In life there are a number of certainties. Whether it’s the changing of the seasons or the tides of the sea, some things are bound to happen and the gaming industry is one that falls squarely into this category. Ever since games sprung into life in 1940, the genre has evolved immensely thanks to constant improvements in computer technology.
This constant stream of growth and improvement is due, in part, to the pace at which technology develops. Although it seems as though a new piece of software or hardware is being released every week, the reality is that technology can’t keep pace with our imaginations. In fact, technology’s evolution is a result of our imagination and, because of this, we’re always going to imagine more than what is currently possible.
Naturally, the result of this is an industry that’s always playing catch up and that means we’re always going to see new games and new ways of playing them. This dynamic ensures that gaming is constantly in a state of flux and that’s the reason why we can chart the history of gaming; moreover, it’s the reason we know the industry is going to continue evolving at an impressive rate in the coming years.
The Birth of Gaming
The first real computer game was designed by Edward U Condon and it was called Nimatron. A simple game with a simple premise, Nim basically asked players to avoid picking up the matchstick.
When this game hit the mainstream at the World’s Fair in 1940, it was played by thousands of players and it proved immensely popular despite the fact the computer would win 90% of the time. Once Condon proved that computers could be used to play games, it then became open season for developers, and in 1947 the first cathode based machine hit the market.
Created by Thomas T Goldsmith Jr and Estle Ray Mann, this game used a cathode ray tube fused with a series of circuits to create an oscilloscope display. Thanks to this dynamic the players could then fire a virtual gun at a target. In comparison to modern games, this simple shooter would look extremely basic; however, at the time it was groundbreaking and paved the way for many of today’s modern classics.
Into the 1950s the gaming world started to boom and the first major release came in 1952 courtesy of A S Douglass. Known as OXO, this game of noughts and crosses was programmed onto Cambridge’s EDSAC computer and was used as part of a research project into human interactions with computers.
Gaming Starts to Boom
After the 1950s the computing world began to improve and that led to the creation of more complex games. John Burgeson created the first baseball simulator for the IBM 1620 in 1961 and this led to a wave of sports based games – the most famous of which was a football game by a Dartmouth University student in 1965.
By the time the 1970s rolled around, computer games were becoming mainstream hits instead of academic projects by computer geeks, and that led to the creation of the arcade machine. In 1972 Nolan Bushnell and Al Acorn revolutionised the gaming industry with Pong. Despite being a simple game of tennis using nothing more than white lines and dots, the game was a massive hit, and eventually became a cult classic for gamers of all ages when it was released for the Atari. In fact, Pong went down in history as one of Atari’s greatest hits, and gamers still enjoy playing it today on their smartphones and tablets.
Once Pong captured the imagination of millions, Japan gradually entered the gaming market. One of the first major companies to put out a product was Taito, the company behind Space Invaders – a 1978 classic which added another dimension of style and substance to the gaming industry and forced players to do more than move a bat up and down.
From Arcades to Consoles
If the 1970s gave rise to the arcade game, then the 1980s saw the birth of the console game. Companies such as Nintendo and SEGA spent millions on programming games that contained multiple platforms and levels. In 1981 Jumpman (later Super Mario) became a hit in Donkey Kong and soon became the lead title for Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1983 (1985 in the US).
In the same way that arcade games gradually improved in terms of realism and complexity, console games evolved massively throughout the 80s and 90s to the point where it soon became common for characters to look extremely realistic.
However, alongside the growth of console games, PC games started to take shape thanks to the release of Windows 3.0 in 1990. Following the console world but able to do more in terms of graphics, PC games started to create their own sub-genre in the gaming world. Moving away from traditional platform games, PC games started to create their own worlds that required certain strategies for success.
Gaming Goes Interactive
The result of this period was games such as Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. Spurred on by the growth of the Internet, PC gaming has become a place where interaction, strategy and realism now combine to create highly engaging experiences. Indeed, on top of multi-player games such as World of Warcraft, other communal games have been brought into the mix.
Whether it’s interactive social media games such as Farmville, or online casino games such as roulette, the emphasis in the gaming world is on interaction and strategy. Naturally, the upshot of this is that players are now demanding more and more realism. These demands have blurred the lines between reality and virtual reality in a way that’s never been seen before.
Reality Takes the Place of Fantasy
Instead of players loading up a game and guiding a character through a virtual world, modern games now place the player inside the world. For example, when you navigate to the iGaming world, modern operators such as PokerStars Casino are now combining games with virtual technology. When you navigate to the live dealer games on PokerStars’ Casino, you’ll not only be able to play the games using your mouse, but actually converse with a real dealer who is streamed to your computer in real time.
Similar to this, classic games such as Nevermind now take aspects of the physical world and merge them with a game. Much like the roulette player placing a bet and watching a real person move the chips, Nevermind takes a player’s physical reactions and uses them to make the game tougher.
The ultimate goal, according to gaming experts, is a totally immersive game. While live dealer casino games and biofeedback games such as Nevermind have started to bridge the gap between life and games, the real breakthrough is likely to come courtesy of Oculus Rift.
The virtual reality headset is still in a developmental stage, but already it’s able to plug users into a world that’s almost indistinguishable from real life.
Merging Realities is the Future of Gaming
As you can see, gaming has come a long way in the last 70+ years. From basic programming to virtual reality, gaming’s timeline is hugely impressive.
Although the future can never be predicted, the current trend is certainly moving away from fantasy and into reality which means we’re probably going to see a lot more fusion between our bodies, our sense and our games in the coming years.