- History of video games
- The early history of video games (1948-1972)
- A new industry has began
- The golden era of arcade games
- The 1980s gaming era
- The 1990s gaming era
- The 2000s gaming era
History of video games
Over the past half-century, video games made huge progress. Today we have a wide variety of games, running from a unique, detailed storyline to multi-player battle-royal. The graphics and visual quality of the present games aren’t much different from the CGI films from 10 years back. Moreover, the gaming industry surpasses the film industry in terms of generating revenue. In 2019 the gaming market generates revenue of $138 billion whereas the 2019 global box office of the film industry makes $42.5 billion.
But what is the starting point of all of this? where did these so-called video games come from? What is the history of video games? Let’s travel back in time when these amazing thoughts about video games had come into people’s minds.
The vast majority of people think that arcade game pong and corresponding classic arcade era was the origin of video games history. But instead, that was really the end phase of pioneering video games and not the beginning.
The early history of video games (1948-1972)
The early history of video games is the period of time between the very first electronics games with a visual display in the early 1950s and the rise of early arcade video games in the 1970s. 1948-1972 was the early era of video game history or we could say the beginning of electronic games. In that period of time many inventions, experiments and development had done.
The very first game code
3 years after world war II in 1948, computer scientist Alan Turing and mathematician David Champernowne created a very first chase program ever in the entire history of video games. It was called Turochamp. Turochamp was created as research to linking computer science and machine learning together. Turochamp is the very first computer game program, but unfortunately due to the complexity of its algorithm, and it never runs on a computer at that time. Back then, computers were not much powerful as compared to today’s computer, also the size was like a truck and take full space of a big room.
Turochamp program accepts a player’s moves as input and response to its own move as output. The program’s algorithm calculates all the possible moves it can make and the response of the player from those moves. The algorithm also calculates the best possible points to place each piece by considering the mobility, safety and avoid being checkmate.
The very first visual computer game
In 1950 a Canadian engineer Josef Kates designed and built a game called Bertie the Brain. Bertie the Brain is known as the earliest electronic game that actually can run on a computer or possibly could display on a screen. Bertie the Brain is noughts and crosses aka tic-tac-toe game against Artificial Intelligence. It was the first visual game that kind of display on a screen. No, it doesn’t produce digital graphics, instead, Josef uses light bulbs to display the noughts and crosses.
In 1952 another tic-tac-toe program created called OXO by Alexander Douglas. Alexander took this a game a little bit further, he used real video display instead of light bulbs.
The very first video game for Entertainment
The sole purpose of any video game would be entertainment. In terms of experimental and to demonstrate the power of technology, no doubt Turochamp and Bertie the Brain are good inventions. In 1958 American physicist William Higinbotham designed a game called Tennis for Two. It was the very first game in the entire history of video games, that made only to entertain the normal people. This game was deployed on an analog computer and uses an oscilloscope to display the graphics.
This was actually the very first interactive video game. Although that was an iconic moment in the entire history of video games. But it was yet to break out as a media form.
First software game that could run on multiple machines
Many years have been passed and there is still on any program or game that can do something extraordinary. All most every game that has been developed can only run on a specific machine for a specific purpose. No game has been designed for running on multiple computers.
But everything has changed when MIT acquire DEC PDP-1 minicomputer in 1961. The computer can able to process any task at 5Mz speed which is 500x slower than today’s modern smartphone, but very powerful for 1961. MIT give permission to students to use the computer for their own research and work.
As the computer is available for others, students and employees developed different types of programs for that computer. In 1960 three employees of MIT Steve Russell, Martin Graetz, and Wayne Wiitanen developed a game called Spacewar. Spacewar featured two spaceships called “the needle” and “the wedge” both are controlled by two different players. Each spaceship shoots one another while maneuvering on two-dimensional space.
Spacewar was the very first game in the entire history video games that can install on multiple PDP computers. Despite this new feature, this game didn’t get widely spread, because one PDP computer cost $120,000 which is approx million dollars in today’s currency.
First commercial video game
After Spacewar further computer games developed by other programmers at other universities. But there were still no such commercial games yet. In early 1970 a recent graduate engineer named Nolan Bushnell saw Spacewar. He had experience running coin-operated machines. In 1971 With the help of another engineer named Ted Dabney, they decide to make a coin-operated version of Spacewar and called it Computer Space.
Computer space was the first arcade video game as well as the first commercial video game. People put a cion into the machine and they can play this game. It was a moderate success and makes some really good profit.
A new industry has began
After seeing the success of Computer Space game, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney decided to make more games and found their own company Atari Incorporated in 1972. In Atari, Nolan Bushnell hires a new employee named Allan Alcorn, as a training program for Allan, Nolen gave him a table tennis game as a practice project. While Allan working on the project Nolen saw the game and it turns out pretty fun to play. After that Nolen decides to release this game on Atari as Pong(1972).
