Slice of History: Video Games


The history of video gaming dates back to the early 1940s. William A Higinbotham developed the first video game system called ‘Tennis for Two’ while he was working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, a nuclear research lab in New York, USA. His idea was to use a small analogue computer in the laboratory to graph and display the path of a moving ball on an oscilloscope. An oscilloscope is a device which represents a changing amount on a screen in the form of a wavy line. The game was simple but fun to play and its charm was infectious.

Video game company Atari was the pioneer in creating arcade games and home video game consoles. The company’s products, such as ‘Pong’, helped define the computer entertainment industry from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.

The Video Computer System (VCS) ROM cartridge-based console was later renamed the Atari 2600 and was released in 1977. While the console had a slow start, its ‘Space Invaders’ game became a major hit and quadrupled the console’s sales. The Atari 2600 thus quickly become the most popular of all the early consoles.

The arcade game (coin-operated video game machines) industry entered its golden age in 1978 with the release of ‘Space Invaders’ by Taito. The game led arcade machines to become prevalent in mainstream locations such as shopping malls, traditional storefronts, restaurants and convenience stores in the west. ‘Space Invaders’ would go on to sell over 3,60,000 arcade cabinets worldwide. The golden age of gaming gave rise to genre-specific games like action adventure, role playing and strategy games. Some of the games famous at that time were ‘The Legend of Zelda’, ‘Dragon Slayer Xanadu’ and ‘Prince of Persia’

Handheld gaming began to become more popular throughout the 1980s and GameBoy was released in 1989. 

Arcade games, although still relatively popular in the early 1990s, began to decline as home consoles became more common.

The 1990s
The 1990s were a decade of marked innovation in video gaming. It was a decade of transition to 3D graphics and gave rise to several genres of video games including first-person shooter, real-time strategy and massive multiplayer online (MMO).

The video game industry matured into a mainstream form of entertainment in the 1990s. Major developments of this decade included higher budget games, increased size of production teams and collaborations with both the music and motion picture industries. In 1991, ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ was introduced. The game gave Sega’s Mega Drive console mainstream popularity and rivaled Nintendo’s Mario franchise. Its namesake character became the mascot of Sega and one of the most recognisable video game characters.

In 1993, Atari re-entered the home console market with the introduction of the Atari Jaguar. At the same time, the 3DO Company released the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. Both consoles had very low sales due to a high price tag and few quality games, eventually leading to their demise.

In 1994, three new consoles were released in Japan—the Sega Saturn, the PlayStation, and the PCFX. The Saturn and the PlayStation were released in North America in 1995. The PlayStation quickly outsold all of its competitors except for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. By the end of this period, Sony had become the leader in the video game market. 

The first decade of the 2000s showed innovation on both consoles and PCs and an increasingly competitive market for portable game systems. In this sixth generation of video game consoles, Sega exited the hardware market, Nintendo fell behind, Sony solidified its lead in the industry and Microsoft developed a gaming console called the XBOX. The Dreamcast was launched in 1998, which was the first console to have a built-in modem for Internet support and online play. While it was initially successful, it couldn’t keep up with the anticipation for the upcoming PlayStation 2.

Present Generation
Microsoft stepped forward first in November 2005 with the Xbox 360 and Sony followed in 2006 with the PlayStation 3, released in Europe in March 2007. Setting the technology standard for the generation, it featured high-definition graphics, large hard disk-based secondary storage and various other awe inspiring features.

The new decade has seen a rise in motion control gaming wherein the user simply stands in front of the console and directs the movements on the screen. Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinnect are prime examples of the same. The current generation of gaming is constantly evolving and online gaming is again on the rise. It’s now that the true potential of the games is about to become a reality.

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