Saturday, 10 October 2009

Video Games: Where it all Began...

Now when I think of the first video game my mind jumps straight to “PONG” and I’m sure many people out there would believe me. However, with a bit of digging through the vast accounts of the first computer game, I discovered games history is divided for who created the first game, as Ralph Baer (a TV engineer) had the idea for playing games on a television set in 1951 though didn’t physically create one until 1966, but we will get to him later.  A.S. Douglas created the first in 1952 on an EDSAC vacuum tube computer with a cathode ray tube display. The game he produced was a product of him writing his PhD at the University of Cambridge on Human and Computer interaction. The game was a digital interpretation of the classic game “Tic-Tac-Toe”. A player would try and beat the computer which would use algorithms to win whenever possible.

I’ll leave you to make your own opinion about who came first because it seems to come down to technicalities of does an idea count as being a sign of creating something first or someone physically producing it? From here on out is where video games history becomes more clear and decisive.

The progress and development of video games started to gain momentum, as in 1958 William Higginbotham created  “Tennis for Two” on a Brookhaven National Laboratory Oscilloscope. Later in 1962 Steve Russell created the first game intended for computer use “SPACEWAR!” which was built on a PDP-1 computer and though not technically a “video game” it was a precursor to the explosion of games to come in 1972. Slowly but surely more games started to make there way out into the developing world of technology such as Ralph Baer’s game “Chase” in 1967. This and other of his ideas got him a deal with “Magnavox” and gave birth to the first home video game system in 1972 the “Magnavox Odyssey”.  This event led to the creation of the arcade version of “PONG” created by Nolan Bushnell with help from Al Alcorn who together started Atari computers that same year and in 1975 re-released “PONG” as a home video game.

For me games don’t go back all the way to 1952 but older generations reminisce telling me how new games are so confusing to the one joystick and two buttons they spent hours on at the arcade. The first game I ever played was “Sonic the Hedgehog” on the Sega Megadrive with its 16 bit cartridges and played many of the other classics such as “Golden Axe” and “Altered Beast”. I remember being infuriated that there was no ability to save my progress on any of the games especially sonic and having to replay the Green Hill Zone every time the console was switched off arghhh! I moved onto the Playstation and started with “Crash Bandicoot” and my personal favourite “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” perhaps one of, if not thee most addictive game for the Playstation.  

I naturally progressed to the Playstation 2 and played on the vast catalogue games. I picked up the “Ratchet and Clank” games and got lost in them for hours. “Prince of Persia the Sands of Time” (and the others in the series) opened my eyes to a game having a film like quality in the story telling and caring what happened to the characters. It was a really attention grabbing game as well as being visually stylised and unique for a PS2 adventure title.

I’m currently the owner of an Xbox 360 and yes I’ve had the Red Ring of Death! There has only been two games for me visually that stand out from the crowd and that “Mirror’s Edge” and “Bioshock”. Mirror’s Edge was the only first person shooter I have ever played, which rewarded you not to shoot anyone!? The visuals are crisp and sleek and the use of colour is careful and precise and becomes a tool to help the player through the environment. Bioshock is the ONLY game I have ever been in awe of, in fact when I first started to play I found myself just wandering around the art deco underwater base and taking it all in. The downside to this however is the fact that some random guy on fire would appear from nowhere and kill me and I suddenly remember I’m meant to be surviving and not admiring the work of 2K games.

I can’t wait to see what the future will hold for video games, but I can see that the demand for bigger, better, more realistic, more interactive games will push the boundaries to somewhere people would never expect them to go. I mean look at how far they’ve developed from the 50’s, if anything the new film “GAMER” which has been released may not seem so science fiction but perhaps become science fact in the years to come.