In 1973 Pong was the very first highly successful game in the entire history of video games. Selling over more than 80,000 arcades in America. The reason behind Pong’s success is Pong was used a TV monitor, which was so cheap compared to a vector monitor.
First home video game console (1972-1978)
In 1972 a television company Magnavox released the first generation home video game console called Magnavox Odyssey. The Odyssey can connect to a television and two controllers attached to it by wire. The Odyssey comes with several games such as dice, paper money, and other board game.
Although Odyssey was extremely primitive, it was still a brand new medium of entertainment for the household and because of this, it was a highly successful video game console. Selling over more than 100,000 units in 1972 alone. Pong and Odyssey had started a new era in video gaming.
In 1976 very first programmable ROM-cartridge based video game console released to the market called Fairchild Channel F aka Channel Fun. Also, it was the first console that uses a microprocessor. A wide variety of games come with preloaded in that console. Channel Fun starting seeling to the market at a price of $169.95. Consumers with more purchasing power transitioned to the new programmable systems.
The golden era of arcade games
After widely spread the early arcade video games numerous companies and developers created their own games and published to the market. By 1978 arcade video games entered the culture and become a medium to getting entertainment. By that time the computer becomes more powerful. This led to the rise of arcade video games. Iconic video games like Pac-Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Defender had released and published in the market.
From that period of time, arcade games become more and more popular among people. Some of the best selling arcade games from the 1980s are Galaxian(1979), Pac-Man(1980), Defender(1980), Tempest(1981). In 1980 there were more than 96,000 Pac-Man units had sold in the U.S.
According to a report, the coin-operated video games machine generate a revenue of $2.8 billion in 1980. As Pac-Man entered to gaming culture in 1980 more players attract to it and the revenue jumped to $4.9 billion in 1981. By 1982 the coin-operated games had a picked revenue of $8.9 billion. The arcade gaming industry surpasses the pop music culture and Hollywood in terms of revenue.
The second generation of video games
In the history of video games, the second generation refers to the time period between 1976-1982. At the beginning of this generation platforms Fairchild Channel F, Intellivision (1980), Odyssey, Atari 2600 (1977) are released to the market. By the end of the era Emerson Acadia 2001, ColecoVision, Atari 5200 and Vectrex all are released in 1982. At that time 15 different consoles were available in the market.
Console-like Magnavox Odyssey uses circuit-cards (Printed circuit board) cartridge to store the games. In order to fully functional, these games required TV screens as well as other accessories. Jerry Lawson developed a more advanced cartridge for the Fairchild Channel F for a better gaming experience. Later on more gaming system uses similar technology to make there their system better. The usage of cartridge become more popular after releasing Atari 2600. In this generation, other technologies like screen resolution, graphics, audio, AI in video games also get improved.
Early gaming computer
In late 1970 home computers are started to appearing and rapidly evolving in the 1980s. Popular arcade games, such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong’s source code were distributed through books, magazines, and newsletters. People are allowed to type the code and replicate the games for their own computer system. Computer games were distributed by physical mailing, floppy discs and ROM cartridges.
The 1980s gaming era
The 1980s was the second decades in the history of video games. Companys like Atari Incorporated dominating the whole industry market from the late 1970s. Rising of the home computer in the 1980s and due to lack of quality games for the computer system, it leads the industry in a bad direction. For the first time in 1983, the whole gaming industry has been crashed in the entire history of video games. Almost 97 percent of revenue dropped by 1983 ($3.2 billion) to 1985($100 million).
Several companies that produced computers and gaming console become bankrupt. Atari faced a $536 million loss in 1983. Many experts and investors lost their confidence to invest in the gaming market for the long-term.
The industry took years to recover from the crash when the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) by Nintendo enter the market and become more and more popular.
Third generation video games
In the history of video games, the third generation was referred to the time period between 1983-1995. The generation began with the release of an 8-bit system called Famicom in Japan. Later it was marketed as Nintendo Entertainment System all over the world. All though second-generation consoles also used 8-bit processors. Later on, the 16-bit system like Sega’s Genesis was marketed.
This generation also sees the improvement in consoles such as graphical, sounds, etc. Utilize the memory and battery more efficiently. Developers now create scenes with more details. Five channel audio becomes common, which produces a better and high-quality sound. Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda introduced the save game progress technology, which allows to player save their game at any point in time and can continue from saving points at any time.
The best selling console of this generation was the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System (1985), Atari 7800 (1986), Sega Genesis. This era also releases the RPG(Role-playing video game) genre of games, editing on games, applying censorship on video games, etc. The most popular video game franchise was found such as Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, Metroid, Mega Man, Metal Gear, Castlevania, Phantasy Star, Megami Tensei, Ninja Gaiden, and Bomberman.
