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March 8, 2016 / KingsIsle Community

The Early History of Video Games

I know a lot of you readers may think any computer game that came before 2005 is ancient, but there’s a long history behind video games!  One of the first games I enjoyed playing with my friends was Oregon Trail (1981), but as old as the original Oregon Trail seems – it doesn’t even begin to compare to some of the first video games ever made.

Would you believe that the world’s first video game dates back to 1947… hard to imagine!  The “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device” was a lot different than what a player in today’s world would think of a game. Developed by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr and Estle Ray Mann, this game was a missile simulator inspired by combat in World War II.  Analog circuitry was used instead of digital to display the cathode ray tube beam on the screen, and players would aim the beam at a target drawn on a sheet of paper that was placed over the screen.  Why paper?  They didn’t have the ability to generate game graphics yet!

Remember the classic Atari game Pong? That may seem like an older video game, but there’s actually a similar much earlier predecessor! A man named William Higinbotham created a game in 1958 called Tennis for Two.  Made to entertain visitors at the Brookhaven National Library, Tennis for Two had simple graphics displaying a tennis court.  This two-player game required a ball to be passed over the virtual “net”, and to do so, each player held a box-shaped controller with a knob and a button to “hit” the ball back to their opponent.


Photo by Wikia

In later years, scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took the concept of video games further with titles like Mouse in the Maze, HAX, and Tic-Tac-Toe.  These games, created from 1959-1961, incorporated simple computer graphics. Later from MIT came Spacewar!  This game is credited as the first influential video game, because it was placed on new computers of its time and was even traded on a very early version of the internet.

We’ve come a long way with internet gaming since Spacewar! but without titles like these, there would be no Wizard101 or Pirate101 today!  If you’re interested in learning more about the history behind gaming, check out this cool timeline created by the International Center for the History of Electronic Games.  There’s definitely a lot more history behind gaming than I could put into this blog post!

Do you have a favorite “classic” video game from your past?


Leave a Comment
  1. Anonymous / Mar 8 2016 1:24 pm

    I always enjoyed Pitfall by Activision

  2. Rebecca DreamHunter / Mar 8 2016 1:32 pm

    I never played any of the really old games mentioned here, but back before I personally had internet access, I loved puzzle games such as “Chip’s Challenge,” “Rodent’s Revenge” and “Kings Quest 6: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Those are my three favorite old-school games, but there were many others I also enjoyed long before 3D gaming and HD screens were a thing. I miss those games, but sadly, they don’t appear to work on modern computers.

  3. Cheyenne dreamwhisper / Mar 9 2016 8:24 am

    What about pac man or is that still too early?

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