History of Computer and Video Games

In what may come as a surprise to many modern gamers, video games did not simply crop up in the 1970′s as many people believe. Instead, there was a long, slow development that first started happening back at the very tail end of the 1940′s when the large room sized mainframe computers were still what people thought of when they thought about computers. On these sprawling machines, code would be written for the first types of games that took their inspiration from the military – one of the first places that computers were used. Missile defense was the first type of game that was very simple in terms of its controls, mimicking real military strategies at intercepting missiles. This was the foundation point and once students in universities began to have access to similar machines in the school labs, imagination would take games forward through the 1950′s with a handful of very small and barely remembered games such as Space Wars. These early titles were not made available to the general public and so, as a result, very little is known about them.

The 1960′s did not prove to show much innovation that the public was aware of, but by the 1970′s, things had begun to change in a huge way and stand up, coin operated video games began to be possible. These first machines were powered by quarters and although the first title, Computer Space, was a bit too difficult for many to get into, when Asteroids, Space Invaders and eventually Pac Man hit the scene, things would prove to be much different for these arcade games. Their popularity would rise quickly and at the same time, more technology was becoming available to make what came to be called console games which could be played using a television set that already existed within the consumer’s home. The Odyssey from Magnavox was the first such system and it sold well enough that it paved the way for a whole wave of different video game systems which would be brought out in the years to come. In parallel with these console systems, computers were also made smaller and companies such as Commodore, Tandy and Apple came out with impressive machines that played games nearly as complicated, sometimes even more so, than the arcade or console games.

However, it would be the 1980′s that would be the decade of greatest change for this industry that was still in its infancy. During this era, technology would begin to grow at a lightning pace and a huge number of innovations would mean computers got smaller and smaller. Hand held games became possible thanks to LCD screens that helped them be portable and there would be more systems coming out from companies other than Atari, the first big console gaming system. Nintendo and Sega would each release impressive systems for home use and arcades would become big business in the United States, Europe and especially Japan. The game industry grew like crazy and it threatened to outshine the music and movie business in terms of consumer spending.

Then came the 1990′s and here computers became wide spread in nearly every house across the United States and Japan, taking computer gaming to whole new levels with online play, as well. Console systems from Sony and Microsoft hit the market and new generations of console games came out to dazzle the eye. The arcade industry began a gradual decline until it became a rare thing in the early 2000′s. Today the computer and video game industry outdoes the film and music businesses on every level, making it the largest entertainment segment in the world.

Video Game Platforms

Arcade Games – As the first publicly accessible gaming platform ever developed, arcade games were the fore runners of today’s consoles. They are larger than consoles and instead of having a TV, they usually contain one or more built in monitors which allow for the player to either stand at the machine or sit on a ride that operates the game. The machine features controls and is operated by coins. Since these units are large and bulky on top of being extremely expensive, they are not the typical choice for at home gamers, but some collectors do buy these machines, mainly after they have become vintage. The types of businesses that have these machines are generally stores, movie theater complexes and the last of the arcades in the world today.

Console Games – This is the most common platform for today’s gamers and there are many console video gaming systems on the market from makers like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. These machines differ from PC in that they only play video games and serve no other function. They are generally composed of a primary unit that plays the game disc, at least one controller and are connected with a TV set that acts as their monitor. Some of these systems can connect to the web over a broadband or DSL connection and offer multiplayer gaming. All different types of games are offered for consoles ranging from sports games to role playing titles.

Handheld Video Games – These are usually made by the same manufacturers who create console systems and often the same games are available on handheld and console systems. Portability is the primary reason gamers choose this type of system, but for others the main reason is that there are specific games developed just for this platform. The main draw back to this kind of platform is the fact that the units are battery powered so while they can be moved from place to place, they will be running on batteries that must be replaced or charged on a regular basis.

Massively Multiplayer Online Games – This is a platform that is not controlled by the player the way that a console or handheld system is. Instead, a company runs the games and console or PC systems can connect in order to play. These games feature thousands or even hundreds of thousands of players all connected from their homes to join in on the gaming. Usually, players create a profile and within that profile they create characters. Shooter and role playing titles commonly utilize this platform.

Mobile Games – The arrival of complex and sophisticated smart phones has made mobile gaming a whole new platform that consumers have embraced at a rapid pace. The games are usually less complex than on a console or even a handheld gaming system that has all its resources dedicated to games, but these downloadable games are quite popular for consumers who already have a phone.

Online Games – This is a platform that uses either a standard internet connection or a broadband connection, if using a console gaming system. It differs from a network for massively multiplayer games in that the games offered are generally one on one instead of group play. These games can come in all types, but commonly they would be card games, one on one strategy games and similar titles.

Personal Computer Games – The personal computer can perform a huge range of tasks in a gamer’s daily life, but for those who play on their PC or Mac, this is one of the most powerful platforms possible. Long before a console system has the technology available, a PC will have new upgrades that can take gaming to the next level. Today there are even specific machines built just for gaming.

Glossary

Advergame – This is a slang term, sometimes used disparagingly by gamers, to signify a game that was created primarily as a means of advertising a product or service.

Analog Control – This is a type of controller that can tell how hard a button or joystick is being pushed and responds accordingly by relaying that information to the game to speed up, slowdown or intensify the actions of the character being played.

Anime – This is a a word meaning Japanese animation which is generally colorful and very distinct in terms of style. This is a popular type of art for video games.

Bug – This is an error in the programming code for a video game that will cause an undesired effect within the game itself.

CG - This is an acronym for computer graphics that indicated graphics used in a video game or film which have been made in a digital environment rather than hand drawn.

Console – This is the electronic device that is hooked up to a TV set and allows players to play video games.

Easter Eggs – These are features, experiences or prizes that are secreted away within a video game to be discovered at random by players. They are sought after and very popular online where players share with each other what they have found in certain games.

Emulator - This kind of program allows players to play games from console systems ranging from CDROM or DVD games to older cartridge systems.

ESRB – This acronym stands for Entertainment Software Ratings Board and similar to the way films are rated for audiences, this organization of the video game industry takes it upon themselves to rate computer and video games. Usually an attempt to inform parents of what their children might see in the game.

Genre – These are sections that games are categorized in the same way film or movies are categorized. A genre may describe the style of play, the visual or story aspects of a game or what the player is going for when playing. Adventure, racing, simulation and strategy are all genres.

Hack n Slash – In these types of games, players usually run around a world with a sword, axe or other form of bladed weapon and defeat many opponents.

Lives – This term comes from the days of coin operated arcade games where players would have so many lives (chances to continue playing) before they needed to insert another quarter.

MMOG – This stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Game and is a term used to describe games that have a huge number of players playing at once wither together or against each other in the same game world.

RPG – This term means Role Playing Game and is a style of adventure game where players will create their own custom character and then play the role they have chosen through the course of the game.

RTS – This term means Real Time Strategy and refers to a type of strategy game that has the players acting in a manner closer to action games. There are no pauses for turns so the action is fast and furious, relying on tactics and reflexes.

Sandbox - This is not as much a video or computer game as it is a way for players to explore a game’s environment. Usually this is a mode that simply allows players to do whatever they wish as if the game were their sandbox.

Simulation – This is a style of game that attempts to mimic reality in a digital format, giving players a realistic experience.

Spoiler – This is the way that details given out about a game which might spoil the pleasure of discovering certain aspects or viewing the storyline is described.

Third Person – This is a perspective in gaming where the camera will be watching the player’s character from a distance and usually from behind them so they can see the rest of the game world.