Fourth-generation video games
In the history of video games, from early 1987 to the end of 1996, the fourth era of computer game consoles comes into the market. This generation also is known for the 16-bit era, because most console systems are built with 16-bit architecture. During this generation, 2D graphics are become improved compared to last-gen graphics. In this era, the experiment of 3D graphics design had started. Although, the fact that 3D games were more pervasive on the PC at that point. A new way was introduced to sell video games in retail stores, using compact discs.
The TurboGrafx-16 aka PC Engine in Japan and Europe was released in 1987 and it was the first commercial 16-bit gaming system. Moreover, the best selling console from this generation was Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1990) (SNES; the Super Famicom in Japan), Sega Genesis(1988) and the Neo Geo. Handheld systems like Nintendo Game Boy were released in 1989, Sega Game Gear released in 1990.
Nintendo has successfully retained its success from last-gen and managed to capture the largest share in the world market. Though Sega was extremely successful in this generation. In order to beat Nintendo’s Super Mario lineup, Sega introduces a new franchise called Sonic the Hedgehog. Other several companies released their console but unfortunately, none of them are able to survive due to high competition of Nintendo and Sega.
The 1990s gaming era
In the history of video games, the 1990 gaming era is referred to as the third decade of the video gaming industry. It was the time when huge changes occurred in games as well as console. In this era, the graphics of the game were shifted from raster graphics to full-fledged 3D graphics. Several video game genre was introduced such as Fighting, First-person shooting, Interactive, Platform, Racing, Role-playing, Stealth, Survival.
Handheld gaming systems like Game Boy becomes more and more popular in this decade. The arcade game was still quite popular in the early 1990s. This era also saw the innovation of technology such as 3D graphics, various storage systems like optical disc and memory card, gaming controller, and online gaming.
In order to apply 3D graphics, in-game polygon becomes the standard way instead of pixels. 3D graphics give the games a lifelike look. Doom, which was considered as the origin of first-person shooting game was released in 1993. Wolfenstein 3D was the first video game in which the graphical textures are wrapped on a 3D object.
By the increasing of computing power and decreasing the cost of PC components PC gaming has come into the gaming market. The developers have now started making games for computers as well. Real-time strategy becomes a popular genre for computer games. Dune II a real-time strategy game was released in 1992. Meanwhile, the survival horror genre game like Alon in the dark, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc released for consoles as well as PC.
Realistic experience games kept on developing during this period. Some of the genre’s most popular titles were being developed by Sierra Entertainment and LucasArts during the 90s, and Myst and its sequel was another style of puzzle-based experience games. In the 1990s Maxis’s video game developers published a successful lineup of “Sim” games, called SimCity, and proceeding with a variety of titles, for example, SimEarth, SimCity 2000, and in the end, The Sims, which was first released in mid-2000. The sims were the best selling PC games in history.
Fifth-generation video games
In the history of video games, the fifth generation of the gaming era was from late 1993 to mid-2006. Because of the evolution of 3D graphics and computer architecture like 32-bit and 64-bit this era also known as the 32-bit era, 64-bit era, or 3D era. In 1994 Sony introduced there very first gaming console called Sony PlayStation. After sony, Sega Saturn in 1994 and Nintendo 64 in 1996 was released.
Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn began to replace ROM cartridge with compact discs. However, Nintendo keeps continuing to use ROM cartridge instead of compact discs due to its game load time.
Some game title from this generation Super Mario 64 in 1996, PaRappa the Rapper in 1997, Resident Evil in 1996, GoldenEye 007 in 1997, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in 1998,
The 2000s gaming era
The 2000s era was the fourth decade in the history of video games. It was the time when Sony and Nintendo were dominating the gaming market share. Sega, which was Nintendo’s biggest rival in the 1980s and 1990s, leave the console market in 2002. In this era technology like 3D graphics, high definition games become more improved. Developing games with more details and interactive environments, applying realistic physics, improving better AI system in games.
This decade also showed the innovation on both console and PCs. The normal user started to create modification (mods) for games. Game modification is adding, removing or changing in the design of the game and make it a little bit different from the main game. Although game modification began in Wolfenstein and Doom era. Game modification becomes more popular at the start of the 21st century. The famous first-person shooter Counter-Strike was released in 1999. Although it was created as a mod for another first-person shooter Half-life, which was released in 1998.
Sixth-generation of video games
In the history of video games, the sixth generation of the gaming industry was started in 1998. After Sega left the console market, Sony fell behind Nintendo and started dominating the market. Meanwhile, Microsoft developed their first gaming console. The biggest four consoles released in this generation are Sega Dreamcast in 1998, Sony PlayStation 2 in 2000, Nintendo GameCube in 2001 and Microsoft Xbox in 2001.
