From Arcades To Smart Phones: The Early Evolution Of Gaming

Although certain stereotypes persist, gaming is no longer an activity reserved for geeky kids and young adults. Researchers from the University of Washington present a number of fascinating findings collected by the Entertainment Software Association — perhaps, most significantly, that 68 percent of American households […]
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Electronic Theatre ImageAlthough certain stereotypes persist, gaming is no longer an activity reserved for geeky kids and young adults. Researchers from the University of Washington present a number of fascinating findings collected by the Entertainment Software Association — perhaps, most significantly, that 68 percent of American households play video or PC games and among those, the age of the average gamer is a surprising 35 years old.

The gaming industry continues to transform, opening up to a greater range of demographics and taking on such new devices as tablets and smart phones. The traditional cords and cartridges, while still available, have largely given way to servicesElectronic Theatre Image such as HughesNet Gen4, allowing players access to a vast collection of excellent games through the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE. Such changes spell a very bright future for gaming — one that could prove more inclusive, more affordable and, perhaps, even more academic. But before you can understand where gaming is going in the future, you also need to know just how far the industry has come.

Academic Beginnings On Mainframe Computers

We like to think that gaming was born on consoles in bored teenagers’ basements, but this is simply not the case. Long before the advent of Duck Hunt and Pac-Man, prominent researchers were goofing off on university mainframe computers. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Alumni Association highlights Spacewar! as one of the earliest games. Developed in 1961, by Steve Russell, this computer game pitted two players in virtual spaceships against one another, requiring both to shoot at each other while still avoiding the gravitational pull of the sun. Although “Spacewar!” had been preceded by such computer games as Tic-Tac-Toe, it was the first to offer a more complex plot — one that, notably, has been mimicked again and again over the course of the past fifty years.

 

Arcades Take Over

Ten years after it first provided a welcome distraction for MIT researchers, Spacewar! resurfaced in many of the arcades popping up all over the United States. Now, though, it was known by several alternative monikers, including Galaxy Game and Computer Space. Installed at Stanford University in 1971, Galaxy Game served as the world’s introduction to coin-operated Electronic Theatre Imagevideogames. Soon after, the similarly-themed Computer Space was released, and with the manufacture of 1,500 copies, became the first mass-produced video game. Unfortunately, the sales effort failed due to the game’s complexity and general lack of user accessibility. However, Computer Space creators Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushnell were able to learn from the failure of their first big endeavour and followed up with Pong — otherwise known as the very first arcade game to achieve widespread success.

Video Games Move To The Basement

Arcades provided hours upon hours of fun and excitement for early gamers, but, as had occurred in the realm of movies, users soon demanded new versions that they could play in the comfort of their own homes. Although such consoles as Brown Box and the Odyssey popped up in the late 60s and early 70s, the first truly successful console system arrived in the form of the 1977 Atari 2600. This was the very first console to provide users the opportunity to play multiple games on the same device. Its unprecedented success paved the way for future consoles from Mattel, Nintendo, Sony and others.

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