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The Evolution of Video Games

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					The Evolution of Video Games
A Brief History from the 1800’s-Present

Ancestors of Video Games
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The beginnings of the video game industry can be traced back to the pinball machine industry. Pinball itself can be traced back to the 1800’s game Bagatelle, a form of billiards in which players used a cue to shoot balls up a sloped table, hoping to have the ball land in a pocket on the way down.

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Ancestors of Video Games
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In 1931, Automatic Industries introduced the first real pinball machine, Whiffle, which used a plunger instead of a cue. It was also one of the first devices that was coin activated. Later in 1931, David Gottlieb introduced the hugely popular Baffle Ball, which launched pinball into a serious industry. At this point, there were no flippers, bumpers, or scoring device.

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Ancestors of Video Games
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Harry Williams introduced Contact in 1933, the first electric machine.
Around this time, pay-out machines were introduced that combined pinball and gambling.
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Many states passed laws prohibiting gambling and these pay-out machines. In New York, pinball was ruled an extension of gambling and was made illegal (until the 1980’s!). Many states followed this precedent and the gaming industry was tainted.

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Ancestors of Video Games
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In 1947, Gottleib introduced Humpty Dumpty, the first game to use flippers, to establish pinball as a game of skill and not a game of chance. Some states relented, but the gaming industry was still tainted and linked to gambling. Other innovations followed, and the pinball industry grew with companies like Gottleib, Williams, Bally, and Midway. Many of the founders and innovators of the video game industry had their starts in pinball.
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The First Video Game?
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Early computers could only play simple games like tic-tac-toe. Most historians agree the first video game was invented in 1958 by Willy Higginbotham at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. It was an oscilloscope and analog Donner computer to play “Tennis for Two” as a demonstration for the annual visitor day.

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The First Video Game?

Rebuilt in 1997

Original Game
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Spacewar
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In 1961, Steve Russell built Spacewar on a DEC PDP-1 at MIT.
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It took 6 months and 200 hours of programming. Using toggle switches, two players could control dueling ships firing torpedoes at each other. Additional effects like gravity, hyperspace (teleporting), and unreliable weapons were eventually added.

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Due to its eventual influence on the industry and its well-known history, many people consider this the first true video game.

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Spacewar

The Spacewar PDP-1

Steve Russell and the Original Spacewar

Spacewar Screenshot

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The Magnavox Odyssey
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In the late 1960’s, Ralph Baer began work on a video game system while working at Sanders Associates. The game was a form of ping pong using a moving ball and player controlled paddles. The system consisted of a game box containing the logic, two simple controllers, and used a standard television for a display. Magnavox struck a deal, and the system became the Odyssey, launched in 1972.
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The Magnavox Odyssey
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Other games were also supported through the use of coloured screen overlays and accessories. Magnavox, unfortunately, overpriced the system and marketed it as only working with Magnavox sets. The system nevertheless sold reasonably well for being the first home video game console. It also had great influence on the first major arcade video game … Pong.
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The Beginnings of Atari
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Nolan Bushnell was first introduced to gaming through the pinball industry. At the same time, Bushnell attended the University of Utah, where he first saw and played Spacewar. He went on to create Computer Space, a coin operated version of Spacewar using custom hardware and a television for a display in 1970.

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The Beginnings of Atari
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With help from Bill Nutting of Nutting Associates, 1,500 Computer Space machines were manufactured in 1971. Due to poor marketing and complex game play (it needed several pages of instructions to explain), the game did poorly. Not to be deterred, Bushnell went on to form Atari in 1972 as the first video game company.
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Atari and Pong
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Atari’s first commercial success was Pong. It was test marketed at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California late in 1972. It was a huge success. Forgeries and copies appeared on the scene to cash in on the new craze.

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Atari and Pong
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Magnavox sued Atari for patent infringement. Since Bushnell had seen the Odyssey at a trade show months before Pong was made, Atari was in trouble. They settled with Magnavox and became the sole licensee for this technology. Magnavox prosecuted all of the imitators, leaving Atari back on top of the industry.

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More Early Home Consoles
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Atari’s Home Pong in 1975 The Connecticut Leather Company (Coleco) and Telstar in 1976. Fairchild Camera and Instrument releases Channel F, also in 1976, the first programmable home game to use cartridges.

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More Early Home Consoles
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Atari released the Video Computer System (better known as the 2600) in 1977. Immensely popular. Magnavox and Odyssey2 in 1978. Mattel Electronics introduced the Intellivision in 1979.