Sony PlayStation 2 becomes the best-selling video game console of all time in this generation. The major innovation of this generation is using internet connectivity in the console and allow the player to play games online. Also, improvement in 3D graphics from last-gen as well as adding new features like a built-in DVD player and hard drives, internet connectivity, etc.
Games like Shenmue series was a major step forward in 3D open-world games and introduced the quick time event mechanics. Some famous games and series released in this generation are Grand Theft Auto III in 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved for Xbox in 2001 (Halo series become the most successful console shooter franchises of all time), RuneScape, Final Fantasy XI for PlayStation 2, etc.
As internet connectivity grows all over the world, video game publisher making games which can play online with other players. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games have become more popular in the PC gaming market. Games like RuneScape, World of Warcraft, EverQuest and Ultima Online released for PC.
There were few MMORPG games made for the console platform due to the lack of internet connectivity on the console. The first MMORPG game for the console was Phantasy Star Online on Sega Dreamcast. Another MMORPG game Final Fantasy XI for the PlayStation 2 use additional Ethernet adaptor for internet connectivity.
In 2002 Microsoft also released its own online gaming service called Xbox Live. Xbox Live was a huge success for Microsoft, Halo 2 for Xbox were highly popular.
Seventh generation of video games
In the history of video games, the seventh generation began in late 2005. At that period of time, the video game industry made huge improvements from the last couple of decades. The consoles, as well as PC, becomes more powerful. Early in this generation in 2004 both Nintendo and PlayStation released their handheld console Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable(PSP).
While PSP offers features like high graphics, optical disc for storage, multimedia capability, on the other hand, though Nintendo offers a touch screen display, built-in microphone, and wireless connectivity. Nintendo’s dual-screen design become more popular among young children and mid-age gamer. While PSP becomes significantly popular in North America and very popular in Japan.
In this generation, companies like Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo released their next-gen console. Microsoft released its 2nd gaming console in 2005 called Xbox 360. After 1 year Sony and Nintendo also released their console Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii in 2006. All three console comes with some extra new unique features. Xbox 360 featured high-definition resolution, on the other hand, sony offers a built-in Disc player and Nintendo focuses on their controllers with features like movement sensors and joysticks, etc.
Inspired by Wii’s movement sensing feature, Sony also implements quite similar to this on their new type of controller called PlayStation Move in 2010. In late 2010 Microsoft released Kinect for the movement sensing purpose, but it’s not a controller, instead, it makes the player act as the controller. The concept of Kinect is something new and unique in the gaming industry.
Moreover, systems like Nvidia Shield console, Amazon Fire TV, MOJO, Razer Switchblade, and more powerful PC-based console machines attempt to compete for the console gaming market.
Eighth generation video games
In the history of video games, the eighth generation gaming began in 2012 and continue till now (2020). Companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony dominating the console market. The eighth-generation began with the release of Nintendo’s Wii U in 2012. After that Sony and Microsoft, both release their console Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One in 2013.
In the handheld console market, Nintendo releases Nintendo 3DS as the successor of Nintendo DS in early 2011. Form the Sony side, sony also release PlayStation Vita as the successor of last generation’s PlayStation Portable. Nintendo keeps releasing more variants such as New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 2DS XL.
In 2017 Nintendo Wii U discontinued and release their new console called Nintendo Switch in 2017. Sony and Microsoft both released hardware upgrades of their existing lineup with “slim” version, Microsoft Xbox One S and Sony PlayStation 4 Slim in 2016. Xbox One S supports HDR video and Ultra HD Blu-ray. In late 2016 Sony upgrade the PlayStation 4 lineup called PlayStation 4 Pro. Meanwhile, Microsoft also released Xbox One X. Both PS4 Pro and Xbox One X has hardware support for rendering the game up to 4K resolution.
Unlike other generations, this generation gaming console and other systems there were few new innovations in hardware capabilities. Instead of major companies like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo make consoles more powerful and increase there performance in terms of speed, graphics, storage, etc. Even motion sensing, which was considered as a new innovation of the seventh generation, abandoned and the system uses a normal button like controller.
VR (Virtual Reality) gaming hit the console market when Sony release PlayStation VR, a VR headset for all PlayStation 4 in 2016. Though Microsoft planned for VR support in Xbox one X. But, Microsoft never realized a VR for the Xbox.
The ninth-generation of video gaming expected in 2020. Sony and Microsoft have planned to release their next-gen console Playstation 5 and Xbox X. Both will support backward compatibility
Hi, I’m Karunamay Murmu. Blogger, Web Developer by profession, and hardcore PC gamer by hobby. Playing video games since when I was 10 years old. Have special respect for gaming and PC.