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History of Gaming Archives - MRCI

A Brief History of Gaming, Part 3 – The Blossoming – The Late 80s

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The human race has always been a lover of playing and gaming. From Peek-a-Boo and Hide-and-Seek, to Laser Tag and Pokemon Go, to adult gaming, like Poker and Chess, or more traditional games like Mah Jongg, we love to play our entire lives.  It’s all about the hunt.  The hunt for coins, the hunt for the winning hand, the hunt for the win.  


The later 80s were an absolute explosion of technology, an exponential growth spurt in the gaming industry and worldwide market.


Reader Rabbit was an educational computer software offering from The Learning Company.  The industry exploded with the addition of CD-ROM technology, but came crashing down shortly thereafter, thanks to the rise of the internet.


1987 saw a host of new fantasy RPGs (Role Playing Games).  Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto created the Legend of Zelda.  SSI obtained the license to make a video game for D & D (Dungeons and Dragons).  Leisure Suit Larry came out for adults.  


John Madden Football was first released in 1988, bringing sports games to life and inspired hundreds of console games.


In 1989 Nintendo released the Game Boy, an 8-bit handheld system featuring interchangeable game cartridges, and usually came with one game to get you started, mostly Tetris.  It wasn’t the first of its kind (Milton Bradley’s Microvision was released 10 years prior), but the Game Boy’s strengths made it very popular in the market.  It had great battery life and easy use, good gameplay and lots of games. The competition included the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx.  Game Boy was so popular that when it was released in the US, the first shipment of  a million units sold in just a few weeks.  They held their popularity for over a decade, until they were discontinued in 2000, in preparation for the release of the Game Boy Advance in 2001.


In 1990, Microsoft released Windows 3.0, and included a digital version of Solitaire.  Millions of people who would not have otherwise tried a video game played the video game on their home computers, and Solitaire became one of the most popular video game ever.  It laid the foundation and the gaming model for “casual” games.


Stay tuned for the 90s!!


A Brief History of Gaming,  Part 3 – The Blossoming – The early 80s

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Humans have always loved to play games.  From Peek-a-Boo and Hide-and-Seek, to Laser Tag and Pokemon Go, to more adult games like Poker and Chess, or traditional games like Mah Jongg, we love to play our entire lives.  

In the last few decades, the world of video games has seen a spectacular explosion of transformation and evolution.  

We left off in 1979 with the release of Mattel’s Intellivision.  

Elsewhere in the industry, Toru Iwatani was inspired by a pizza missing a slice.  Namco’s Pac-Man was born.  Released in July of 1980, the arcade version was a huge hit, and a few months later was released for home console on the Atari 2600.  Shortly thereafter, Ms. Pac-Man became the best-selling arcade game of all time.  

1981 saw the rise of Donkey Kong, which featured a character who would go on to fame and fortune the world over.  Jumpman became the star of his own game and got a new name.  Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo, gave Jumpman his own world, and took the video game industry and market by storm when he introduced Mario as the star of the Super Mario Brothers.  

1982 was the year the movie Tron was released by Disney.  A huge hit that became a classic, Disney got its fingers into the pie.  The movie inspired an arcade game which featured contests from the film, which was also a hit.  

In 1983, Dan Munten’s M.U.L.E. took multiplayer gaming to the next level (get it).  Players competed against each other on the planet Irata, gathering resources to save their colony.

In 1984, a Russian mathmetician named Alexey Pagitnov created a little game called Tetris.  Sweeping across the globe in no time, the game gained such popularity that just a few years later it was bundled with every purchase of Nintendo’s Game Boy, and later inspired a slew of similar puzzle games.

Two years after its release in Japan under the name Famicom, the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) home console was released in the United States.  In 1985 the American video game industry was flooded with this new console and its interchangeable games, and families everywhere added this new toy to their home gameplay options.  

Stay tuned for more 80s!!


A Brief History of Gaming, Part 3 – The Blossoming – the 70s

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A Brief History of Gaming,  Part 3 – The Blossoming


Humans have always loved to play games.  From Peek-a-Boo as babies, to Hide-and-Seek as children, to Laser Tag and Pokemon Go for teens, to more adult games like Texas Hold ‘Em, Backgammon and Chess, we love to play our entire lives.  


In the last few decades, the world of video games has seen a spectacular explosion of transformation and evolution.  


We left off in 1972 with the release of the game-changer (get it) Pong.  


The next year, 101 BASIC Computer Games came out in a magazine.  This was a compilation of games authored by David Ahl, in the BASIC computer language, the programming code of the time. Later, in the 80s, it was republished in a book.  That book would sell a million copies, the first computer book to do that!  Some of the games included were Hamurabi (HMRABI) and Lunar Lander.


The very first FPS (first person shooter) style game emerged in 1974.  Maze Wars was a labyrinth of wire-frame graphics passages for players to explore.  We’ve come a long way!


In 1975, Atari launched Pong for home use.  Nolan Bushnell, the founder, couldn’t get anyone in the toy business to partner with him, so the first sales of the Pong home units were sold in the sporting goods department of Sears Roebuck.  


1976 saw the introduction of a text-based game called Adventure.  A text-based game inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, players dove into a world of caves filled with trials and treasures, magic and monsters.  This game paved the way for thousands of role-playing computer games.  The original author, William Crowther, basically opened the door for interactive fiction and adventure games.


The next year, in 1977, the Atari 2600 was released, revolutionizing the industry.  Games in color!  A controller with a joystick!  Different difficulty level settings!  And most importantly, different games on changeable cartridges.  The home video game system was born, and millions of Americans became home gamers.


