by an overhead view, a “mini-map”, and the control of both the economic and military aspects of an army. The rivalry between the two styles of RTS play— Warcraft style, which usedGUIs accessed once a production building was selected, and C&C style, which allowed construction of any unit available from any production building from within a permanently visible menu—continues to the present day, with the Warcraft-style gaining prominence in other franchises such as Homeworld and Age of Empires.

Alone in the Dark (1992), while not the first survival horror game, planted the seeds of what would become known as the survival horror genre today. It took the action-adventurestyle and retooled it to de-emphasize combat and focus on investigation. An early attempt to simulate 3D scenarios by mixing polygons with 2D background images, it established the formula that would later flourish on CD-ROM based consoles, with games such as Resident Evil which coined the name “survival horror” and popularized the genre, and Silent Hill .

Adventure games continued to evolve, with Sierra Entertainment’s King’s Quest series (which spawned the adult-humor Leisure Suit Larry franchise by the same publisher), andLucasfilm/LucasArts’ Monkey Island series bringing graphical interaction and the creation of the concept of “point and click” gaming. Myst and its sequels inspired a new style of puzzle-based adventure games. Published in 1993, Myst itself was one of the first computer games to make full use of the new high-capacity CD-ROM storage format. Despite Myst ’s mainstream success, the increased popularity of action-based and real-time games led adventure games and simulation video games, both mainstays of computer games in earlier decades, to begin to fade into obscurity.

It was in the 1990s that Maxis began publishing its successful line of “Sim” games, beginning with SimCity , and continuing with a variety of titles, such as SimEarth , SimCity 2000 , SimAnt , SimTower , and the best-selling PC game in history, The Sims , in early 2000.

In 1996, 3dfx Interactive released the Voodoo chipset, leading to the first affordable 3D accelerator cards for personal computers. These devoted 3D rendering daughterboardsperformed a portion of the computations and memory-handling required for more-detailed three-dimensional graphics (mainly texture filtering), allowing for more-detailed graphics than would be possible if the CPU were required to handle both game logic and all the graphical tasks. First-person shooter games (notably Quake ) were among the first to take advantage of this new technology. While other games would also make use of it, the FPS would become the chief driving force behind the development of new 3D hardware, as well as the yardstick by which its performance would be measured, usually quantified as the number of frames per second rendered for a particular scene in a particular game.

Several other less mainstream genres were created in this decade. Looking Glass Studios’ Thief: The Dark Project and its sequel were the first to coin the term “first person sneaker”, although it is questionable whether they are the first “first person stealth” games. Turn-based strategy progressed further, with the Heroes of Might and Magic ( HOMM ) series (from The 3DO Company) luring many mainstream gamers into this complex genre.

Id Software’s 1996 game Quake pioneered play over the Internet in first-person shooters. Internet multiplayer capability became a de facto requirement in almost all FPS games. Other genres also began to offer online play, including RTS games like Microsoft Game Studios’ Age of Empires , Blizzard’s Warcraft and StarCraft series, and turn-based games such as Heroes of Might and Magic . Developments in web browser plug-ins like Java and Adobe Flash allowed for simple browser-based games. These are small single player or multiplayer games that can be quickly downloaded and played from within a web browser without installation. Their most popular use is for puzzle games, side-scrollers, classic arcade games, and multiplayer card and board games.

Few new genres have been created since the advent of the FPS and RTS, with the possible exception of the third-person shooter; games such as Grand Theft Auto III , Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell , Enter the Matrix , and Hitman all use a third-person camera perspective which provides more information about the player character’s immediate surroundings, but are otherwise very similar to their first-person counterparts.

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    1. Cetko says:

      Great Post!