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Computer and Video Games (DOC)

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					Computer and Video Games



Interactive computer and video games were first developed in laboratories as the late-night
amusements of computer programmers or independent projects of television engineers. Their formats
include computer software; networked, multiplayer games on time-shared systems or servers; arcade
consoles; home consoles connected to television sets; and handheld game machines. The first
experimental projects grew out of early work in computer graphics, artificial intelligence, television
technology, hardware and software interface development, computer-aided education, and
microelectronics. Important examples were Willy Higinbotham’s oscilloscope-based ‘‘Tennis for Two’’ at
the Brookhaven National Laboratory (1958); ‘‘Spacewar!,’’ by Steve Russell, Alan Kotok, J. Martin Graetz
and others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1962); Ralph Baer’s television-based tennis
game for Sanders Associates (1966); several networked games from the PLATO (Programmed Logic for
Automatic Teaching Operations) Project at the University of Illinois during the early 1970s; and
‘‘Adventure,’’ by Will Crowther of Bolt, Beranek & Newman (1972), extended by Don Woods at Stanford
University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (1976). The main lines of development during the 1970s
and early 1980s were home video consoles, coin-operated arcade games, and computer software.



Spacewar! grew out of the new ‘‘hacker’’ culture of the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) at MIT.
Intended as a demonstration program for a new PDP-1 computer donated by Digital Equipment
Corporation, Spacewar! allowed players to control spaceships depicted on accurate star maps via the
equally new precision cathoderay tube (CRT) display Type-30. They maneuvered their spaceships via
novel control boxes to avoid obstacles and fire torpedoes at their opponents. The result was a popular
game available on PDP computers distributed to U.S. computer science laboratories in the 1960s and
1970s, such as the University of Utah’s strong program in computer graphics. Nolan Bushnell, a former
Utah graduate student and amusement park employee, recognized Spacewar!’s potential as a
commercial product. With Ted Dabney, his co-worker at Ampex Corporation in California, he created
‘‘Computer Space’’ (1971) for Nutting Associates; this was a coin-operated version of Spacewar! set in
attractive arcade cabinets.



Ralph Baer independently pursued the idea of creating video game consoles attached to home television
sets. In 1971, he received a U.S. patent for a ‘‘television gaming apparatus,’’ soon followed by
acquisition of rights to it by Magnavox and, in 1972, by production of the first home video console, the
Magnavox Odyssey. Bushnell and Dabney had by then created a new company, Atari Corporation; joined
by Al Alcorn, another Ampex alumnus, Atari shipped Alcorn and Bushnell’s electronic ping-pong game,
‘‘Pong,’’ as an arcade game in November of 1972. Joining forces with the Sears department store chain,
Atari released a home version of Pong in 1975. The phenomenal success of Pong stimulated competition
leading to improved home and arcade consoles. The equally successful Atari 2600 VCS (video computer
system), released in 1977, provided more flexibility and encouraged the separate development of game
software distributed on cartridges and the hardware platforms accepting these games, at least in the
home market.



Activision, founded in 1979 by four former Atari game designers, was the first company exclusively
focused on game software. By the late 1970s, ‘‘home computers,’’ single-user general-purpose
computers with microprocessors, provided a new platform for electronic entertainment. Apple
Computer’s Apple II (1977) and the IBM Personal Computer (1981) featured color graphics, flexible
storage capacity, and a variety of input devices. The Atari 800 (1979) and Commodore International’s
Commodore 64 (1982) retained cartridge slots for console-style games, but were also capable home
computers. Games designed for computers at first resembled arcade and video console titles, but early
computer games took advantage of greater flexibility, inspired by complex paper-and-pencil role-playing
games such as ‘‘Dungeons and Dragons,’’ boardgames, and Crowther’s ‘‘Adventure.’’ The original
Adventure linked Crowther’s experiences as an explorer of Kentucky’s Mammoth and Flint Ridge cave
systems to the Tolkien-inspired fantasy world of roleplaying games; written in FORTRAN for the PDP-10
computer, Adventure became the prototype for ‘‘interactive fiction,’’ games featuring scripted story
lines revealed as players typed responses to textual information provided by software. The numerous
text-only adventures published by Infocom during the 1980s pushed the ‘‘adventure’’ genre further,
beginning with the wildly popular ‘‘Zork’’ series.



Other games such as the ‘‘King’s Quest’’ series by Sierra On-Line (1983), military simulations and role-
playing games published by Strategic Simulations Incorporated (founded in 1979), Richard Garriott’s
‘‘Akalabeth/Ultima’’ series (1979), and the sports and multimedia titles of Electronic Arts (founded in
1982) extended the simulation and storytelling capacity of computerbased games. MUD (multi user
dungeon), developed by Roy Trubshaw and C. Richard Bartle at the Univesity of Essex in 1978, combined
interactive fiction, role-playing, programming and dialup modem access to a shared computer to build a
virtual world on the basis of social interaction as much as structured game play; hundreds of themed
multiplayer MUDs, and BBS-based games were written during the 1980s and early 1990s.



In the late 1980s, a new generation of video consoles led by the Nintendo Entertainment System (1985)
and the Sega Genesis (1989) offered improved graphics and also introduced batterypowered storage
cartridges that enabled players to save games in progress. Games such as Shigeru Miyamoto’s ‘‘Super
Mario Brothers’’ (1985) and ‘‘The Legend of Zelda’’ (1987) for Nintendo or Square’s ‘‘Final Fantasy’’
series (1987) took advantage of these capabilities to provide deeper game experiences, flexible
character building and complex, interactive environments, encouraging comparisons between video
games and other narrative media such as cinema. In the 1990s, computer game designers exploited the
threedimensional graphics, faster microprocessors, networking, hand-held and wireless game devices,
and the Internet to develop new genres for video consoles, personal computers, and networked
environments. The most important examples included first-person ‘‘shooters’’—action games in which
the environment is seen from the players view—such as id Software’s ‘‘Wolfenstein 3-D’’ (1992),
‘‘Doom’’ (1993) and ‘‘Quake’’ (1996); sports games such as Electronic Arts’ ‘‘Madden Football’’ (1989)
based on motion capture systems and artificial intelligence; and massively multiplayer games such as
‘‘Ultima Online’’ (1997) and ‘‘Everquest’’ (1998), combining traits of MUDs and graphical role-playing
games to allow thousands of subscribers to create avatars and explore ‘‘persistent’’ virtual worlds.

				
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