When you look back at the world’s game history without looking too carefully, it looks like a straightforward development to where we are today. Up close you can see that it has jumped a little more, two steps forward has been followed by one step back, incredible successes have been followed by setbacks. There are also many innovators who have been ahead of their time, who have launched solutions that the world has not really been ready for.
For example, when Japanese Nintendo in the mid-90s launched the Satellaview system , which allowed players to download games and news to the Super Famicom console. The system never got out of Japan. Virtual Reality is another example that was hotly debated during the same time period, often giving the impression that it was only a matter of time before TV and computer games would be synonymous with virtual realities. It has not happened yet. Or the backlash that hit the gaming industry in 1983 after a period of enormous expansion. A step backwards that went so far that some game developers dug down thousands of copies of their games because they simply could not be sold. But this is to precede things. It is better to start from the beginning. So let’s get to the very first time!
The first computer game in history
What is considered to be the first real computer game was unveiled at a world exhibition in New York in 1940. It was an electromechanical slot machine called the Nimatron and was based on an antique game known as the Nim. During the six months that Nimatron was on display, more than 50,000 people must have played it and the computer won about 90 percent of the matches.
However, it would be some time before computer technology developed to such an extent that it became available to ordinary consumers. However, Nimatron deserves its place in game history as the first example of its kind, especially if you look at it as an early version of arcade games.
Dawn of game history – late 1960s
The first gaming system for home use was built as a prototype under the name Brown Box in 1967 . However, the console needed further development and in 1972 could be released for sale as a Magnavox Odyssey . It was a game system that could be connected to the TV. Among the very simple games was one in which two players each controlled a cube that chased each other on the screen. It was also possible to play ping pong, a number of very simple sports games and the classic board game Ladies.
Magnavox Odyssey was very advanced for its time, today many would probably think it was more fun to tap commands into the old operating system MS-DOS (you readers who are old enough remember). The console was still sold in around 300,000 copies during the three years it was produced – however, it was considered a failure. This was largely due to the fact that people did not yet really understand what video games actually meant. More and more people would gain an understanding as the technology developed during the 1970s.
The 1970s gave us the breakthrough of computer games
The first major breakthrough in gaming history would come towards the end of the 1970s. Much because it was during that period that the technology for arcade games developed. More and more restaurants, bowling alleys and other acquired arcade games of various kinds. Games where visitors could compete against each other in who got the highest score. An important ingredient in this context was the arcade games’ lists for high scores. That is, if you played well enough, you could enter your initials on the top list of the players who got the highest score and thus sunbathe in the glory of their performance until another, better player surpassed one.
Arcade games were in many ways the spark that paved the way for the breakthrough of home computers and home consoles and home computers. People then got a better understanding of what video games actually were. But before video and computer games for home use would explode as a phenomenon, there was a lack of technical innovation.
Atari starts the video game age
Intel’s first microprocessor, launched in the mid-1970s, made it technically possible to create more advanced games than before without the need for a physically huge computer to run them. When the same type of microprocessors could then be integrated into game consoles for the domestic market, the success was not far off.
Atari VCS is often considered the console as established video games for the domestic market. In addition to being equipped with a microprocessor that made it physically manageable, it also had another innovation that would prove indispensable: the ability to play external games via cassettes.
Space Invaders – TV player race ground zero?
Space Invaders was released for the Atari VCS in 1980 and became wildly popular. When it comes to game history, few games are as important. In the wake of Space Invaders , sales of Atari’s latest home computer Atari 2600 soared to as high as 2 million in 1980. It was also around this time that video and computer games began to become a popular cultural force to be reckoned with. Several magazines about video games began to be published, which laid the foundation for a community.
In the short term, however, Atari’s success led to a setback. After Space Invaders became hugely successful, many companies wanted to cash in on the new video game boom. This led to over-establishment and eventually to the video game industry being hit by a crash in 1983. In large part, the crash was a result of the fact that there were too many companies developing game consoles while the quality of the game offering was too low. In many ways, the industry would be saved by the players themselves.
Vic-20 and Commodore 64 make their entrance
By the early 1980s, the technology of home computers had evolved to such an extent that they had become cheap enough that people on average wages could afford to buy them. They also had significantly more powerful processors than the previous generation of game consoles, which opened up for the development of new types of games. Vic-20 and Commodore 64would now play huge roles in the development of video games. They were not only powerful by the standards of the time, they also provided the opportunity for those who were interested and patient to start coding their own games. Magazines about computers and computer games began to publish guides in the code language BASIC and organized competitions where readers could submit games and code as they did. A generation of talented game programmers saw the light of day, some of whom would make a big impression in the world’s game history.
Multiplayer and LAN party
Some of the early home computers also had the ability to be linked together in LAN networks. And with that, the first multiplayer games also began to appear, of which MidiMaze was one of the first examples. In it, up to 16 players could connect their computers and play at the same time. The LAN party was born!
A somewhat broader impact on multiplayer games came in the early 90’s when titles such as Pathway to Darkness and Doom were released. Above all, the latter would revolutionize the gaming market. So-called First Person Shooters games, as Doom is, is one of the most popular game genres today. While Doom was not the first of its kind (not least Castle Wolfenstein was a popular past example), it was the game that really put first-person shooters on the map.
From the mid-90s onwards, the popularity of multiplayer games increased as internet access increased, while the cost of being connected became lower and lower. From being something that was shared with friends over private networks, multiplayer games are now meeting places for people all over the world. For a long time, online games were something that only those who played over a computer had access to, today it is a matter of course that consoles such as Xbox and Playstation should be connected.
The mobile gaming revolution
Now you’ve almost reached the present in the relatively short history of video games and computer games. Before it’s time to reasonably reasonably guess what the future may mean for games and gaming, however, there is another gaming revolution to watch: the mobile phone. The first games were usually very simple and reminiscent of the games from the 70s and 80s, such as the classic Snake game that first appeared in the Nokia 6110 in 1998.
When smartphones first appeared in 2007, the market for mobile games opened up. In terms of game technology, smartphones represented their own unique challenges for game development. On the one hand, the best mobile games were a return to simpler solutions that did not require too much processing power, on the other hand, something new in that they would be played on the touchscreen. Simple mobile games such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds have attracted huge sums over the past decade. But even more complex multiplayer games like Clash of Clans have been very successful.
Where is the world’s game history going?
Of course, it is very difficult to say what the next step in game history will be, but it is possible to make some well-founded guesses. Virtual Reality was very popular for a few years in the 90’s and early 00’s. At the time, however, the technology was both too expensive and unrefined for VR to have a broad breakthrough. Maybe it looks better on that front in the near future, especially when today there are much better prices on things like VR glasses . Facebook bought the VR company Oculus in 2014 and is now working to develop a so-called “meta-universe”, a game world that will most likely be VR-compatible. In recent years, Sony has also been fairly successful in launching a VR helmet for their Playstation., even if the really broad breakthrough did not really materialize.
Artificial intelligence is another area that has developed a lot in recent times and will be applied in various ways in computer games. Not least through the interpretation of voice commands. For example, it is conceivable that in the near future you will be able to communicate with game characters with voice commands via your VR helmet and thus get a gaming experience that feels like nothing else you have been able to play so far. These are just some of the things we can see in the future!
What it will ultimately be remains to be seen. Which games do you hope to see more of in the future? And do you have an old favorite game that you are happy to return to? Feel free to write a comment!