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The Early Arcade
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Arcades did not exist at first … video games were largely installed in bars and were not seen as children’s amusements. Bushnell saw the huge potential and Atari introduced the Pizza Time Theatre (Chuck E. Cheese) to help establish video games for children in 1977. Arcades for the whole family began to spring up as video games grew in popularity.
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Early Arcade Developments
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1975: Midway imports Taito’s game Gunfight … the first to use a microprocessor. 1976: Exidy Games releases Death Race, in which players drive over stick figures. Protests ensue. 1978: Atari releases Football and Midway releases Space Invaders. Both set records.

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Early Arcade Developments
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1979: Atari releases Lunar Lander, its first vector graphics game. Atari later released Asteroids, its best-selling game. 1980: Namco releases Pac-Man, the most popular arcade game ever world-wide. 1980: Atari releases Battlezone, perhaps the first true first-person video game.
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Early Arcade Developments
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1981: Relative newcomer Nintendo releases Donkey Kong, with the first appearance of what would become Mario, later Nintendo’s main mascot. Other classics followed:
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1981: Galaga, Frogger, Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede 1982: Dig Dug, Burger Time, Mr. Do!, Q*Bert, Pole Position, Joust, Zaxxon, Moon Patrol (first game with parallax scrolling), Time Pilot 1983: Dragon’s Lair (first laser disc game), Mario Bros., Spy Hunter

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Meanwhile, Atari at Home …
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1979: Atari designer Warren Robinett introduces Easter Eggs to video games, hiding a room with his name in a 2600 game called Adventure. 1980: Atari ports Space Invaders to the 2600. The practice of porting arcade hits to home begins. 1981: Atari ports Pac-Man to the 2600. Still ranks #4 on the Top Ten most Shameful Games of all time. Really, really bad. 1982: Atari rushes E.T. for the 2600 to market for Christmas. Millions of cartridges are reportedly dumped and buried in the New Mexico desert. Even worse! 1982: Atari releases the 5200 game console. It also did not do very well. Atari in big trouble.

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Also at Home …
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1980: Sensing Atari was in trouble, several developers left and formed Activision, the first third-party game publisher. 1982: General Consumer Electronics produces the Vectrex.
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1982: Coleco releases the Colecovision. Both consoles faltered in 1983 and died off in 1984, when the rest of the industry crashed.

The first vector graphics home console. It was monochromatic, but used coloured plastic overlays like the first Magnavox Odyssey.

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The Crash of 1983-1984
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After the golden age up to 1982, the video game market collapsed with several companies abandoning the industry or totally out of business. Why?
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There was no new technology able to sustain and drive growth of the industry. There was a huge over-supply of game cartridges. Atari believed they were unstoppable and could do anything. Turns out they were wrong. Home computers arrived on the scene, and people began to panic at the new threat. People lacked faith, and many felt video games were a fad. Retailers, distributors, the press, and good portions of the public turned their backs on them. 24

The Advent of the Home Computer
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In the early 1980’s, home computers began to grow in popularity. Some did not do very well, like the Coleco Adam (1984), but some proved popular as a gaming platform.
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Commodore, with the VIC 20 (1981) and Commodore 64 (1982) and again later with the Amiga. Apple with the Apple II and later generations. IBM and various PC clones, which has become the predominant home computing gaming platform.

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The Advent of the Home Computer
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Several new companies began developing for these new platforms:
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Accolade Origin Infocom Epyx Broderbund Sierra Microprose Electronic Arts Lucas Arts And many, many others

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Nintendo and Sega
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In 1984, Nintendo released the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan. It was rebranded in 1985 as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) for North America. In 1986, Sega (once known as SErvice GAmes) released the Sega Master System. These two new home consoles begin to revitalize the sagging game market.
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Nintendo and Sega
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Sega lagged behind Nintendo in sales. In 1989, Sega introduced the new 16-bit Genesis console, but it still lagged behind as people awaited the Super NES. When the Super NES was introduced in 1991, Sega had a surprise … it’s new mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. In 1992, Sega shipped the Sega CD peripheral for the Genesis, which did not fare very well.
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Other Contenders
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1987: NEC introduces the hybrid 8/16 bit PC Engine in Japan, later releasing it in 1989 in the U.S. as TurboGrafx. 1990: SNK introduces the new 24bit NeoGeo game console in the U.S. 1993: Panasonic releases the 32bit 3DO system, a CD based system. Despite their technical innovations, none of these systems fared as well as Nintendo’s or Sega’s.