In 1978, Taito’s Space Invaders  invaded Japan.  The rage caused a shortage of 100-yen coins.  In less than a year, 60,000 units invaded the US, and Americans spent millions of quarters fighting back the alien horde.  


Mattel came out with the Intellivision, in 1979, sweeping the market.   With more sophisticated controls, and better graphics than the Atari, the Intellivision took off, selling three million units.  


Stay tuned for the 80s!!

A Brief History of Gaming, Part 2 – The Burgeoning

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Humans have always loved to play games.  From Tag and Hide-and-Seek, to Laser Tag and Pokemon Go, to Poker and Chess, we love to play our entire lives.  

In the last hundred years, playing has gone through a meteoric transformation the advent and evolution of computers and video games.  

We left off in 1964 at Dartmouth, where the computer programming language BASIC, as well as the computer time-share system, were created.  Now John Kemeny’s quote, “everyone is a programmer” came to life.

The next year, in the same place, the first computer football game was created by a student programmer.

In 1966, Ralph Baer had an idea about playing video games on a television.  He jotted down some notes, laying the foundation for his television video game development.   

In a year’s time, he’d developed his “Brown Box,” a wood-paneled prototype offering tennis and other video games for television play.

In 1968, Baer put the patent on his interactive television game, which would become the design for the first home video game system, released by Magnavox just four years later, a game by the name of Odyssey.

In 1970, Scientific American’s “Mathematical Games” column features the rules for John Conway’s “Game of Life.”  Life is a “zero-player game” that evolves based on its initial input, and is then simply observed.    


In 1971, some college students in Minnesota created a simulation of the early American pioneers’ journey west.  Oregon Trail was originally played on a single teletype machine, but was later nationally distributed by the Minnesota Educational Computer Consortium.  

Oregon Trail was a popular game, played by impressionable children all over the country in school computer labs, and is indelibly inked on popular culture and collective memory.  

Even now, one can purchase a t-shirt online with the iconic green-on-black 8-bit image of the ox-pulled covered wagon, with matching lettering that says, “you have died of dysentery.”  


The game is even available online for streaming play, for you nostalgic gamers!

1972 saw the release of another icon.   Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari, assigned a training exercise to Allan Alcorn.  Alcorn submitted a 2-D table tennis game, inspired by the Magnavox Odyssey’s ping-pong game.  (Of course, the similarity was the cause for a later lawsuit against Atari.)  

Atari developed Alcorn’s design and built it into a coin-operated arcade game cabinet.  They put the coin-operated arcade game in a tavern in California for testing.  But before long, it stopped working…  because it was so full of quarters that it jammed!!  The arcade legend Pong was born.


The sweeping success of Odyssey and Pong helped establish the videogame industry.

Soon after the release of Pong, other companies began producing similar games, followed by new types of games.  Atari continued competing with more innovative games, and the industry, and the market, took off.  

Stay tuned for the future!!

A Brief History of Gaming – Part 1: The Beginning

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A Brief History of Gaming

Part 1:  The Beginning

Since the dawn of time, humans have loved to play games. From Hide-and-Seek and Tag, to Chess and Poker, to Monopoly and Pokemon, we love to play our entire lives.

In the last hundred years, playing has been revolutionized with the advent and evolution of computers and video games.

Alan Turing designed the Bombe, a codebreaker for German Enigma messages. He had been developing an idea for a “general computing machine,” which came to be known as the Universal Turing Machine. This was the brainchild of modern computers. The Turing Machine was a concept for a programmable machine that could be programmed to do anything, using a scanner and memory-tape.

The first ‘real’ computers were Britain’s Colossus and America’s ENIAC, both of which took up half of an entire room. They were developed by the military to help the Allies decrypt Nazi code in World War II.

Since then, academics, computer scientists, and programmers developed the first interactive computer-based simulations and games for military and civilian use.


At the 1940 World’s Fair, Edward Condon’s machine,1940

called Computer (picture) offered players a whole new world

of play, with the game “Nim,” which was a pick-up-sticks game,

the object was to have the opponent pick up the last stick.

Thousands of people played against Computer.

Less than 10% of the human players were victorious.


In the 1940s and 1950s, computers continued to develop in the military, where they were used for wargames, military training, and to create and decipher codes.

In 1948, Alan Turing and David Champernowne wrote a chess simulation named Turochamp. It was never implemented.

More custom machines emerged to entertain patrons at conventions and other gatherings.

Josef Kates’s machine, Bertie the Brain, played tic-tac-toe at the 1950 Canadian National Exhibition.

Another machine named Nimrod played the game Nim, and made appearances at the 1951 Festival of Britain, as well as the Berlin International Show.

In 1954, at the New Mexico Los Alamos labs, programmers developed the first blackjack computer game on an IBM-701, a computer whose operating console alone was about the size of a vending machine. Its processing frame was another, separate, equally massive unit.

The first computer version of the game Checkers was also on an IBM-701, demonstrated in 1956 by Arthur Samuel, on national television. It only took six years for the computer program to defeat a master Checkers player.

In 1957, Alex Bernstein created the first Chess computer program, on an IMB-704. The program was so advanced that it could “think” four half-moves ahead.

In 1958, the first tennis computer game was created for public demonstration. It used an analog computer and an oscilloscope. Although short-lived and soon dismantled, it was the first iteration and inspiration for future games, like Pong.

In 1960, an IBM programmer developed, in his free time, the first baseball simulation.

In 1962, an MIT student invents the first computer video game. Spacewar! was a big hit, spreading across the country over the next several years, creating a gaming community, market, and target audience.

The computer programming language BASIC was created in 1964, at Dartmouth, which opened the door for the next wave of interactive computer games to be created.

Stay tuned for the future!! (: