Guest Blog: The evolution of Video Games: Part 1

You may have noticed, but here at Power Cords we’re big fans of gaming. To offer some perspective on the history of our favorite medium, fellow blogger and gaming enthusiast Michael takes us through part one of gaming’s history.

Video games as an art form have not been around for long, but the impact they’ve had on humanity is staggering. Last year in 2011, the video game industry outstripped movies in terms of profit made, and this year looks to be no different. From the relative obscurity of the 80’s, to the 21st century, It has become a multi-million industry covering every genre and style through different platforms. Just how did this immense growth happen? Let’s investigate.

 

1960 – 1980: In the beginning.

Spacewar!

While video games can be traced back as far as 1947 with the cathode ray tube amusement device, it wasn’t until the sixties that gaming became known to the public. The first widespread gaem was the highly influential Spacewar! created by a group of students at MIT for the PDP-1.

In this game, two players faced of against each other in space combat, while attempting to avoid a black hole in the middle of the screen. Taking 200 hours to create, Spacewar! was extremely popular and was ported onto many other systems.

The Arcade era.

Building on the success of Spacewar!, the first coin operated video game was introduced in 1971. This game was Galaxy Game. Installed in Stanford University and programmed by Bill Pitts and Hugh Tuck, it was a version of the existing Spacewar!

Costing ten cents a go, the game was a big success on campus, used for eight years until it broke down from overuse. Yet despite however successful it was in the university, it took another remake to begin selling the game widepsread. It’s name? Computer Space.

Nutting Associates bought the rights to the game and made 1,500 machines that were released in November 1971. Due to it’s high difficulty and steep learning curve, the game was a financial failure, but nonetheless a milestone in the widespread selling of a video game. This kicked off the whole arcade industry, something which the following game helped spearhead.

Grossing over 2 Billion dollars in quarters, and selling 360,000 cabinets worldwide, Space Invaders helped drive the arcade industry forward. Taking inspiration from War of the Worlds and Star Wars, this shooter game was immensly successful. Inspired by it’s success, many developers began creating their own arcade games, and the machines quickly became available in shopping centers and restaurants. The game also became the subject of numerous articles and stories on television and in newspapers and magazines, establishing video gaming as a rapidly growing mainstream hobby.

Games such as Asteroids and Pacman were to follow, both selling tens of thousands of cabinets. During it’s peak year in 1982, the arcade industry was making 8 Billion dollars in North America, more than double the annual Hollywood revenue at the time. Video games were a strong and prosperous industry at this time, and the obvious advancement was to bring gaming into the home. Cue Ralph Baer, the grandfather of modern day video gaming.

Home Consoles

The Magnavox Odyssey came along and sold 100,000 systems, thanks to advertising and a guest appearence from Frank Sinatra. Being able to play such games as Pong and Basketball at home proved to be a winning formula, and other home consoles followed. The Atari 2600, Intellivision and Colecovision all made names for themselves, with the Atari dominating the scene. Then the great video game crash of ’83 hit, and the video game indusrty collapsed on itself.

The cause of the crash? There were many contributing factors, but the main one was crappy games like Atari Pacman and E.T: Extra Terrestrial as well as a general over-saturation of the market. People worried that it was the end of the road for video games. Then Nintendo arrived on the scene and jumpstarted the 8-bit era. Video games would never be the same again.

Nintendo Entertainment System

 

In 1985, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment system along with the very first Super Mario Bros. The Legend of Zelda followed one year later, and the N.E.S took over the home console scene right into the nineties. Bringing other legendary franchises into exsistence such as Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy, the N.E.S truly was the pinnacle of gaming in the 80’s.

Coming up in part 2: The Nineties, and the introduction of 3D gaming!

Be sure to check out Michael’s blog for more awesome gaming articles at http://ninetyninepercentgaming.wordpress.com/

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