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Arcades Fight Back
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In 1987, CAPCOM introduced Street Fighter, but hardware lacked the power to really drive the game. In 1991, that was fixed with Street Fighter II, and new life was breathed into the arcade. CAPCOM followed with many more fighting game classics. In 1992, Midway followed suit and introduced the gory Mortal Kombat series. More protests.
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Arcades Fight Back
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Though fighting games brought life back to arcades, it was never the same as before the crash.
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Arcades became testing grounds for next generation hardware and games for home consoles for Nintendo, Sega, and Sony. Arcades also came to house specialized hardware unavailable to the home console, or the classic games that once defined the industry. Despite the boost in popularity, arcades were not able to revive their glory days. But, this was not the end of the arcade either … 31

Hand Held Gaming
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Early hand helds were primarily LED based, single game machines. New hand helds changed that:
Atari Lynx (1989)  Nintendo Game Boy (1990)  NEC TurboExpress (1990)  Sega Game Gear (1991)  NeoGeo Pocket (1998), Colour (1999)  Game Boy Colour and Advanced (2001)
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Home Computer Advancements
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1989: Maxis releases SimCity and begins the line of Sim games. 1993: 7th Guest becomes the first big CD-ROM hit. Myst follows shortly. 1993: Id Software publishes Doom, firmly establishing the first-person shooter, and introduces multiplayer gaming. 1995: 3D acceleration hardware introduced.
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A Three Horse Race
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1994: Sega releases the Saturn in Japan (1995 in the U.S.). 1994: Sony releases the Playstation in Japan (1995 in the U.S.). 1995: Nintendo releases the Nintendo 64 in Japan (1996 in the U.S.). This time, all three consoles enjoy reasonable success.

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A New Three Horse Race
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1999: Sega releases the Dreamcast. 2000: Sony releases the Playstation 2. 2000: Sega introduces Internet access to the Dreamcast. 2001: Nintendo releases the Gamecube. 2001: Microsoft releases the Xbox. 2001: Sega discontinues the Dreamcast, and announces it will no longer produce hardware. 2002: Both Sony and Microsoft introduce Internet connectivity to their consoles.

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Portable Developments
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2003: Nintendo releases the Game Boy Advanced SP. 2003: Gamepark releases the GP32 with wireless support, Internet connectivity, USB, and Smart Media cards.
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In addition to its own games, it can play Game Boy and Game Boy Colour, NES, Super NES, Atari 2600, NeoGeo Pocket, and other console titles through emulators.

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2003: Nokia releases the N-Gage with wireless connectivity through Bluetooth and cellular networks for games, e-mail, and so on.

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Arcades Fight Back Again
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Arcades have seen a recent revival, starting at the turn of the new millennium with games with new controls and innovative twists best suited for the arcade.
Dance Dance Revolution (and at least 12 sequels) ...  MoCap Boxing, MoCap Golf, ...  And quite a few others.
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Arcades Fight Back Again
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The arcade’s resurging popularity is highest in Asia, particularly Japan. Some arcades and arcade machines are reappearing in North America, more so in the United States than in Canada. But, it is still not the same as it once was.
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The focus still appears to be more about introducing new technologies. The gameplay almost seems secondary; without the gimmicks, the games would not be nearly as much fun to play.

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The Latest ...
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Nintendo released in late 2004 its latest hand held, the dual-screen Nintendo DS, with more power than the N64, and lots of bells and whistles. Sony also released in late 2004 its own feature rich hand held, the Playstation Personal (or PSP) in Japan and brought it to North America early 2005.

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The Latest …
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In late 2005, Microsoft launched its Xbox 360. It features a three-core processor, built-in wireless, hard-drive, built-in network support, and high-end graphics. Very nice. This marked the beginning of the “next generation” of console hardware …

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The Latest …
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In November 2006, Sony launched the Playstation 3 in North American and Asian markets. (A European launch took place in spring 2007.) It features a Cell processor, Blu-ray drive, high definition video, a hard drive, built-in networking, and other features depending on configuration.
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The Latest …
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Also launched near the end of 2006 was Nintendo’s Wii (formerly the Revolution). While lacking the raw power of the Xbox 360 and the PS3, the Wii’s controller promises new innovations in games and game design, while its backwards compatibility services the old school types.
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Revisions to the Latest …
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Nintendo launched the DS Lite in 2006. Not to be outdone, Sony introduced a newer and smaller version of the PSP in 2007. Microsoft and Sony have also released multiple variations of the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles respectively, with variations in storage capacity, video connectivity, peripherals and so on. This is an interesting trend compared to earlier consoles, which traditionally had a single configuration and form factor …
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