Beyond those who own consoles and gaming PCs, almost everyone owns a laptop, tablet, or smartphone on which they occasionally play a game of Solitaire or Candy Crush. What does this mean?
Gaming has become a mainstream form of entertainment that almost everyone engages into some extent. But how has the gaming industry developed over the years? What has been the evolution of gaming since its inception? Today, we will present to you a brief history of gaming!
A New Way to Play: The Birth of Video Games
Initially, video games were modest projects developed by university researchers. The prototype considered as the beginning of video games is the Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device, an analogue missile simulator that used vacuum tubes, created in 1947(!).
The breakthrough came with the game Spacewar! (1961), which is regarded as the first game with true vector-based computer graphics.
R. Baer aimed to popularize gaming by creating an interactive game that could be connected to a TV. This led to the development of the “Brown Box” in 1967, which later received a license and was released in 1972 as the Magnavox Odyssey, marking the first console. Building upon Baer’s idea, N. Bushnell founded the well-known company Atari in the same year and released the first arcade game, which paved the way for modern gaming and achieved tremendous commercial success. Of course, we are talking about Pong.
The Golden Age: Gaming Takes Flight in the 80s and 90s
When did video games become popular? One could say it was during the late ’70s and early ’80s. After the massive success of Pong, Atari began mass-producing arcade games. Other companies also caught the bug and started producing their own arcade machines and games. This led to the creation of iconic titles such as Space Invaders (1978) by Taito, Pacman (1980) by Namco, and Mario Bros. (1983) by Nintendo.
Arcades were packed with gamers eager to challenge the machines or compete with a friend (or rival) on a single screen. Although several years had passed since the creation of the first multiplayer game, Empire (developed in 1973 for the PLATO system), this form of gaming was not yet as popular.
On the other hand, home gaming consoles started to emerge like mushrooms after the rain. However, they didn’t enjoy the same level of sales, and the craze for consoles began to fade temporarily, leading to the temporary downfall of Atari.
Computers, such as the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, or Apple II, began to draw attention. They also allowed gaming, initially with text-based games, but in the following years, adventure, puzzle, stealth, and strategy games emerged, including legendary titles such as Ultima I, Castle Wolfenstein, King’s Quest, and the absolute hit, Tetris.
In the mid-80s, after Atari’s downfall, Nintendo took over and introduced its NES console. Almost every title released by the company became a hit, and consoles regained popularity. Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy, released between 1985 and 1988, are games that are still recognized today and paved the way for massive, globally recognized franchises.
The beginning of the ’90s was dominated by gaming. There were already dozens of computer and console models available (including portable ones like the Game Boy), and the market was rapidly expanding. Prince of Persia, released in 1989, broke popularity records, as did the first installment of the iconic Civilization series.
The ’90s gave the gaming industry many other popular titles, including Silent Hill, Half-Life, Baldur’s Gate, and Fallout. It was also during this time that the MMO gaming industry took off (thanks to the popularisation of the Internet), with games like Ultima Online, Quake, and EverQuest.
The New Millennium: Gaming in the 2000s
The turn of the millennium and the early 2000s marked a flourishing period for gaming. The industry’s development led to the emergence of increasingly advanced console generations. The computer industry also thrived during this time. The increasing performance of new models and components allowed for playing more advanced games, which in turn fuelled the market.
Interest in games noticeably grew, giving rise to mass and casual gaming. Casual titles, with simplified and enjoyable gameplay, appealed to a broader range of fans in terms of skills and preferences. Examples include The Sims, SimCity, as well as hybrid games that combined multiple genres, like the adventure-shooter Deus Ex and the turn-based/real-time strategy game Shogun: Total War.
Technological advancements, which expanded the possibilities of game development, combined with growing player interest, resulted in the creation of numerous iconic games. Half-Life 2 (2004), God of War (2005), Forza Motorsport (2005), TES IV: Oblivion (2006), and BioShock (2007) are considered classics from this period. Music games, including Guitar Hero, also enjoyed temporary popularity.
The Future Is Now: Mobile and VR Gaming Revolution
Of course, the industry continued to evolve, and new titles were constantly being released for both consoles and PC. However, the early 2010s brought another significant change. People became obsessed with mobile gaming, and hardware and game developers turned their attention toward… virtual reality.
Although mobile games were not new around 2010, they experienced a renaissance. The availability of more powerful smartphones with larger screens quickly made them an attractive gaming platform for many people who either couldn’t or didn’t want to invest in PCs or consoles. It’s impossible to overlook the contribution of the iconic game Angry Birds, which was released at the end of 2009, to the popularisation of mobile gaming.
In 2010, P. Luckey presented a prototype device called Rift and later founded Oculus VR.
With funds raised on Kickstarter, he was able to create the first commercially available VR headset, and the technology received support in games – Vendetta Online was the first. The experiment was a success, and gamers and developers, all exclaimed in unison: “We want this!”. This led to the emergence of numerous VR games and VR sets, including those developed for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Today’s Playfield: Gaming as a Mainstream Cultural Phenomenon
Whether it’s playing Solitaire on a smartphone or Diablo 4 on the newest PC, video games now accompany nearly everyone. Advertisements for newly released games can be seen on TV, and it’s easy to find memes related to iconic titles online. The love for gaming brings people together in social media groups, while gaming streamers achieve stunning careers by recording their gameplays, which are eagerly watched by millions of viewers. Additionally, more and more movies and TV series are based on games. This speaks for itself. Gaming has so deeply penetrated the world of pop culture that it has become its integral part, just like film, music, or literature.
The Player’s Gain: Unpacking the Benefits of Gaming
How did this happen? How did the world of gaming become so vast and popular? It’s all because video games provide not only entertainment but also many other benefits.
Video games are excellent educational tools for both children and adults.
They teach teamwork and the challenging skill of losing gracefully. They also foster logical, strategic, and causal thinking, as well as creativity and cleverness. Games develop cognitive abilities such as perception, learning, and decision-making. Furthermore, they can enhance dexterity and inspire and ignite new hobbies and interests in young minds.
Conclusion: Rewinding the Gameplay
As you can see, the gaming history as we know it today is longer and filled with more ups and downs for major brands and businesses than one might think. Over 70 years of industry development have brought the desired outcome and fulfilled the dreams of those who paved the way in an unknown industry, despite adversity. Thanks to this, we can now enjoy an infinite number of fantastic titles that can unite thousands of people around the world.