The Beginnings of Video Games

The Early Ideas of Video Games

The ENIAC, Electronic and Numerical Integrator and Computer, is considered the first-ever general-purpose electronic computer, made public in 1946. One of its purposes was the manipulation of complex data related to the hydrogen bomb. No one in their right mind would even think about this device being later used for gaming. After a year or so, the first-ever game to be played on a screen was developed. The game had been named the Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device, a name taken after the most essential detail of a TV, the cathode ray tube. The game was developed at the DuMont Laboratories. The game itself was what we would know today a shooting game. It consisted of an artillery shell simulation arching towards the targets. The artillery was controlled by the player with the use of knobs, adjusting them to change the trajectory of a CRT beam spot to reach the targets on the screen. The targets were made possible with the use of graphically transparent layers applied on the screen. The project was never further developed and was filled into a patent.

Claude Shannon, is the father of information theory and a famous mathematician and engineer in the 20th century. He is also known for the founding of the digital computer. Claude Shannon design the very first game in 1950, unfortunately, due to the limited processing power of that time, the game never made it past the design process. A passionate hobby of Claude was chess, and this was the game that he wanted to make. This is detailed in his famous paper called “Programming a Computer for Playing Chess”. The sole purpose of the project was solving the problem of constructing a computer routine (program) for a computer that made it possible for it to play chess.

In 1952 a Ph.D. candidate known by the name of Alexander Douglas developed the first game programmed on a computer. The game was known as “Noughts and Crosses” or “OXO”, a simple game that can be played with a pen and paper and he developed this game as a port of his thesis on human-computer interaction. The game was developed on the EDSAC (electronic delay storage automatic calculator), an early British computer located at the University of Cambridge. The computer was the second of its kind to go into regular service. Opinions differ on whether or not this “OXO” should be considered as one of the very first video games for the lack of real-time updating graphics. The visuals of the game were made possible by repurposing the screen to display the state of an “OXO” game, and it was one of the first programs to display visuals on an electronic screen.

Video Games

The video game that many people may have heard in some for is Spacewar!. The game was developed at MIT in 1962, taking inspiration from the stories of E.E.” Doc” Smith. Between Spacewar! and OXO games, there was Tennis for Two, a lesser-known game. The game was written on DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) interactive minicomputer, known as the PDP-1. It was given to the people of MIT, hoping that the people there would do amazing things with the device. Because the computer allowed 2 people to use it simultaneously, it was the perfect platform for developing Spacewar!, which itself is a 2 player game.

Innovation and Forming New ideas

Spacewar! paved the way for a new form of entertainment by bringing video games into the mainstream. This was a vision of Nolan Bushnell, a natural-born businessman with a passion for the early video games. In 1969 his vision was realized by working with his friend and colleague Ted Dabney to design Computer Space, a single-player version of Spacewar!. The project started with a prototype created using a black and white TV as the display, TTL components, and no CPU because they were not affordable during that period. Instead of lives, the game had seconds, 100 in total. When they ended, a score was displayed, showing how many times the player’s rocket was able to hit the saucer. The game was simple in design and had very little variety except for a mode called Hyperspace, a special mode that added another 99 seconds and changing the visuals from a white on black to a black on white. This mode was able to give some variety to the experience, making it more replayable. The company Nutting Associates were willing to give their prototype a try and sealed a deal with Nolan and Ted allowing them to retain ownership of the intellectual property.

During the same period, an engineer by the name of Ralph Baer wrote some ideas for a game that could be played on a TV during a bus ride. He started working on the project in 1967 resulting in a 2-player ping pong game, later being named as the “Brown Box”. The box also included a light gun with which the player was able to shoot white dots on the screen. In 1972, the Odyssey Home Entertainment System made its way to retailers become one of the first forms of gaming to be experienced in a home being able to sell about 350,000 units before being discontinued in 1975.

After their prototype, the 2 friends from before, Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushnell started Atari and because they considered “Computer Space” to be too difficult for the average person, they started working on a more simple sports game. Thie brought a new engineer on their team, Allan Alcorn who, after getting accustomed to the original TTL circuit used for Computer Space was able to enhance it with his ideas. The prototype of this new game was called Pong. The prototype was placed in a bar called Andy Caps to test it. In a matter of weeks, the game became extremely popular to the point of having people queuing up in front of the bar before opening time. People noticed a resemblance between Atari’s Pong and Odyssey’s “table tennis”, both being released during that same period. During the same period, Nintendo, while searching for new ventures for its company took notice of the potential of this new form of entertainment and started developing its products with their first driving game named Color TV Racing 112. In later years, Atari released the console that dominated the gaming space at the time, known as the Atari 2600. The console came with 2 joysticks and paddles and a combat game cartridge. By 1980 the console was very popular and later released the famous game “Space Invaders”. These were the first years of video games making their way into the public space, becoming very popular in the process.

Video Games in Modern Times

Video games have come a long way since those early days, with many players and game developers seeing them as a form of artistic expression. Some video games managed to find their place at MOMA (Museum of Modern Arts) in New York. In the years before Pong, video games where only a simulation of pre-existing sports and games, such as when Claude Shannon wanted to program a computer to play chess. With more tools becoming available, developers had the possibility of creating more complex experiences to the point in which original stories could be told. Mainstream gaming is mostly associated with realistic looking graphics and lots of action. Done right, video games, es can convey ideas to the person playing and can contain many elements that can be found in traditional art forms.

Modern gaming is slowly moving from the home console and personal computers to a mobile one. During the days of Spacewar!, imagining a device this small, able to play complex games would have been out of the realm of possibility. Gambling has had a similar history with how casino games have evolved. From the early mechanical slot machines to the online games that many people have grown accustomed to. Same as in the case of video games, the thought of gambling by using a small device such as a mobile phone was something that could not be conceivable during the early days. Today, almost every major casino company has online gaming website similar to those such as Stargames Casino which itself is an online casino platform. Relying solely on land-based casinos is no longer possible, and having a presence in the online environment is considered a necessity to maintain relevance.

Casino games were introduced into the online gaming space through Microgaming, back in 1994. While not being legal in many parts of the world, they are slowly starting to be accepted by many countries due to constantly evolving security features and demand. The possibility for Microgaming to bring the casinos online was made possible with the passing of the Free Trade and Processing Act by Antigua and Barbuda, an act which allowed a casino to be granted licenses to be operated online. The entire history of how video games came to be is very complex. Here, the major focus has been put on the very early concepts of how they came to be. Video games have become a major hobby for many people all over the world, most of them used for entertainment while others evolving into large Esports competitions.

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