Video Games: History of Fun Part I
By Jeff Ayers — / Lifestyle
In the beginning, video games were created so early computer scientists could test the capabilities of the new technologies they were developing. Since then, the video game industry has grown exponentially and, as of 2020, gaming became the biggest earning media sector, posting over $165 billion in revenue. Let's take a look back at their origins and the inevitable rise of popularity they have today, along with some of the greatest hits from the history of video games.
The Early Days
In the 1950s, computer scientists started to construct relatively simple games to test out systems in the new field of computer technology. Then in 1961, a group of students at MIT developed what is widely considered to be the first video game on the college's mainframe computer, calling it Spacewar! This allowed two players to simulate a space combat and play against each other.
Computers and the First Arcades and Gaming Consoles
Mainframe computer games became more popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and many of them were text-based, adventure-style games, where the player would basically participate in the story as it unfolded by the choices they made and typed into the computer prompts. Games like 1971's Star Trek and Colossal Cave Adventure were big hits in this genre.
While computer gaming was happening, the modern age of video games started at this time with the first introduction of arcade-style games and at-home gaming consoles. Arcade games have been around much longer than you might think.
The truest definition of an “arcade game” is a coin-operated entertainment game, and in the late 20th century, these were considered games of skill. Think of all the carnival games you have played at fairgrounds or early arcades, or even more recently at places like Dave & Buster's. The most famous of these is Skeeball and Pinball, but it wasn't until the late 1960s that electro-mechanical games became the popular things to drop your quarters into.
The first successful electro-mechanical games were from Sega and Namco, two video game publishers that are still relevant to this day. Namco first produced the popular game Periscope, and Sega then reissued it along with their offering, Gun Fight. While both of these 3D games used light and sound, it wasn't until the late ‘70s that the arcade games we know today started to crop up. Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Missile Command all hit the scene around 1980, but it was Atari's Pong that made the biggest waves much earlier in 1972 and led to the home console boom.
As arcades became popular hangout spots in the 1980s, the home video game consoles started to become all the rage. After many different Pong clones were released for computers, Atari stepped up by releasing the Atari Video Computer System in 1977 with its original Pong game, and thanks to Space Invaders, the first cartridge video game to sell over a million copies, the Atari VCS sold over 30 million systems in just a few years. Video game console developer Coleco released ColecoVision in 1982 to directly contend with Atari, even going as far as to secure the rights to Nintendo's smash hit game, Donkey Kong (which introduced the world to a plumber named Mario). Evidently, there wasn’t a coffee strong enough at this time to keep these gamers fueled—a crash in the video game industry was inevitable.
RELATED: Video Games: History of Fun Part II